New website, new data model, new features

FTS is changing, and development of a new website is only the start of it. A far more fundamental change is the complete redesign of the FTS database, which is used by the FTS team to track all reported funding and publish it through the site.

The FTS database was designed for the far simpler humanitarian system as it existed approximately ten years ago. At that time, FTS was called upon to track funding to a comparatively small number of appeals, all of which were published centrally and with never more than one per affected country. Funding requirements were derived in the same way for all appeals, by aggregating the requirements of projects vetted by agency headquarters, and the vast majority of funding against those requirements was directly granted by primary donors to implementing recipients.

Many things have changed in the intervening period. As the global humanitarian need has increased there are far more appeals and response plans, of more types including regional plans, and involving a far larger number of actors. Field humanitarians have developed several innovative alternative costing methodologies. The response plan drafting process has transformed from a headquarters-led to a field-driven process. And as the volume of funding has increased so the number of roles has increased too, with primary donors now often funding a UN agency, which in turn passes through funding to a major international or national NGO, which in some cases implement directly but often themselves sub-grant to local implementing partners. In addition there has been a proliferation of pooled funding mechanisms.

Tracking the current funding ecosystem requires time consuming, labour-intensive work-arounds. And more changes are coming up as a result of the Grand Bargain agreed at the World Humanitarian Summit, which saw committments adopted to improve reporting on many areas of humanitarian financing such as earmarking, localization and cash transfer programming. The FTS database must change to accomodate these developments. And fundamentally, our current data model in which every contribution is recorded as flowing from a single donor to a single recipient is simply no longer fit for purpose.

At the time of writing, this website publishes data captured using the existing FTS database. Over the past year we have been developing and testing a replacement: more powerful, more flexible, easier to customize to changing needs and fit for the future. This new FTS database will be launched in early January 2017, at which point the old database and site will no longer be updated.

Some important things to know are:

  • The entire FTS dataset will be migrated to the new platform prior to launch, ensuring that all current and historical FTS data will continue to be accessible and updated 
  • The introduction of a new database will allow us to capture more detail from our reporting partners, in time improving the quality of the offering to our users
  • It will also allow us to develop new features in response to user feedback, some of which will be available from launch while others wil be added incrementally over the course of next year
  • This new website is mostly complete and continues to reference the old database while we finalise development of several remaining features, such as Custom Search

For a preview of how the data model is changing to better reflect the contemporary reality of humanitarian financing, you can take a look at this ten-minute video on Youtube

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