Chapter 1 - Introduction

Background and Context

Section outlining broad thesis goals

Why accounting technologies?

This section outlines why the focus of this thesis has been in investigating and developing accounting technologies, and how that situates the research in relation to the scope of impact.

Research Questions and contributions

This section outlines each research question, with sub-sections for each question. Each sub-section will draw out the contributions of the thesis as they relate to the question.

Q1: How are the financial practices and transparency obligations of a charity manifested in daily workplace practices?

Q2: In what ways could digital systems represent the financial practices of a charity, in keeping with their obligations to the public and their stakeholders?

Q3: How can a system capture and represent the work of a charity through its financial data and other data, in order to facilitate its accountability to the public and its stakeholders?

Q4: In what ways can a digital system be configured to allow charities and stakeholders to interactively commission frames of data around work and spending, to produce narratives which may stimulate a dialog?

Thesis Structure

This is a short section outlining the thesis' narrative, and chapter content.

Methods Outline

This is a short section designed to brief the reader at a very high level what sort of data and analysis they should expect to see in the thesis. Work Place studies, Ethnographic techniques, and orientation to analysis are briefly touched upon.

Background and Literature

This chapter discusses the background and literature of the various fields that inform this research. Given the interdisciplinary history of HCI research, and the socio-economic domain of non-profit enterprise, it should come of no surprise that this results in a rich and diverse nexus of perspectives which needs to be accounted for.

Charities, what are they good for?

This section explores Charities and Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs); how they are defined, and what role they play in society. This is done for two reasons: firstly, to explore the ecosystems, landscapes, and settings within which these organisations operate so that the research is effective; and secondly, to ground the work’s relevance as playing a part in the everyday activities of the world.

What is a Charity?

Defining what constitutes a charity can be problematic because it is a specific form of organisation that belongs to an entire sector or family of organisations which have historically resisted definition [31]. This is largely due to the sheer diversity of both the organisations themselves as well as the legal and social frameworks in which they operate ???. Even choosing which term to use is problematic not only because any given term can emphasise particular traits of organisations or exclude some organisations entirely, but choosing what term to use will give any discussion a particular national flavour. For example, the term ’Charity Sector’ is often used in the UK whereas framing this discussion using the term of ’Non-Profit Organisations’ (NPOs) makes it feel distinctly relevant to the USA [15]. However, as noted, these organisations all share a genealogy, which means utilising literature that in turn uses a variety of terms to describe this group of organisations. A working definition of ’a charity’ will be outlined at the end of this section.

Charities are a form of Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) which operate within what is often known as the “Third Sector” of the economy; emphasising their separation for public or state-owned operations as well as private for-profit enterprise ???. The term ’Third Sector’, however, is often used interchangeably with others such as “Voluntary Sector”, “Independent Sector”, “Charitable Sector”, or many others. Salamon and Anheier claim that this abundance of definitions often poses a problem, as each term emphasises a particular characteristic of these organisations whilst downplaying others – which can be misleading when attempting to describe them ???. An example of this would be how the term “Voluntary Sector” emphasises the contributions of volunteers in the operation of the organisations, at the expense of organisations or activities that are performed by paid employees. Frumkin prefers the term “Non-Profit and Voluntary Sector” for this reason [15].

This diversity of organisations within the “Third Sector” means that a general definition is difficult to generate, however Salamon and Anheier go some way to provide one based off of the structural or operational characteristics of the organisations; which would therefore allow their definition to cater for the sector’s diversity of legal structures, funding mechanisms, and function. Their definition identifies five base characteristics common to the organisations (they use the term NPOs). These organisations are: “Formal”, having been constituted or institutionalised legally to some extent; “Private”, meaning they are institutionally separate from government; “Non-Profit distributing”, where any profits generated by activities are reinvested directly into the ’basic mission of the agency’ instead of being distributed to owners or directors; “Self-governing”, with their own internal protocols or procedures as opposed to being controlled directly by external entities; and “Voluntary”, where the organisation’s activities or management involves a meaningful degree of voluntary participation ???.

Frumkin gives three characteristics of these organisations which align with Salamon and Anheier’s framework. The organisations: do not coerce participation (ie they do not have a monopoly and interacting with them is optional); their profits are not given to stakeholders; and they lack clear lines of ownership and accountability [15]. These definitions are not without issue, as they notably exclude various quasi-commercial entities such as those found in the UK – ie Building Societies and Cooperatives.

It is the exclusion of such entities that presents an issue for achieving a working definition. Lohmann calls for a more expansive view of the “Nonprofit Organisation” since definitions often account only for those legally bound by particular legislation and that if academics work only within these confines then they are limited in their attention [24]. Lohmann also takes issue with the term “Third Sector” as it often is not presented in context of what it is a sector of. Lohmann argues that the organisations generally included in definitions of the “Third Sector” are actually simply a part of a broader grouping termed the “Social Economy” which would include NPOs and Charities but also others such as cooperatives and member organisations [24]. Moualert and Ailenei elaborate that the term “Social Economy” is tied with notions of economic redistribution and reciprocity, and argue that a “one-for-all” definition is not useful to produce, as the organisations within the Social Economy are driven by local contexts ???. They put forward that the Social Economy as a practice, as well as the institutions that make it up, are linked to periods of crisis – and that the Social Economy is a method to respond to the alienation and dissatisfaction of people’s needs by the For-Profit and State sectors at any given time ???. Monzon and Chaves go into detail about defining the characteristics of organisations that make up the Social Economy, largely echoing the definitions for the US-centric “NPOs” discussed earlier ???. In addition to this is their elaboration that “[the organisations] pursue an activity in its own right, to meet the needs of persons, households, or families … [They] are said to be organisations of people, not of capital … They work with capital and other non-monetary resources but not for capital.” This indicates that the unifying characteristic of these organisations is their concern for people, and begins to define them based on what they are rather than the via negativa of “Third Sector” ???.

In the UK, the term ’Charity’ is protected and has a specific definition enshrined in law. According to the Charities Act 2011, a Charity is an organisation that is “established for charitable purposes only”, where the Act then later defines a list of charitable purposes to ensure that the organisation is acting for the public benefit ???. These cover a wide variety of purposes and such as “the prevention or relief of poverty” and “the advancement of citizenship or community development”. Whilst this mirrors the Monzon and Chaves assertion that organisations pursue activity to ”meet the needs of persons…“, it is the opinion of this thesis that enshrinement in law is not necessary treat an organisation as a charity for the purposes of research. This is so that any outcomes of the research can be applied to intenational contexts – where different legal definitions of the word ”Charity" may exist. To that end, our definition of a charity going forward takes the common threads discussed in this section that Charities are: non-for-profit organisations that are legally distinct from government; are set up towards a charitable purpose (regardless of whether that purpose is enshrined in law); and that a citizen’s interactions with the organisation are voluntary.

Why are Charities Important?

Charities are seemingly inherently valued by most individuals in civil society. The social motivations behind Charities and the wide variety of activities in which they involve themselves, as well as the manner of their involvement often means that the health of the Third Sector and Social Economy (TSSE) are often used as barometers for the health of civic society ???. This thesis therefore seeks to explore the importance of Charities and the TSSE to society in order to understand better the world in which they operate.

Hannsman writes on the role of Charities and the TSSE that they often emerge from a “contract failure” of the market to police the producers of services, and that it is very rare to find Charities operating in industrial sectors [18]. According to Hansmann, economic theory dictates that the failure is in accordance with consumers (as a group rather than individuals) to do one of the following: accurately compare providers; reach agreement as to the price and quality of services to be exchanged; and to assess the compliance of the organisation to their part of the deal, obtaining redress if the organisation is seen to have not complied. Charities and TSSE Organisations emerge, therefore, when this process has failed to regulate For-Profit actors in any given economic activity: “The reason is simply that contributors [to a for-profit business] would have little or no assurance that their payments … were actually needed to pay for the service they received” [18]. As noted, it is uncommon to find Charities and TSSEs operating in industrial sectors, and as such the services offered by these organisations can often be those that involve a separation between the purchaser of a service and the eventual recipient; e.g. the purchase and transport of food aid overseas. The inability of Charities to distribute profits to shareholders thus removes the incentive and power of organisations to reduce direct spend on the service; reassuring the purchaser that their money is not for the direct profit of shareholders [18].

Salamon writes that Charities and TSSEs “deliver human services, promote grass-roots economic development, prevent environmental degradation, protect civil rights, and pursue a thousand other objectives formerly unattended or left to the state” ???. This insight reinforces Hansmann’s view that the activities of these organisations are concerned primarily with provision of services unattended to by For-Profit sectors. Salamon’s statement also implies the presence of State actors in a given activity and that State-provided services would mean that there is no requirement for a Charity actor if the needs of the people were being met. Frumkin argues that a core part of the TSSE is that it is responsive to demand; specifically the demands of a public who have unmet needs [15]. Not only does Frumkin’s argument add weight to both Hannsman and Salamon’s admonition that the For-Profit sector is either unconcerned or untrusted with particular activities, but also that the State is either an absentee actor or that the service provided is unsatisfactory in meeting the needs of the public.

