I'm currently starting a large project to capture and classify published CC-BY-NC data of an international aid organisation into standard open formats.

(There's an overview of the project online at Open Data for Transparency in Development Aid )

I'll have 2 main blocks of data categories:

  • Project / activity data
  • Operational data

    1. Project / activity data is pretty straight forward - I will use the IATI activity data format.

    2. I could so far not locate any standards to best capture the operational data

      • Budgets: These are the annual budgets of the organisation - I've seen Reporting non-country specific administrative spending in IATI standard but that is looking at classifying general administrative overhead of projects vs general administrative costs of running the organisation. Breaking down these administrative cost into IATI sector codes is either not possible or misleading.

      • Procurements: I'm first trying to capture Requests for Proposal and their related documents - anyone done this before and could suggest standards in use ea.

      • Salaries, staff numbers: I had a look how e.g. DFID is publishing those, but they are using CSVs for that. So far not been able to identify any JSON / XML standard formats. With staff pay, I'm also looking into clustering the different levels to make them comparable (e.g. Top-Tier, 2nd level management, 3rd level management). Anyone done something similar before or any standards to look into.

  • Why NC? That will not only prevent its commercial use, but also aggregation/reuse in any database that doesn't also have the NC requirement (which is many of them).
    – Tom Morris
    Jun 1, 2013 at 18:49
  • This is the original license how the data has been provided in thousands of documents - can't change that unfortunately
    – fpp
    Jun 2, 2013 at 9:16

5 Answers 5


XBRL is a standard derived from XML that is gaining momentum for describing financial and business transactions. A good definition and set of practices is represented by the Security and Exchange Commission. It provides examples, APIs, and other technical information for accessing data from the SEC and for machine readable financial data using XBRL. The site notes, "The Commission also has published final rules requiring certain nationally-recognized statistical rating organizations (NRSROs) to provide rating information on their websites in XBRL format."


For the DFID example, we have outputs on both CSV and RDF, if you check here:


Check the template downloads on the right side of the organogram tool (above) they are labelled by numbers.

We produced a controlled spreadsheet that all departments fill in, upload and automatically publish, so we basically created a standard vocabulary for reporting salaries and roles across UK government.

Examples here:


The code for the visualisation is also available via github under the linked-data-api project

There is also plenty of guidance on how we have done it for data.gov.uk, if you check our library section you can read further about the process, specially the guidance to publishers, which details vocabularies, etc. We also plan to publish the spreadsheet template.

In a couple of months we will be re-writing the tool and updating the process, so keep an eye on our blogs for further details.



BUDGETS: I don't know of an XML standard for an organization's annual budget, but I know there is an XBRL standard for the general ledger that allows organizations to produce budgets. (XBRL is an XML-based standard used for corporate financial reporting to most of the world's securities regulators.) The XBRL GL standard may be too complex for your project, but its structure may provide some clues for a budget standard. Details here: http://www.xbrl.org/GLTaxonomy

PROCUREMENTS: Similarly I don't know of an XML standard for RFPs, but you might consider reusing some elements of the XML schema that was promulgated by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board for quarterly reports submitted by grantees and contractors on how they spent funds from the U.S. fiscal stimulus. Details here: https://www.federalreporting.gov/federalreporting/downloads.do

SALARIES AND STAFF NUMBERS: I don't know of any useful standards in this area.


@fpp This sounds like a fascinating project.

On RFPs and procurement there is emerging work on data standards in the Open Contracting project, but no concrete standards yet. I've documented a recent mini-study into available data and standards used here which suggests some common fields found across datasets that could be useful.

On representing budgets in IATI, you can declare your own vocabularies for sectors (i.e. not be tied to the DAC sector codes if your use-case doesn't work for that). Have you also explored the organisation standard which includes space for specifying country budgets. If you need to extend that with some classifications in your own extra namespace that would be possible and would fit with the idea of IATI as extensible, with the potential to bring extensions into the standard over time.

I guess the important thing with any selection of standards is to think about how you see the data being used, and thus what kinds of standards it is best to align with.


The Standards You are Seeking lie under the OpenSpending umbrella:

OpenSpending exists to “map the money worldwide” – that is, to track and analyse public financial information globally. Concretely, OpenSpending is:

A central, high-quality, open database of public financial information, including budgets, spending, balance sheets, procurement etc.

A community of users and contributors to this database

A set of open resources providing technical, fiscal, and political understanding necessary to work with financial information.

The OpenSpending database is a resource for the many individuals and groups who wish to discuss and investigate public financial information, including journalists, academics, campaigners, and more.

thats straight from their abotut page; check out the budget data format they recently released:

bonus in your case: .csv is required format, so you're good to go!
double bonus: @OpenSpending is affiliated with @okfn, so really, that is all you need to know!

There are a few OpenBudgets running in the Wild; OpenOaklandBudget i believe pioneered first down that route.

i want to say that the only difference between OpenSpending and OpenBudget is that Spending is/can be measured in credits/debits, whereas Budgets can (and will be) edited.
here's some OpenSpending Community linkage for ya:


loading data into OpenSpending guide:

introduction to OpenSpending - mapping the money on google slides



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