In mid 2012, Expert Grup began to work to make sense of huge budget datasets. In November 2012, while finalizing the project concept, members of the organising team took part in the Balkan Budget Workshop organised by the OpenSpending team.
“It was really helpful to learn about data formats. It is the equivalent of a data literacy 101 class.” - Victoria Vlad
About the team
The core BudgetStories.md team at Expert Grup consists of three core staff members: the project director, one project communication and analytical expert, and one additional analytic expert as support. The implementation was made with an external web design company who executed the website based on input from the team. The web company had a total of five people working on BudgetStories.md: two designers, two developers, and one project manager.
Expert Grup has introduced several projects using open budget and spending data. The main challenges they’ve encountered have related to accessing data, cleaning the data (using Excel), and managing the data visualisation work, which was done by an an external web agency.
Most of the needed data was available to the public on data.gov.md and in the World Bank’s BOOST data tool, and government agencies were open to providing direct requests for data requested in a timely manner. The data was analysed with Excel. During the research, Expert Grup used the Spending Data Handbook, the Open Data Handbook and the Data Journalism Handbook as resources.
Presenting the data
“It is still a challenge for us to make visualizations meaningful. We plan to improve with every infographic we publish.”
Expert Grup is planning to work more on developing their presentations of their data. Most of their visualisations have been developed by a web agency based on the directions from Expert Grup. One exception is the visualisation of the Moldova budget, which was created with OpenSpending treemaps by Expert Grup.
In the future Expert Grup wil be looking to expand their work.
“There is still a lot of work to be done. We have until now published three data visualizations.”
So far their portfolio includes excellent examples like these:
- The Budget calendar, which enables citizens to track and learn about the budget approval process for 2012 - 2014 as an interactive module, including the documents which need to be published at each stage of the budget process.
- An OpenSpending budget treemap, added in order to provide a meaningful visualization of the annual proposal
- A visualisation of the agricultural subsidy program.
Engaging CSOs in spending data: According to Expert Grup civil society (NGOs, journalists, and universities) has until now shown little knowledge of or interest in the existence of open data. The goal has therefore been to engage with and educate journalists and policymakers. The main site was launched in February and gave journalists access to cleaned data sets and visualisations for the first time journalists, as well as encouraging their republishing and reuse in the public. The aim would be to gain increased public attention to inefficiencies identified in government spending and establish connections to more stakeholders. The results of the outreach are still being assessed.
Source: Guest blog post on OpenSpending.