The nature and scope of activities in which Charities and the TSSE are involved are incredibly diverse. Salamon and Anheir outline a classification system, the International Classification of Nonprofit Organisations (ICNPO), that divides and classifies organisations into 12 groups based on economic activity, with an additional 24 sub-groups ???. Whilst this classification system generally only provides high-level descriptors of organisations, lacking detail on the nature of how activities are performed pragmatically on-the-ground, they offer a starting point from which to begin to understand the far-reaching and diverse nature of the TSSE’s activities. Examples range from “Nursing Homes” and “Mental Health and Crisis intervention”, to “Housing” and “Culture and Arts”.

The activities undertaken by Charities and the TSSE are also important to society because they are generally understood to produce and sustain Social Capital [21,46,47]. Generally, Social Capital is the term used to refer resources and access to those resources as permitted by one’s social network [13]. Putnam defined Social Capital as “features of social organisation, such as trust, norms, and networks, that can improve the efficiency of society by facilitating coordinated actions” ???. The ’resources’ in Social Capital may be physical resources (ie tools) or more intangible types of resource such as possessing a skill or qualities that are valuable to society.

The amount of Social Capital an individual (or group) possess can have substantial effects on their day-to-day lives in a variety of areas. Field discusses how an increased amount of Social Capital has effects on personal health and happiness, as well as the educational prospects of one’s children, and the amount of “anti-social” behaviour present in their communities [13]. Conversely, low amounts of Social Capital within communities can manifest as poor socio-economic conditions such as higher crime rates and low employment. Field writes about two flavours of Social Capital: ’bonding capital’, which strengthens bonds between sociologially similar groups such as close friends and family; and ’bridging capital’ which connects members to existing networks originally distinct to their own [13]. Bourdieu discusses how the bonding capital can be a means to denote or sustain privilege in society (ie the Old Boys’ Clubs) [32], and Putnam similarly states that whilst bonding capital can get one by, bridging capital is required to ’get ahead’ [48].

With this in mind, it becomes easier to understand how the activities undertaken by charities and the TSSE are linked to the health of society. As discussed, their activities are generally grassroots in nature and as such can involve producing bonding capital between actors who are their beneficiaries in addition to providing opportunities for developing bridging capital that people would otherwise not be presented with. It is also worth noting that Field discusses that there requires an investment in more than just network building in order for society to benefit from Social Capital – the individuals who form the network must also learn skills in order to benefit each other [13]. This is also an activity that is generally attended to by charities and the TSSE; organisations within this sector often concern themselves with benefiting others in the form of ’skills development’ of either specialist forms or of a more generalised and transferable nature that were denied to them because of their existing sociological standing [2].

What are the challenges of Charities today?

Like any organisation, charities experience a set of pressures dependent on their circumstances, with the heterogeneity of the sector meaning that each individual organisation will be subject to unique pressures. Generally, however, it is understood that there are a range of pressures that operate on Charities and the TSSE across the board.

As of writing, in the UK we have experienced nearly a decade of austerity politics which has resulted in significant reduction of funding to national services as well as Local Government Organisations (known as Councils) [27,35]. The result of this is that Charities and the TSSE are having to supply people with the services that they require either independently providing services that were once provided by the Councils, or working as a contracted official supplier of a service once provided “in-house” . At the same time, the change in national leadership associated with the austerity agenda has lead to uncertainty in UK charities securing adequate funding to meet their needs as government grants are reduced or disappear entirely .

In response to this shifting environment, many charities and TSSE organisations are switching their operational model to that of a Social Enterprise (SE) or Social Entrepreneurship in general [4]. SEs are, yet again, a diverse set of organisations — but one that specifically combines business-like elements, activities and structures from the For-Profit sector and applies them to activities that are intended for social betterment and benefit to society; much like traditional charities and TSSE organisations [9,10]. Dart broadly describes Social Enterprise as “significantly influenced by business thinking and by a primary focus on results and outcomes for client groups and communities” [7], and Dees states that Social Enterprise combines the passion of a social mission with an image of business-like discipline [8]. In practice, this often includes activities and practices that include revenue-source diversification, fee-for-service programs, and partnerships with the private sector . Defourny and Nyssens describe the rise of SEs across the world, and that the UK has used the SE ’brand’ within policy documents for years, and give as part of the working definition that the organisations profits are “principally reinvested for [a social mission] in the business or community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners” [9]. This definition shares similarities to that for charities and TSSEs discussed earlier in the review – however distinctly does not include the requirement that profits cannot be distributed to shareholders, only that they principally are used primarily towards an organisation’s social mission.

SEs often cited as a solution to the issues being experienced by charities and the TSSE, but it is not without criticism. Eikenberry writes that organisations adopting a social enterprise model actually poses a threat to civil society ???. She argues that change in model leads to a focus on the bottom line and overhead expenditures, and exposes them to market forces that they would otherwise be sheltered from. Aside from the effects on the organisation itself, this exposure means organisations can often adopt “market values” and “entrepreneurial attitudes” which means that the change in their operational model is detrimental to society ???. Dart elaborates that SEs differ from traditional NPOs as they generally blur boundaries between nonprofit and for-profit activities, and even enact “hybrid” activities [7]. This could include activities such as engaging with marketing contracts as opposed to accepting donations, as well as behaviour such as cutting services that are not deemed to be cost-effective. Whilst there are large implications for organisations accepting funding from for-profit industries, a major implication of changing operational model is that the shift of effort from effective service delivery to financial strategy impacts negatively on the Social Capital that is generated ???. This is through less emphasis on building relationships with stakeholders (previously an essential survival strategy) as service users become framed as consumers, and through market pressures diverting resources towards skills such as project management and away from activities that build Social Capital. Doherty et al. echo this in their description of Social Enterprises, distinguishing them from traditional models of charities and TSSE organisation by stating that the latter are “more likely to remain dependent on gifts and grants rather than developing true paying customers” [10]. Eikenberry’s concerns are manifested here, as the service user or “beneficiary” of an organisation becomes reframed as a “customer” due to the influence of market forces.

Social Capital plays a significant role in the success of a charity or TSSE organisation. As actors within social networks themselves, these organisations need to make use of Social Capital in addition to their pivotal role in producing and sustaining it for others. King writes that charities and TSSEs were formed using Social Capital and part of their role is to “sustain and broaden” it in order to provide opportunities and make the mundane operation of an organisation smoother [21]. She writes that those in leadership positions within an organisation draw upon techniques such as networking and skills development in order to allow the organisation to perform its work and meet its goals – calling charities and TSSEs (she uses the term nonprofits) “the epitome of Social Capital in action” as the organisations can not only utilise but spread their Social Capital to others [21]. Swanson shares these sentiments and explicates that strategic engagement of an organisation’s Social Capital should be a central tenant in its management and leadership, Fredette and Bradshaw echo this and discuss how bonding capital established between those in leadership roles allows them to collectively mobilise through the sharing of information and the building of trust [14,46].

Trust is inextricably tied to Social Capital, as Field discusses that a network with high trust levels operates more efficiently than one with comparably lower levels of trust [13]. This means that in order for a charity and TSSE actor to achieve its goals more effectively, it must be trusted. Whilst it is important to note that there is some disagreement as to the exact nature of Trust within Social Capital ie whether Trust is a product or instigator of Social Capital; it remains that high levels of Trust allows an organisation to operate more effectively, and continue the cycle of production and sustenance of Social Capital for their stakeholders [13]. Schneier writes on Trust that it is essential for society at large to function (e.g. we trust in our currency, we trust in our qualifications etc.), although on-the-ground Trust plays a key role in accessing resources in the social network, since a transaction between two trusting actors is less expensive (both in terms of emotional labour and financial capital) to faciliate than a similar transaction between two actors lacking trust ???. Trust, therefore, is an important factor for charities and TSSEs in the performance of their work as lack of Trust will impede an organisation as much as high Trust will aid them.


It can be said, then, that since charities and TSSEs perform work that is important to society and needs to be performed, and that since high levels of Trust allows them to operate more effectively; that it is important to society that we trust our charities and TSSE organisations to perform the work that they do. However, recent media coverage (at least in the UK) has often portrayed Charities and TSSE organisations as being irresponsible with funding, ineffective in achieving the outcomes they purport to desire, and in some cases unaccountable for their actions. This review now turns to examining the concepts and mechanisms to which charities and the TSSE can often be subject to related to their transparency and accountability.

Why is Transparency important to NPOs?

This section explores Transparency and Accountability in the context of Charities and the TSSE. This is done so that we may understand the mechanisms by which these organisations may become more trustworthy to their stakeholders, facilitating not only their daily operation (as discussed above) but in doing so; continue producing value for society at large. In understanding the roles that organisational Transparency and Accountability may play in this, we situate the research as operating within these spaces in order to provide a foundational understanding from which to begin working.

Transparency and Accountability are seen increasingly desirable in governments and organisations [???,??]. Oliver states that Transparency has "moved over the last several hundred years from an intellectual ideal to center stage in a drama being played out across the globe in many forms and functions" ???. Corrêa et al. say Transparency and Open Government is "synonymous with efficient and collaborative government" ???, and Steele goes as far to say "Transparency is the new `app' that launches civilization 2.0" ???. Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) in the UK are held to stringent Transparency standards by an organisation known as the Charity Commission, which is responsible for registering and regulating charities in England and Wales "to ensure that the public can support charities with confidence" ???. The development of trust is foundational in the relationship between an organisation and those invested in its activities or performance, known as stakeholders, which is compounded by the notion that a stakeholder in an NPO might not be in direct receipt of its services [???]. Beyond this, accountability is seen as a way of building legitimacy as an organisation [1]. Watchdog organisations such as the Charity Commission and others therefore play an important role in developing stakeholder relationships with NPOs through Transparency measures, making them accountable to those invested in them. Oliver writes that NPO expenditure is often the most "emotional", and a person’s decision to invest in a charity will be down to how comfortable and confident they are in its operation ???.

