The Hewlett Foundation's strategy on "Active Citizens and Accountable Governments”

I just read the impressive strategy for "Active Citizens and Accountable Governments" of the Hewlett Foundation. Hewlett is one of the largest private donors in our sector, together with the Omidyar Network, Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundations, that actively promotes openness, transparency and greater accountability.

Other donors in this sector do some excellent work. But this is the first time that I have seen a donor share a draft (which is all the more impressive) with such a sophisticated and intelligent strategy. The 2015 strategy can be found here. And here you can read the draft strategy from May 2017. A helpful overview can be found here.

I have quibbles on the aid transparency heading, where I think what is meant by "increasing attention to in-country use of data" needs to be unpacked.

I also think that under Governance Channels a distinction needs to be made between closing the loop on problems and complaints, which needs to be complemented with positive feedback loops that recognise and reward good practices. Finally, there are two outcome metrics for the three sub-strategies that I would personally like to see progress on over the next 5 years:

  1. Ways of measuring savings, improvements in value for money, revenue generated, leakages reduced, etc.

  2. The use of the Fix-Rate (which can also be referred to as the rate at which the loop is effectively closed, e.g. rate of problem resolution, problem solving, etc) as another outcome metric both for top-down and bottom-up governance interventions that are designed to redress problems and respond to complaints, suggestions or even recommendations

The foundation does not accept unsolicited funding applications and they do not give grants to NGOs working in or from post-war, fragile states. In the Global South their work is limited to a handful of countries.


This strategy can provide a very helpful insight into one of the most sophisticated donors in our sector and their thinking. I would pay just as much attention to the approaches and themes they are interested in, the methodological and learning questions they raise, as to the topics they are not interested in funding. Activists and NGO leaders will greatly benefit from reading and citing this strategy when preparing and submitting funding applications.

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