Restless Development: Radical transparency to dynamic accountability

In 2014, Restless Development started piloting a Big Idea for how young people could lead the accountability of the new Sustainable Development Goals and passed the halfway point of our global strategy.

We wanted to go beyond merely being compliant with transparency initiatives like IATI and take the risk to open up our agency in a way that aligned with our values and would make a statement about how radical transparency must be to gain trust.

This involved publishing: our salary scales for every role in all ten countries we operate in; our entire handbook of internal policies on everything from recruitment to grievances; and detailed minutes of our board meetings.

Most significantly for us in the long-term, we opened up the process of developing our new strategy. Young staff designed and led a Big Conversation consulting with 5,000 respondents across 64 countries both offline and online, then this Youth Strategy Team published both the raw data and their analysis of it, fed back on the draft business models for the new strategy, and led the direction of the new strategy before it was signed off by our global directors.

Restless Development's youth team

Transparency was not a one-off project for us but a drive to increase our impact

Our work supports young people to push for transparency and accountability from the institutions they interact with. Our Youth Power model (youth-led accountability of the Sustainable Development Goals) combines data-driven accountability with high-level advocacy, global and local campaigns, and global mobilisation moments.

As an early adopter of IATI and a volunteer in the pilot cohort of Bond’s 2014 transparency review, we have taken the approach that publicly advocating for transparency in the sector and sharing our progress benefits both us and our peers. We joined the board of the INGO Accountability Charter, the Bond board, and chaired the PPA learning partnership, where we advocated for going beyond transparency to dynamic accountability.

Transparency was not a one-off project for us but a drive to increase our impact by changing the way we work and empowering young people to demand greater accountability of the development sector.

Director's conference Storify screengrab

Transparency has shaped how we have approached our ultimate strategy

By turning our agency inside out, we aimed to empower the young people we work with. Online, we made our content about the development of our new strategy accessible through infographics and social media pushes (the Big Conversation had an online reach of 564,000 in a week, the hashtag #WeAreRestless is used daily by both staff and volunteers to document the everyday internal workings of the agency). Offline, our USP of deep reach to rural, often unconnected communities through offline surveys and focus groups brought 5,000 responses from 64 countries.

The strategy development process has empowered our young staff, who have both led those consultations and then blogged for us about their findings, and a young staff member from every country we work in was part of a Youth Strategy Team which helped design the process as well as leading it at key stages.

Our partners have benefited from us piloting and sharing our efforts, and as well as having 4,019 views in the 14 months our Transparency page has been active, and proactive social media sharing via the Big Conversation, we have chaired the PPA Learning partnership, joined the board of the INGO Acccountability Charter and supported our PPA partners WarChild UK and Youth Business International to join IATI in 2014.

The impact of Restless Development's radical and targeted approach to transparency has been both internally and externally significant. Internally, it has shaped how we have approached our strategy development process, and our ultimate strategy, with our CEO describing it as, “transformational.”

Restless Development are one of the nominees for the Transparency Award, as part of the Bond International Development Awards 2017. See the full list of nominees