Hood writes that "Transparency is more often preached than practised [and] more often invoked than defined" ???. This section considers various definitions of Transparency in relation to the UK Charity Commission, NPOs, and the measures that are taken to make them accountable to stakeholders. It also inspects Transparency’s synonymity with Accountability.

What is Transparency?

Transparency and Accountability are seen as increasingly desirable traits in governments and organisations, and have moved over the last century from intellectual ideas in the wings to playing a central role across the globe ???. Correa et al say of Transparency and Open Government that it is “synonymous with efficient and collaborative government” ???, and Steele writes that “Transparency is the new app that launches civilization 2.0” ???. However, the terms are still ambiguous. Hood writes that Transparency is “more often preached than practiced [and] more often invoked than defined” [20]. This section therefore aims to explore various definitions of ’Transparency’.

Historically, Transparency was inherent in the actions and interactions of everyday society since, in traditional societies, the density of social networks made one’s actions highly visible ???. Meijer contrasts this with modern societies where “people do not know each other – many people in cities do not even know their neighbours” and argues that societies which operate at a larger scale suffer a decline in social control, which calls for new forms of Transparency that match the scale of the society ???. The term Transparency has been a watch-word for governance since the late 20th century, yet its roots stretch back much further. Hood identifies three ‘strains’ of pre-20th-century thought that are at least partial predecessors to Transparency’s modern doctrine: rule-governed administration; candid and open social communication; and ways of making organisation and society ‘knowable’ [20].

The first of these “strains” of thought, Rule-governed administration, is the idea that government should operate in accordance to fixed and predictable rules and Hood calls it the “one of the oldest ideas in political thought” [20]. This notion may be summarised effectively with the platitude of “a government of laws and not men”, where the laws are stable and governing is thus not subject to the discretionary attitudes of individuals. The second strain, Candid and Open social communication, had its early proponents liken Transparency to one’s “natural state”, and it saw an implementation in the ‘town meeting’ method of governance where members of the town would deliberate in the presence of one another – making all deals transparent and ensuring all parties were mutually accountable [20]. The third of form of proto-Transparency doctrines, is the notion the social world can be made ’knowable’ through methods or techniques that act as counterparts to studying natural or physical phenomena. Hood describes an 18th-century “police science” which exposed the public to view through the introduction of street lighting or open spaces, as well as the publication of information (all of which designed to help prevent crime) [20].

When viewed in this historical context, from these different perspectives, it can be said that Transparency is inherently concerned with information; access to it, and effective use of it. Oliver describes Transparency as having three key components: something (or someone) to be observed; someone to observe it; and the means supporting such an observation ???. Heald discusses how these first two components can manifest in modern Transparencies with a property of directionality; a direction being an indicator of who is visible to whom ???. Heald conceptualises four directions of Transparency that exist across two axis: Upwards and Downwards; Inwards and Outwards ???.

The ’vertical’ axis (Upwards and Downwards) refers to position in a given hierarchy, such as found within an organisation or a nation. An Upwards Transparency would indicate that those higher in a hierarchy can observe the conduct, behaviour or actions of those below them, whilst Downwards Transparency would mean that those higher on the ladder are made observable by those below them ???. The ’horizontal’ axis (Inwards and Outwards) refers to relative position to an organisation and whether one can observe or be observed by it ???. An Inwards Transparency would mean that those external to an organisation may see into it, and conversely an Outwards Transparency would denote situations wherein an organisation may peer ’out’ and monitor its habitat or other actors.

These forms of Transparency can (and often do) coexist simultaneously in a given situation, and any combination. Further to this, operation of a direction across one axis does not preclude the existence of its counterpart. For example, there may be a situation which can be described as possessing both Upwards and Downwards Transparencies. When this occurs Heald describes that axis as having “symmetry” ???. Real world examples can be analysed in this manner; a government’s surveillance of its citizens (or a private company’s surveillance of its workers) can be described as a combination of Downwards and Outwards Transparencies. The inverse of this situation, Upwards and Inwards, has also been encapsulated with the term ’Sousveillance’ – a term coined by Mann meaning “to watch from below” [28]. Mann gives two possible interpretations of the term Sousveillance. The first, as discussed, is an inversion of Surveillance formed by Upwards and Inwards Transparencies allowing citizens to capture abuses of power by those in positions of authority such e.g. by police officers at street level [28]. The second interpretation of Sousveillance specifically refers to the relative positions of cameras in physical space such as the proliferation of cameras attached to modern smartphones. It can be argued that this has enabled the first form of Sousveillance, and that abuses of power that have always occurred and that they are only now being witnessed en masse . However, with the advent of digital monitoring endorsed by governments and corporate bodies, and the possibilities of these actors utilising citizenry’s smartphones – this means that Sousveillance can also have implications for the Downwards and Outwards forms Transparency discussed in the context of traditional surveillance. In addition to this, Ganascia also discusses how an increased desire for access to public information has lead to aspirations for “total transparency”, which in the US has resulted in government endorsement of data sharing (Sometimes called ’Open Government’ or ’Government 2.0’) [16]. There have been similar moves in the UK (e.g. which are designed to improve the delivery and transparency of public services ???.

The sharing of data, however, does not constitute the entirety of Transparency. As discussed, the historical context of Transparency appears concerned with two aspects of information; access to it is indeed one of these, however the effective use of such data is also an important factor. Schauer writes of Transparency that it cannot be simply equated with knowledge, and at best facilitates it: for information or processes to be Transparent he defines the criteria of being “open and available for scrutiny” ???. This definition notably lacks an explanation how groups or individuals may make use of information, and the cost for them to access it. Hood also acknowledges this as a tension between the historical “Town Hall” forms of Transparency, related to Candid and Open Social Communication, and its distant cousin concerned with accounting and book-keeping [20].

It is this concern with accounting and book-keeping that is most often associated with Transparency in common parlance. In this context there are also distinct flavours of Transparency that must be acknowledged. In government and business, Transparency can take the form of releasing information concerned with accounts and expenditure on a regular or semi-regular basis. Oliver discusses how this is an older form of Transparency and almost purely reactive – often in response to a scandal ???. Further to this, Oliver writes that the Old Transparency is giving way to what he calls the ’New Transparency’, which is more proactive and the taking on a stance of “active disclosure” ???. Similar to Oliver, Schauer provides a discussion on the dualistic nature of Transparency divided across the same lines of passiveness vs activity – to the point where he names the twin forms of Transparency “Passive Transparency” and “Active Transparency” ???. From this point, Oliver and Schauer’s discussions converge along similar lines. Old and Passive Transparency is concerned only with information being made available “for others to see if they so choose, or perhaps think to look, or have the time, means and skills to look”; which resembles the discussion that definitions of Transparency often don’t consider how stakeholders may access or understand information about an actor. New and Active Transparency is not only demanding, but concerned with information’s interpretation and access and should be thought of as of communication concerned with the organisation’s responsibilities. Heald discusses a very similar division of Transparency which he calls “Nominal Transparency” vs “Effective Transparency” ???. The term “Nominal Transparency” describes something similar to the Old and Passive Transparencies outlined by both Oliver and Schauer, but more ominous. Heald says that whilst Transparency of any given organisation may increase on an index, there is a divergence with Effective Transparency to the point where it is Transparency only in name – creating an illusion of Transparency. For Transparency to be effective, Heald writes that there must be receptors capable of receiving, processing, and utilising the information ???.

Heald’s dichotomy between Nominal and Effective Transparency sits alongside two other similar dichotomies that he describes as being important factors to discussion of the term: Real-Time vs Retrospective Transparencies; and Event vs Process Transparencies ???. The first dichotomy deals with the variable of time in the availability of information as a Real-Time Transparency would take a form of continuous surveillance such as that enabled by modern technologies such as CCTV or (a little less odious) open data apis which are continuously fresh. Retrospective Transparency describes a reporting cycle during which an organisation operates and then prepares an account of activity. The second pairing of Event and Process Transparencies concerns the subject of the Transparency. Event Transparencies describe objects or states that that are more easily measurable than their counterparts, Processes, which are more likely to be described in attempt to be Transparent rather than reported on. Events and Processes are inherently linked, as it requires a Process to turn one Event into another form of Event, such as an Input into an Output via a Transformation process. A concrete example of this would be financial input being transformed via action or spending into an output, and then later linked into an outcome for reporting. Of these Events, Inputs are the easiest to measure and can be measured directly. Outputs can also be measured although such measurements are effectively proxies related to activities undertaken, and linking these to outcomes can be a difficult or impossible task ???.

