September 13, 2010; Source: Newsweek | Transparency is good for the soul, sunlight good for public policy. The Wikileaks manifesto advocates that, “better transparency is at the heart of less corruption and better democracies.”
It would be good to see the nonprofit sector, long an advocate of transparency in the public sector, recognize that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. At Wikileaks, itself a nonprofit, transparency about its internal operations isn’t quite the norm. According to Newsweek, the governing council of Wikileaks “may” have nine members. A spokesman for the organization uses a pseudonym (“Daniel Schmitt”). Another Wikileaks spokesman, an Icelandic artist named Kristinn Hrafnsson, told Newsweek that he cannot reveal how Wikileaks is governed because it not a public matter.
For us at Nonprofit Quarterly, this story about secrecy at Wikileaks comes on the heels of our advocacy for increased transparency and openness at the Corporation for National and Community Service in its review of Social Innovation Fund applications, opposed by some because it has allegedly never been done before.
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This news also follows the revelation of donors identities—including pharmaceutical companies—giving to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an action criticized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and OMB Watch in a September 8 blog post titled “Opening the Door to Donor Disclosure.” (The post is apparently no longer available on the OMB Watch website.)
If society is better off with reductions in secrecy, how much of that should apply to the nonprofit sector, and when should the knee-jerk rejections of some kinds of nonprofit disclosures be reconsidered in light of what society needs today?—Rick Cohen