Transparency and Accountability

The imposition of transparency measures is generally seen as tantamount to ensuring accountability of institutions, organisations, or individuals in power; and often the terms are used interchangeably [???]. The two terms, however, are separate and have their own (if somewhat malleable) definitions ???. Fox discusses accountability in terms of "the capacity or right to demand answers" or the "capacity to sanction", whereas transparency concerns itself with the public’s right and ability to access information; and whilst common wisdom dictates that transparency generates accountability, this assumption is challenged when held to scrutiny ???. Fox’s analysis of transparency divides it into two categories – clear transparency and opaque or fuzzy transparency – which closely resemble Schauer and Oliver’s definitions of the Active or New Transparency and the Passive or Old Transparency [???,??]. Fox argues the importance of this distinction lies in the fact that as Transparency becomes an increasingly desirable term, opponents will express their dissent through provision of fuzzy transparency. This is data which lacks information that can reveal organisational behaviour and thus cannot be used to generate accountability ???. The Clear Transparency alluded to by Fox is defined as "information-access policies [and] programmes that reveal reliable information about institutional performance, specifying officials' responsibilities [and] where public funds go". Importantly, though Clear Transparency is concerned with organisational behaviour, it is not sufficient to generate accountability – which requires the intervention of other actors ???. Accountability is also explained by Fox as either Soft Accountability (the ability to demand answers) and Hard Accountability (the ability to issue sanctions). Fox stipulates that appropriate levels of Clear Transparency gives the public the ability to perceive problems, and to demand answers – which is a form of Soft Accountability known as answerability ???. Further forms of accountability are founded on the ability to not only reveal existing data, but to investigate and produce information about organisational behaviour ???.

Anheir and Hawkes reflect Fox’s sentiment in their discussion of Accountability, where they describe Accountability as a "multi-dimensional concept that needs unpacking before becoming a useful policy concept and management tool", and note that in the case of trans-national organisations; Accountability itself is a problem, and not simply a solution [1]. This discussion, whilst focusing on the difficulty of regulating accountability across national borders, has insight into the ways that transparency mechanisms may not be adequate for generating true accountability in NPOs. They highlight how it is often media companies that reveal ‘unethical behaviour’ to the public, rather than formal auditing bodies – an example from the UK would be how the NPO Kid’s Company experienced negative media coverage over their closure relating to alleged misuse of funds [1]. Anheir and Hawkes also draw on Koppel’s ‘Five Dimensions of Accountability’ framework – which imbues Accountability with a five-part typology: transparency; liability; controllability; responsibility; and responsiveness [1,23].

Koppel avoids trying to produce a definitive definition of Accountability, stating "[to layer] every imagined meaning of accountability into a single definition would render the concept meaningless", and the five-dimensional typology is instead designed to facilitate discussion of the term [23]. Transparency features prominently in the typology, with Koppell referring to it as one of "foundations, supporting notions that underpin accountability in all of its manifestations" the alongside liability [23]. Liability, according to Koppell, is the attachment of consequences to performance and culpability to Transparency – punishing organisations or individuals for failure, and rewarding them for successes [23]. In this, the ‘foundational’ dimensions of Koppell’s typology are aligned with Fox’s definitions of Accountability which covers the capacity of demanding answers and to sanction, with Transparency as the ability to access the information in the first place [23]. The remaining three dimensions of Koppell’s typology: controllability; responsibility; and responsiveness are all built upon the foundations of Transparency and Liability. Controllability is a form of accountability where if "X can induce the behaviour of Y [then] X controls Y [and] Y is accountable to X [23]. Koppell notes that Controllability can be difficult in organisations that have multiple stakeholders to whom the organisation is supposed to be controlled by [23], though is also unclear when describing the physical mechanisms by which an organisation may be controlled by other stakeholders. Romzek and Dubnick’s description of systems such as internal Bureaucratic and external Legal systems, as well as Political responsiveness, being utilised to control an organisation [36] would indicate that mechanisms which produce Controllability are situated within the Responsibility and Responsiveness areas of the typology. Responsibility denotes the constraint of behaviour through laws, rules, or norms such as legal frameworks or professional standards of conduct [23,36].

Romzek and Dubnick use the term Political accountability here, describing the relationship between those in a political office and their constituents, but the term could be applied to an organisation required to meet the needs of beneficiaries and thus falls into Koppell’s typology under Responsiveness

Responsiveness in the typology describes organisation’s attention to the needs of its clients, as opposed to the following of hierarchical orders [23].

In the context of this typology, Koppell also puts forward a state resultant from an organisation’s engagement with the various forms of Accountability. Multiple Accountability Disorder (MAD) is framed as a condition afflicting organisations which attempt to engage in multiple, conflicting, forms of Accountability simultaneously; negatively affecting their ability to operate and perform their work as an organisation and dissatisfying the actors whom they are expected to be accountable to [23]. This is because the various forms of Accountability are rarely ever differentiated in practice, and "Organizations are often expected to be accountable -- explicitly or implicity -- in every sense" [23]. An organisation may experience MAD as a conflict between adhering to expected professional standards and responding directly to the orders of a stakeholder and in some cases, multiple stakeholders may issue contradictory directives to an organisation that are expected to be obeyed [23].

How can digital technologies support NPO Transparency and Accountability?

Transparency and Accountability can be said to be ultimately concerned with the sharing of information and the creation of pathways or mechanisms that allows stakeholders to act in accordance to it. Meijer argues that "modern transparencies are computer-mediated" ???, and Oliver goes as far to posit that digital technologies have sparked a self-sustaining Information - Transparency Cycle which is "unstoppable" and that information is now a commodity which is cheap to collect, organise, analyse, and distribute; the result of which is a reaction to missing information and a return to the collection phase ???. Similarly, Steele, in his Open Source Everything Manfiesto reflects on the ways in which the Internet has enabled the public to overcome previous restrictions on access to information and states, in no unclear terms, "This bodes well for humanity" ???.

Models which support openness and public access to information has use cases that support its effectiveness as a tool for certain forms of Transparencies and Accountabilities. The Free Software movement and, to a lesser extent, the Open Source movement1 have baked into their core the requirement for access to source code of software distributions; which is generally enforced through licensing code upon release in a particular way.

Camp frames the access to source of a given piece of software as a form of Transparency and Accountability ???, a sentiment shared by various advocacy groups promoting end-user interaction with the software tools over proprietary alternatives [33]. Camp outlines how that human-readable source code (specifically, source code that is not deliberately obfuscated) can be ’audited’ similar to to an ’open book’ form of transparency. Camp then transposes these concepts into governance processes; where ‘open’ code could be compared to digitised versions of an organisation’s governance processes. With an ‘open’ model, an organisation could be held to the same scrutiny as Open Source or Free Software source code ???.

Free Software also demands a particular form of accountability through specific use-cases, namely that of programmers deriving work from it. Free Software is often released under ’restrictive’ or ‘copyleft’ licenses (e.g. ???) which legally enforce that derivative software, or new software including Free-licensed code as a component, is also released holistically as under the same license and thus under the same terms – enforcing access to the source. Stallman’s original GNU manifesto outlines the reasons why his GNU system employs a form of viral licensing: "Control over the use of one's ideas' really constitutes control over people's lives; and it usually used to make their lives more difficult" [40]. In this, Stallman declares a unique form of accountability that can almost be seen as paradoxical – one that explicitly controls the actions of a particular group (programmers) in order to dictate that they relinquish control over another group (end-users access to and subsequent use of software tools).

Broadly, there are several strands of research into digital technologies that support interacting with information and data in this way; primarily these can be encapsulated within the areas of Open Data, and Human-Data Interaction (HDI) although the inter-disciplinary nature of HCI as a whole means that the subject matter naturally intersects or otherwise touches upon other research within the field. This section explores the potential and implications for how data may be produced and appropriated by charities and their stakeholders through a discussion around Open Data, Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) and Human-Data Interaction. It then turns to the pragmatic and investigates previous HCI research into previous examples pertaining to enabling interactions with finances.

Interacting with Data

Open Data is "data that anyone can access, use, or share" ???. It consists of organised data that is, generally, structured and placed online so that it can be consumed for use. Open Data can be produced, shared, and used by many people in many different contexts (e.g. scientific data sets, or government collection of environmental data). Often, it is parsed or processed in some way by digital technologies, and multiple datasets may also be combined in order to produce a desired insight for the stakeholder(s) consuming the data.

Human Data Interaction (HDI) is a coalescing field that is concerned with the social world of how people interact with data about themselves and others. Whilst it considers technical infrastructure surrounding data [30], HDI also brings data’s role as a ‘Boundary Object’ [43] to the fore and considers its role as a pervasive aspect of everyday life in terms of how to enable citizens to interact with this data in a more explicit fashion ???.

A ‘Boundary Object’ is anything which may be recognised across different social ‘worlds’, yet may be appropriated and adapted by the needs of individuals and groups in a manner that pertains to their specific needs and context. Star and Griesemer describe Boundary Objects as "both plastic enough to adapt to local needs ... yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across sites" [43] A good example of this is a receipt of purchase; it is inarguably a receipt, yet may be used by the bank to verify a purchase, by a store to prove that you own the items you’ve purchased, and proof that a transaction has occurred between your bank account and a store. Further to this, Crabtree and Mortier elaborate that Boundary Objects are “inherently social” and possess a “processual character” as part of the infrastructure of everyday life. To this end, they argue that Data is not so much an object in-and-of-itself but rather an object that is inherently embedded in human relationships ???.

Data’s use as a Boundary Object is demonstrated effectively by the rise in personal informatics. In the Quantified Self movement, individuals collect and process various forms and sources of data about them as individuals, generally for the purposes of recording progress towards various goals [44,45]. Contrasting the movement’s general use of data as a pragmatic, goal-oriented object, Elsden et al demonstrate that data can be experienced by people in many ways and can serve different purposes such as providing playful ways to engage with each other and one’s own data [???]. In particular, it is posited that data can offer an ‘alternative lens’ that other media does not, allowing people to view or represent an event in a different ways than originally envisioned and one that can be combined with other more traditional forms of documenting; and in doing so indicates that the record is always unfinalised and is continuously open to reinterpretation [12].

Additionally, Data as a Boundary Object has place within an organisational context, offering opportunities to use and present data in an exploratory context in people’s shared worlds. In an academic context (most UK Universities possess charitable status and thus belong to the Third Sector), visualising research funding across the institution was found to act as a means of supporting members of staff in understanding the funding landscape of the organisation and in communicating narratives to the outside world around perceived successes. The system (and by extension, its data) was also found to support the review and contestation of data when multiple interpretations were available, and Elsden et al explicitly note its implications for organisational transparency; with the caveat that a major design question raised by the research is whether contextualisation should occur merely through the data, or in conversation around it ???.

As discussed, the presentation of information is not enough to engage in more modern forms of transparent practice; and the use of data (however nicely it may be visualised) is no exception to this and risks simply rehashing the older forms of transparency with faster production of data. Cornford et al write that the UK Government’s agenda of producing Open Government Data (OGD) fails to address the questions of how information is to be interpreted for local contexts; mirroring the concerns of Elsden et al around how data should be contextualised ???. Cornford et al argue that a wealth of open and structured data merely provides a ‘view from nowhere’ and that the true challenge lies in developing the interpretive communities that will utilise the information effectively ???.

Some successes have been seen in the uses of OGD for engagement; the London Datastore ??? collects, organises, and distributes a variety of Open Data pertaining to the City of London in the UK, and has seen great successes in terms of use-cases where developers and organisations have used data for service provision and governance purposes [5]. In the US, journalists have begun utilising data to fuel their practice ???, and it has been argued that the proliferation of OGD has directly contributed to a ‘habit of engagement’ that in turn begins to develop a culture of civic participation through the use and responses to data about our civic world ???. Black and Burstein conceptualise a movement towards the ‘Twenty-First Century Town Hall’ [3] (possibly indicating a full circle movement to a more direct forms of Transparency discussed above) whereas Bloom postulates that OGD will form a new Commons resource ???.

Sense making and engagement stemming from the use of Open Data draws upon the field known as ‘Open-Source Intelligence’ (OSINT). Generally, OSINT concerns itself with the gathering of intelligence for problem solving from various public information sources [???]. This places it in contrast to other forms of intelligence-gathering which are generally performed using specialist or secret sources of information. Traditionally, this would look like utilising sources such as newspapers and public records but in the modern era sources such as Open Data and Social Media profiles may be used as viable sources of information to begin making steps towards solving intelligence problems ???.

The implications of an Open Data-fuelled OSINT for Transparency and Accountability are evident. As discussed, OSINT is concerned primarily with the application of information to solve issues or answer questions, so it stands to reason that an adequate data infrastructure would allow for (or even promote) engagement of stakeholders in OSINT for asking questions of charitable organisations (the ‘Habit of Engagement alluded to earlier ???). At the very least, such an infrastructure would enable the organisations to produce effective and interactive responses to queries around the performance of their work and their spending.

Steele discusses the power of OSINT at length. Coming from a position that “the only unlimited resource in the world is the human brain”, Steele puts forward that the engendering of Transparency via the production of Open Data, and the resultant OSINT practices, would lead to a systematic practice of exchanging information openly ???. This would then allow societal actors and stakeholders to evaluate and respond to complex problems ???. Whilst Steele refers directly to engagement with Governmental processes, this could see use in the Third Sector as well; when a charity could present information about their work within the context of complexity. A pragmatic example that might be most interesting for charities is the example of a ‘True Cost’ calculation – wherein the True Cost of a white cotton T-Shirt is outlined in economic, societal, and environmental terms ???.

In the context of charities, Erete et al explore how NPOs use Open Data technologies to support their practice through practices resembling OSINT ???. Data is largely used to create a narrative and engage in a story-telling practice around particular goals which differ in context – e.g. making grant applications, or internal management functions. Organisations are shown to combine multiple sources of data into a narrative, as well as being able to derive multiple narratives from a single data set ???. Further to this, they discuss how NPOs operate with limited resources and as such may benefit from services such as Data Portals to enable them to acquire data easily to produce these valuable narratives, and put forward that additional value is created via such portals when they act to build or strengthen relationships between those seeking to use the data and those possessing skills or knowledge around its analysis. From the perspective of Transparency and Accountability, it stands to reason that systems can be developed that allows charities (NPOs) to engage actively in the data collection process, and allow them to construct multiple, and varied narratives from personal data sets that can be used in similar contexts to those described by Erete et al – ie supporting grant applications and internal management procedures, but also additional cases such as evidencing their work by retrieving and presenting information collected about it.

In summation, digital technologies surrounding Open Data and its use as a Boundary Object have strong implications for the support of Charities in terms of Transparency and Accountability. Use of data has in the past demonstrated a usefulness in civic and academic contexts, supporting processes that are integral to Transparency (review and contestation), as well as potentially acting as a vector to allowing stakeholders to explore the complexities orbiting particular topics such True Cost, and therefore spending. With this in mind the discussion now turns to previous HCI work in the area of interacting with finances.

How do digital technologies allow people to interact with finances?

HCI research has previously concerned itself with investigating the ways in which can facilitate people’s interactions around money. Work has largely been focused on small scale interactions such as those found at individual or family/small-group level. Examples include studies investigating how people manage personal finances in particular circumstances, as well as how people engaged with money on an experiential level [???]. At larger scales, HCI has also taken into account the social world around financial transactions to theorise around the design of potential future payment systems ???; and alternative forms of capital such as cryptocurrencies and the surrounding Blockchain technologies have are said to have accountability baked into the infrastructure of the systems themselves ???. Previous HCI work demonstrates that people interact with money and their personal finances in a number of ways. Kaye et al discuss how interaction can play out at an emotional level; as individuals may make decisions that do not appear ’rational’ from a purely financial perspective but are instead driven by other factors such as personal history or experience with debt ???. A second facet is a form of management of ’pots’ of money. In this context, money is not treated as a single entity but divided up along lines such as origin or intended use, and people use a variety of self-made or adaptable tools (both digital and analogue) in order to achieve this management; such as folders, notebooks, and spreadsheets ???. This practice of dividing money semantically is notably also shown in the work of Vines et al when studying techniques people use to manage a low income ???. Finally, dealing with the unknown or ’higher powers’ is an important facet of people’s relationships with money as they may lack important information held about them by other actors; such as their current Credit Scores (often used as a measure of financial health in the US), and they understand that their personal futures may contain events that they have not financially planned or accounted for ???. Vines et al go on to describe how the systems people implement can give them a ’confidence through awareness’ which may act as a ballast that partly allays their fears ???.

At the community Scale, Ferreira et al explored the social world surrounding money, specifically a community currency known as the Bristol Pound ???. Their work discusses how exchanges of money using the currency shared aspects of a conversation, as the transactors would engage in social interactions that were unbounded by the settings roles such as ’shopkeeper’ and ’customer’, prompted by the technology use required to pay with the currency. Further to this, the use of the shared currency (and the technological systems supporting it) gave the transactors an indication of shared values and interests ???.

Other instances of digital technologies supporting group use of money is the use of ‘Crowdfunding’ websites such as Kickstarter, or GoFundMe. In particular, the language and mechanisms of these sites share similarities with the process of donating to charities. These sites offer options wherein donators to a particular fund may have their donation returned if, for example, the total requested amount of donations has not been met. Beltran et al extend this concept further with their deployment of ‘Codo‘ which they describe as “Fundraising with Conditional Donations” ???. In this deployment, Beltran et al describe how they developed a logical grammar which allows a donor on the system to more richly prescribe (or describe) the conditions of their donation, such as matching funds from other individuals or those within a defined group. Whilst this system does not proffer much in the way of exploring how organisations can report back on their expenditure, it presents the case that conditions may be put forward and codified as a means of providing a rudimentary accountability; as an organisation may need to attract the support of more than disparate groups in order to receive their donations. This opens up the possibility that a system may be developed with an ’accountability spin’, where conditions are put upon funds by Funding bodies that request reimbursement under the event that conditions that they set out are not adequately met.

It is also important to note that my previous work has explicitly explored how Transparency and Accountability are, as of writing, poorly supported by digital technologies ???. This findings of this initial, exploratory, work highlights similarities between how individuals semantically divide money into ’pots’ and how charities’ finances are often restricted to particular use-cases due to how charity funding operates. This study also indicated that it may be appropriate to shift focus from financial transparency towards making organisation’s ’visible’. This harks back to the historical roots of Transparency as a part-Science of making the social world knowable discussed earlier [20]. The means to achieve this would be to produce a more qualitative form of accounting and supporting the interrogation of information collected by using standardised web technologies.





A Work Place study

This section situates the thesis within the tradition of a workplace study.


A timeline for the research

Timeline of Research

Timeline of Research

Research Landscape: The Patchwork Project

The main setting for the research is elaborated upon here, as main research partners. Attention is paid to how I intergrated into the organisation, and how this environment affected study.

"Matt's got his notebook out": Approaches to Fieldwork, Collaboration and Analysis

This section explains the research's specific methods for orienting to, collecting, and analysing data.

Fieldwork methods

Design methods

Interactions, Work, and Labour: Analytical frameworks

Personal Reflections and Reflexivity

This section reflects on the position of myself as a researcher in the settings that the research took place in, and discusses things that affected the practice of the research ie the Hawthorne effect and issues of objectivity.

Ethical Conundrums and Identity

"Climb every mountain higher": Personal Highs and Lows

Chapter 4: Accounts and Accountability -A Fieldwork Case Study of Work Practice.


Note: Very much a chapter in flux. Expand this with details of:

(Chapter outline, should outline the various sections)

Participants and Setting: The Patchwork Project

This research began in earnest with my reaching out to a Youth Work charity known as The Patchwork Project (hereafter Patchwork or sometimes "Patchy"). I had briefly met two of the workers during my MRes project, and their contribution left a substantial impression on me. I was keen to work with them again and, thankfully, after a brief chat with them over lunch they agreed to let me engage with them through fieldwork. Patchwork's work is similar to any small charity's in that it is inherently tailored to the needs of their community, and thus are shaped by them. Any good fieldworker must treat such work as inseparable, and I therefore wish to elaborate briefly on the community of Benwell.

In 1994, The Independent included Benwell, Scotswood, and Elswick together in its list entitled "No-Go Britain: Where, what, why". The reasons they cited were "Crime, arson used to intimidate witnesses, feuds between rival families involved in drug dealing" as well as citing unemployment statistics of 24%, 28%, and 26% for the three areas respectively [49]. Colloquially, the area is seen as abandoned by the city council, and owes its reputation to the conditions that arise from lack of adequate services and funding. Some stuff about the diasporas and the migrant communities.

The rival crime families alluded to in the article are the infamous Sayers and Conroy families; often held up as Newcastle's equivalent to the Kray twins. Aside from a history of (alleged) violence, drug trafficking, and extortion Paddy Conroy rose to notoriety after escaping from a vehicle taking him to court and going on the run. Eventually being apprehended in Spain. CITE ME HEAVILY. Growing up near and around Newcastle, my peers and I had always held up the Sayers and the Conroys as being symbolic of the West End; rugged, violent, and unpredictable. Benwell was held up as a 'no-go' zone patrolled by boogeymen called Sayers and Conroy. The truth is much more mundane. I recount one encounter with a member of the Conroy clan below (young person pseudonymised):

It was one of the first Monday night sessions down at The Play Centre, also called "Patchy 2" by the staff. The session catered to ages between 8 and 12 and it was busy. One young person in particular, a young boy who looked to be around 8 or 9, was consistently acting aggressive towards the others; and there were multiple cries of "Matt! Terry punched me" or "Matt! Terry stole the football" every few minutes. Since I was still growing into my role of session worker I didn't have a lot of confidence with my authority, and I asked Dean whether I should give Terry a warning before chucking him out. Dean affirmed that this was appropriate, so I made my way over to Terry. Using my best authoritative (and accented) voice I issued the warning.

Me: "Terry, this is your first warning man. Stop it or I'll chuck you out."

Terry: "Nah, you won't."

He then proceeded to smirk at me before running to another group of young people across the room gathered by the pool table. When he arrived there, he paused for a second before orienting to a member of the group who was holding a pool cue. He then forcibly retrieved the cue by grappling with the person, and took their place at the pool table. In response to this I walked up to Terry, grabbed the cue back from him, and turned to orient him towards the door.

Me: "Get out. Come back next week. See you."

To his credit Terry calmly walked/jogged out the door. I looked around for other members of staff who had witnessed it, searching for approval. Dean raised his eyebrows and nodded slightly, which I took to mean that my response was appropriate. Unknown to me at the time, Michael had witnessed the encounter and apparently had his own take on it. Coming up behind me, he placed a hand on my shoulder:

Michael (grinning): "Shouldn't have done that bonny lad. That's little Terry Conroy, related to Paddy Conroy. Ye knaa of Paddy. He's just been released [from prison]."

I did know of Paddy Conroy.

Me (shitting myself): "Oh, right. What should I do?"

At this point I heard Dean burst out laughing. I briefly wondered if he was a sociopath, and then noticed Michael was also laughing as well. I looked Mike, with the dawning realisation that they might be having me on.

Mike (still laughing): "Nah you'll be fine man. I mean that is Terry Conroy and he is related to Paddy. But he gets kicked out of everything all the time. Nout will happen and I doubt he'll even remember he was here in twenty minutes."

Me: (still shitting myself): "Pfffft. Thanks for that Mick."

Michael then walked off smiling to himself, and the rest of the session passed uneventfully.

This vignette serves to illustrate how Patchwork have woven themselves into the fabric of the West End. Terry's respect for the workers of Patchwork was indicated by his obeyal of my command. Mike's humourous treatment of me: first threatening the possibility of violent retribution from a notorious family; then dismissing it out of hand, shows an understanding of his environment and Patchwork's position within it.

The history of Patchwork

People and Organisation Structure

The organisation has three full-time and four part-time staff (pseudonymised for reporting): Mike (Manager, full-time); Andi (Senior Youth Worker, full-time); Dean (Youth Worker, full-time); Lynne (Administrator, part-time replacing Chelsea who had the role when fieldwork began); Sonia (Youth Worker, part-time); and Ladislav (Youth Worker, part-time). The charity has an annual financial turnover of approximately 130k, and operates across two buildings: ‘The Project’, a community hub and central offices; and ‘The Play Centre’, a building designed for young people’s play.

Michael (Mike) is the full-time Manager at Patchwork. Hailing from Sunderland he has been involved in delivering Youth Work for many years, and came to Patchwork as a manager in YEAR. As a manager and a youth worker himself Mike is involved in front-end service delivery as well as administration and management duties. He writes the majority of the funding applications, and is one of two people who work on the budgeting and accounting (alongside Chelsea/Lynne), and also is one of two people who may claim expenses alongside Andi.

Andi is the full-time Senior Youth Worker at the project. Moving to the North East in (YEAR), she became involved in Patchwork through XYZ. Her duties at the project involve designing front-end service delivery but also searching for funding via grant applications. She is one of two people whose money is used for purchasing and thus may claim expenses, alongside Mike.

Dean is a full-time Youth Worker at the project. Hailing from Benwell himself, Dean first attended Patchwork as a service user before being hired by the project as a worker. As all workers are involved in planning and delivering activities to young people, Dean performs these duties alongside Andi and Mike; but takes a special interest in XYZ. Throughout my fieldwork, Dean also took part in submitting funding applications.

Sonia is a part-time Youth Worker at the project. She originally interacted with the project through as a young woman and, similar to Dean, was hired to deliver services. She is the volunteer coordinator for the project, and

Chelsea performed administration duties when I first arrived at Patchwork, although she was never explicitly referred to as an "Administrator". Her duties included producing the budget and working on the spreadsheets alongside Michael, as well as ensuring all members of staff were paid and expenses claimed properly.

Lynne, as of writing, is the project's current administrator; having taken over from Chelsea in (date -- May 2016ish? Check fieldnotes). She works two days a week at Patchwork (Monday and Tuesday), and works the rest of the week at another project in the same area (West End Women and Girls). When she came aboard Mike mentioned to the group in a meeting that "It's quite exciting because the Project hasn't had a proper Administrator before".

Sydney (Syd) is Andi's dog but is often conceptualised as a worker in conversation, and is often positioned in the front of The Project and as such interacts with service users and community members often.

Gaining Access / Integrating / Research Activities

The fieldwork reported on here was conducted over seven months with Patchwork, beginning in February 2016. This fieldwork and data collection were primarily ethnographic in nature [6], formed of participatory-observation activities at the charity. I involved myself in a very wide variety of activities at the organisation, including shadowing workers during their day-to-day duties, assisting with accounts preparation, and performing volunteering duties on a weekly basis.

Initially, fieldwork consisted of weekly meetings timed to coincide with Chelsea's shifts (on a Thursday) so that I could assist in administration and budgeting work. After three weeks, I expanded this fieldwork to include participation in Patchwork's work as a volunteer youth worker on Monday nights, and in addition to this would involve myself during the week -- travelling to Patchwork and taking part in their activities during the day. These activities could be quite varied across the week and could consist of; planning and organising activities (including purchasing and budgeting); creating monitoring materials such as questionnaires; being involved in strategy meetings with partners; visiting the allotment and digging up food for preparation; responding to needs of service users as they wander in; visiting or hosting academics (such as Tony Jeffs) to discuss broader implications of their work; or writing funding applications.

I also partook in a lot of activities with the organisation outside of their immediate work duties; such as Fell Walking or climbing cliffs in Spain (and hosting Sid on a number of occasions while Andy was on holiday). Participation in these activities integrated me into the organisation not only by increasing my face-time with the workers, but demonstrating that I saw myself as becoming part of their community rather than an outside researcher. This in part has to do with how these activities straddle the workers' personal and professional lives; this will be discussed in full in the Findings section of this chapter.

Initially I relied on taking comprehensive field notes during visits, where possible. There were several instances where I was mocked (albeit lovingly) for having my notebook out, and others where the activity (such as digging) had to be reflected upon after the fact when I returned home. Later, when I become more confident, I began to ask workers for clarification on their tasks and purpose in the moment. I conceive of these moments as 'in-situ' interviews; and although they were not audio-recorded, they were integrated into my data through inclusion in field notes. Throughout the fieldwork I developed a 'vulgar competence' [6] in the work of the organisation; increasing my ability to reflect and develop insight from my own experiences as well as those of other workers there.


These accounts focus on how members of the setting achieve their goals through interactional work and are grouped based on the activities they relate to: Accounts of Spending; Accounts of Activities; and Accounts of Hidden Work.

Accounting for Spending

We describe here how the charity spends money, and what is involved in producing the accounts required by legal processes. Spending occurs in two ways: core organisational costs (salaries, building rental, etc.); and spending which is based in the activities of a given working day. These each have distinct mechanisms through which money is spent, and accounted for.

Everyday Spending

Everyday spending is made accountable internally by funnelling spend through two senior staff members. Chelsea, the charity’s part-time administrator, described this:

Chelsea: "The staff get paid back through expenses, and only Mike and Andi are allowed to make expenses claims which they’ll make generally when they notice their bank accounts are getting low".

Chelsea’s comment tells us two things. The first is that two senior workers, Mike and Andi, are the only ones allowed to make expenses claims for purchases. This allows them to ensure that all claims are deemed appropriate since they may monitor purchases and remove the possibility of abuse by other staff members. Their personal practices are also indicated by Chelsea – they only make claims when they "notice their bank accounts are getting low". That this is possible to do also indicates the practice of storing transaction records for compilation and reimbursement. While this may initially seem restrictive, we observed practices involving the devolution of purchasing work to other staff members, allowing multiple workers to make necessary purchases. We observe that this devolution of responsibility could occur in two ways. We describe both of these in a vignette below, which details events that occurred across two days of fieldwork:

Whilst helping prepare for a ‘Community Activity Day’, Sonia and I were tasked with producing a grocery list for the BBQ. While walking to the store we were approached on the side of the road by Mike in the minibus. He asks us if we’re "off to buy food?". Sonia affirms and Mike replies "Here, take this" handing her his bank card, "Do you know the PIN?". Sonia nods and Mike chuckles, saying "Aye. Half of [district area] know that PIN now" and driving off. When shopping, we explicitly choose the cheapest possible store-brand products. I ask about this and she tells me "We can’t be seen to be buying brands really". We use Mike’s card to pay and later, Mike returns around an hour later and retrieves his card and the receipt of purchase from Sonia, checking over it briefly before putting it in his wallet. The next day, I was walking to the Play Centre when Mike pulled up in the minibus heading in the opposite direction at speed. He stops only to hand me 20 and tells me "We need toilet roll for the Play Centre. Go get some from [convenience store] across the road, the cheap pack at the back of the shop". After making the purchase I head to the Play Centre which is already full of activity. I find Andi and hand her the money, which she takes and asks me for a receipt. She stores the receipt together with Mike’s cash in her back pocket.

This illustrates how spending is funnelled through the senior staff whilst still allowing the organisation to distribute the labour of purchasing by devolving responsibility. Sonia is handed Mike’s debit card so that it is his money that is spent, and this acts as a buffer between the member of staff and the organisation’s finances. This buffer is also present when Mike hands cash to me so that they can participate in spending. There is also both evidence of an immediate internal checking process and an awareness of wider notions of being responsible with spending. Mike checks the receipt that Sonia presents to ensure appropriateness, and Sonia does not wish to be "seen to be buying brands". Sonia may have to justify purchases if called upon by Mike, and in context of the charity’s overall budget – this is due to the perceived appropriateness of a spend. This is also seen when Mike explicitly provides me with instructions to purchase the "the big cheap pack" of toilet roll. Overall, these internal measures show that the organisation may attest to being responsible with money when able to present context but this is unaccounted for via formal means.

Staff Salaries

In meetings with Chelsea during fieldwork, I discussed with her how staff are salaried at :

Chelsea: "Dean and Andi get paid full time, I get paid part-time. Mike works full-time but he’s only paid part-time."

Chelsea lists several of the staff and their pay-schemes, but noticeably says here that Mike is working full time but only paid for part of his work, indicating that his salary is variable even though his role is central to the organisation. During a subsequent fieldwork session, Mike elaborated on this:

"It’s what’s best for …I don’t care how much I get paid, and it’s money that I have to end up looking for. I put salaries down for the last few years, and it took a while to put Dean up to 20k when he started because of money. With the [Large Grant] coming in now we can start thinking about putting the salaries back to normal."

Mike’s discussion of the staff accepting lower pay provides insight into the values of the organisation. The staff are dedicated to the organisation’s work, and are aware of their impact on its finances; accepting lower pay in order to "keep things going". Where Mike discusses having to look for the money to pay staff, he also touches upon how raising pay creates an increase in labour as he is required to expend effort sourcing funds to make up the difference. Further into fieldwork, Mike provides additional insight into this during discussion about staff salaries and standard pay increases amid the adjustment:

Mike: "We’re putting salaries up which is a big relief for everyone. I’ll be on 30k, but not really because that means more tax so you have to judge it carefully. Because of the tax brackets, past a certain point it makes no sense to give me a pay increase because of how much it’ll cost. An extra hundred to me per week will be several thousand a year to the charity which I have to find and justify finding. This way everyone still sees their pay increase, including me, but I’m not too worried about finding the extra cash. It’s still the least you’ll ever see another project manager get paid round here though. Some larger organisations have six or seven heads on about 100k; nearly a million you need before you even get anything done."

This emphasises Mike’s awareness of how staff salaries impact the organisation; he is willing to keep his salary lower than that of comparable positions in the area ("round here") and demonstrates that he would need to justify to others a pay increase that required searching for a disproportionate amount of further funding. Mike also mentions how the staff will be relieved that the salaries are being brought in line with standard pay rises; illustrating that the salary cuts have tangible effects on staff and further defining their position as a value-driven cohort. When Mike discusses the salaries of larger organisations he also reveals his views on what money and people are supposed to do in an organisation; they are supposed to be put towards the organisation’s work and paying head staff large salaries creates pressure from extra work and financial requirements "before you even get anything done".

Compiling Accounts

All income and spending must be accounted for formally through compilation of ‘the accounts’; records of financial transactions that must be produced, audited and presented to bodies such as the charity’s Board of Trustees (like a corporate executive board who act in a supervisory capacity for a charity) or the Charity Commission (UK governing body). Compiling accounts was an activity I was involved in during fieldwork, generally performed alongside the administrator (Chelsea, and later Lynne). When initially instructed in the task by Mike, we were given insight into the role of financial accounts in the organisation and what is involved in the task:

Mike: "We have this budgeting tool. It’s an Excel spreadsheet really [...] this lad who used to work for us set it up, we can add funders and add spending and stuff and we can use it to see how much we have left in each budget. At the end of each financial year this gets sent to the accountant so they can sign it off for us."

This encapsulates two things about how this work is performed. First, we see that it may be performed by several people, and that this role may be more transitory than others in the organisation. During the course of our involvement, the role of Administrator changes from Chelsea to Lynne, and was previously occupied by another prior to research beginning (the "lad"). This brings into question how well administration tasks fit with the value driven nature of the organisation’s other activities. It also reveals how the organisation views using the spreadsheet when doing budgeting; Mike refers to it as a tool, with which he can present an account of the budget to himself, and can be used to generate another account to others (one which is legally or contractually stipulated). Other features of the tool are brought to light when Mike details the process of ‘Costing’ to me:

Mike: "This lets us see how much money we have in each fund, and then in the other screen here I can assign it to a funding pot and then this updates."

At a later point in fieldwork, Mike elaborates on this practice, and how the organisation benefits from it:

Mike: "I do this when someone tells me that a report [to a funder] is due. I’ll see what the fund says I can spend it on, and then I’ll cost things to it and move things around so that each fund is happy. Sometimes I do it when we need to spend money from a fund that’s due and I can go back and move things so it’s used up, then there’s loads to put in the report. Or sometimes if we need money for something, I’ll go and free something up from a fund by moving things to other funds."

As shown, costing work is related to the reports that funders stipulate as part of their funding arrangement with the charity. Mike shows that the organisation has some flexibility in the way that it costs things, and uses this to justify spending that may have been outside of the original proposed use for the funding.

We did, however, witness that there is an inherent tension when presenting accounts for auditing; a legal requirement for charities. Auditing processes require accounts to be ‘ratified’ (checked and signed) by an accountant, and often experience conflict when engaging with commercial accountants. We describe this below:

During a meeting, Mike asks to speak to me about the accounts. "I’m not happy with the accountants at the moment, they’re being problematic". I ask why and he responds "They just want us to use [commercial accounting software], do you know [that brand]? The accountants don’t like that we don’t use [brand], and I think that’s because they can just import it and have it do their job for them." At a later meeting with trustees Mike speaks again on the issue, "We’re thinking of scrapping [accountants]. They’ve upped the price to 1300 …, and they’re trying to force us to use [a brand] so we do their job for them. We’ve spoken to a woman we found on [a listing] who says she’ll do it for 20 an hour and she’s happy to do them in whatever format we want. She’s been in and looked already and she’s told us that we’ve already done the job, and all she’ll need to do is double-check a few things and sign it off. We have to make sure she’s got the right, y’know, qualifications, to do that but aye it looks much better.".

Here Mike shows us that there is an explicit point of contention that arises when commercial accounting models are misapplied to charities. The accountants use expensive commercial software and apply it as a de facto standard, presenting a barrier to the charity engaging with the auditing processes required of them. These attempts to influence ’s toolkit and thus their accounting practices demonstrates a conflict that, in order to become transparent in a particular way, they must use methods imposed upon them that do not support their own practices of accounting for money. It is also worth noting that the actual work of constructing accounts is performed within the organisation itself, and that the accountant is responsible only for performing an audit of these. I spent some time constructing the accounts, and outline the process in FIGURE XYZ

Slicing diagram of the accounting workflow as related to expenses

Slicing diagram of the accounting workflow as related to expenses

Accounting for Activity

As well as having to account for financial spending, are also required to account for their work activity. Accountability here is notably experienced through both formal procedures and more interpersonal interactions with the community. We outline below how the organisation navigates this, in order to explicate the work practices that support communicating the organisation’s activities to others.

Curating qualitative records

We observed the workers engaging in the production and curation of qualitative records that assisted them in presenting an account of their work. Some forms of record were stipulated as legal requirements, whereas others were produced at the prerogative of workers:

During a session, I observed Andi taking photographs using her phone. She would often approach participants to take a photograph of them. Whenever possible, Andi would call to another youth worker and ask them to get into the photograph as well. The next morning, I have been tagged in photographs by ’s Facebook account alongside the other workers and young people in the photographs.

Andi’s behaviour shows her producing a qualitative record of the event and activity that occurred. She can be seen collecting photographic evidence of their attendance in-situ, and using this to elaborate on the context of their work. The practice of uploading these to a social media profile produces an account of their activity for others, and tagging people in photographs on the platform encourages those tagged to look at them and potentially allows others (such as parents) to glimpse the activity as well. As well as on social media, print out a selection of photographs in a poster format, which are displayed around their main community hub. The workers reflected on this practice in a group discussion:

Andi: "Part of it’s capturing that moment in time because it’s gonna be gone. Y’know, and it would be very easy for them to forget [...] So you’re capturing it for them, you’re capturing it for their parents to see what they’ve achieved, or for the [Young People’s Award] so they can prove whatever it is they’ve done. You’re putting on the wall as a celebration, you’re putting it in the annual report for funders to see and also for young’uns to see [...] Like loads of kids will be like ‘will this be going on the wall?’."

Mike: "We just take lots of pictures because it becomes a resource for us as well. The ones on the wall are of the Young People’s Award* because they’re positive images. Sitting down two people and talking one to one and that — it’s not very entertaining."*

We see here how the organisation use a resource bank of records built up by photographs for different types of accounts, to different people. This illustrates the elasticity a record may possess; Andi relates how photographs may be used as evidence for participant’s involvement in an award, whereas Mike conceptualises them as "positive images" and a resource for the organisation’s future needs. Andi also explicates how the photographs are shown to parents in order to provide an account of their child’s activity with . We also see how the photographs are repurposed to provide an account of value in the annual report, and to provide a personal record for the young people when it’s placed on the wall in "celebration". The ability for these records to form a resource from which different accounts can be derived also sits in contrast to other forms of work that perform that, as Mike indicates here, are more difficult to account for ("Sitting down two people and talking one to one and that — it’s not very entertaining"). We observed this first-hand during fieldwork when Mike expressed frustration at the records that are required to keep of their meetings with service users, and how it is difficult to present these to others:

I followed Mike to a filing cabinet that was unlabelled. He took out a folder to show me an example, "Here. This is a monitoring form we have to fill out every time we have a chat with someone. You say who it was, what you chatted about and what the outcomes were. Standard ticky-box stuff. We’re meant to keep this, and we do by the way, but nobody ever asks to see it. I’ve got files here from ten year ago which haven’t seen the light of day. People complain at us that we’re not doing our job and ticking boxes but we are, but nobody ever comes in. Nobody ever asks."

Mike’s frustration indicates that while he is fulfilling legal and stipulated obligations designed to make accountable for their work, they are not given the opportunity to demonstrate this properly. When Mike describes how photographs of these chats would be "not very entertaining" we also see that whilst could theoretically generate records of these, the effort required to do so would not result in a substantial gain for the charity when trying to demonstrate their value.

Accountability of activity in the community

In contrast to the perceived indifference of regulatory bodies, we found that the workers at saw themselves as being highly visible and thus accountable to their local community both in their roles as youth workers, but also as individuals within it due to an inherent visibility of their presence. This is characterised by Dean’s conception of accountability during a group discussion:

Dean: "There’s the visibility in and out of work. It’s not a one-way thing, I’m not Dean the youth worker during the day and I’m not Darts-Dean at night I’m both and I’ve got to be very aware that young people and the families that I work with, [...], I live in the same area as them and they are watching me constantly. In and out. I’ve got to be visible. It’s... an awareness of your role within the community. And I think another one for me, being accountable is remaining humble and just thinking that I’m very much where I’ve come from and I’m very like the young people I work with and they know my family."

With this, Dean shows us how he sees his role in the community by living and working in the same area. Dean provides a view that accountability for his actions as a youth worker is lived in each moment. He is constantly watched by those around him, even when outside of work during his recreation activities and can therefore be seen as a whole, rather than only through a lens of his output at . I saw this value in practice through the way that configures their Social Media presence:

Andi: "We didn’t like having a Facebook ’Page’ because it treats you like a business and wants you to pay so everyone sees your posts. We want to be seen in the community. So we made the account a person instead and everyone is our friend and the kids message us at stupid hours …When Facebook changed it so that you couldn’t have a company name as a person, we changed our name to ‘Mike ’ as Mike doesn’t use Facebook himself. [The community] know it’s all of us though, not just him."

Andi emphasises the value-driven nature of the organisation’s work through how they’ve chosen to configure their Social Media presence. She notes that whilst there is a pragmatic benefit in how personal accounts are seen on the Facebook platform, this embodies their desire to be seen as part of the community. Later, the organisation takes steps to maintain this dynamic by capitalising the identity of a worker, Mike, for use as a profile name. When Andi elaborates on her belief that the community understands they are interacting with all workers through the Facebook account, she belies her belief in the dynamic that the workers are visible and present as part of the community and are not abstracted by their involvement in the organisation – being visible and accountable.

Note: This section involves discussing how the exta-curricular activities of Patchwork demonstrate and facilitate their involvement in the community In some capacity they almost always involved an element of staff training or engaging with wider members of the community. An example of this would be the activity of Fell Walking. Patchwork will often go out as a team to walk up the Fells, putting to use and further developing their skills in the activity directly, but in doing so effectively "scouting" the location as a potential activity to include young people in. That community members such as trustees or Benwell residents are often present also demonstrates Patchwork's commitment to the area, and further facilitates their ties to their service users. (Note: that started to look a little data-y, maybe move part of that section to the findings?).

Accounting for Hidden Work

Hidden Work here refers to the effort required by the workers to make their work productive, and has been termed Unproductive Labour in Political Economy [29], and Articulation Work in CSCW texts [39]. We concern ourselves not only with how this is performed but how it is accounted for and communicated to others. In this context it refers to effort expended by workers at the charity in addition to what the task demands in-the-moment. An example would be the planning required to execute community sessions ahead of time. We found that accounting for this hidden work occurs only in conjunction with its performance, during meetings, or discussions about activities and planning – it is rare for those outside of the organisation and immediate community to be made aware of this work. Accounting for hidden work is thus more informal, and often complicated by the nature of ’s activity. We elaborate on these points below.

Responding Work

A lot of hidden work arises from ’s open-door policy, which requires an immediate response to community members coming through the door for their services or informal discussions – disrupting the processes by which workers are performing (and accounting for) hidden work. This came to the fore in one discussion during fieldwork:

We were discussing another youth project operating in the city, as have recently acquired a Play Centre and are finding ways to use it most effectively so have visited other charities to learn from them. It’s mentioned that the other project execute elaborately planned evenings of activities for their attendees and Dean exclaims "They’ve got the time they don’t start until half four! As soon as that shutter goes up we have work to do!" He gestures at street-facing window towards the front of the room. The group nod in agreement

Dean is discussing how ’s activity cannot be judged against that of another organisation with different working patterns. He also makes reference to the open door policy and its effect on their working day regarding planning and makes clear that these informal meetings are conceived of as ‘work’; there is effort expended when conversing that prevents them from performing other tasks. These conversations must be engaged in because they also form an important part of how organise their work. This was elaborated on during a group discussion with me:

Andi: "So aye, [anon] is a good example. [...] I know he was doing football, I knew he was doing work experience so he’d have the time and you just think well it would be really good for him to do it for his future. Y’know, so having a conversation with him to say look are you interested in this?"

Engaging in conversations that arise from the open-door policy can thus translate to outcomes, in this case a beneficiary getting a work experience placement based around a hobby. This qualifies Dean’s earlier utterance that the organisation has "work to do" as soon as they start: these conversations are work that must occur for to achieve its goals effectively, but it is difficult to provide an account of this to others.

Understanding Hidden Work through Context

We note that hidden work is rarely accounted for outside of the organisation and immediate community. During fieldwork, however, Mike related how outsiders may be introduced to the context of the organisation to understand the labour required to perform everyday tasks and achieve outcomes:

"It’s like when this guy from [a funder] came in to check. Most funders don’t and they don’t understand us. He came in and he loved it. He said that he was amazed we could keep the place running, we had so much going on around here that we deal with on a daily basis."

From this we also see that Mike understands the difficulty of accounting for this labour to others — most funders do not visit and thus do not understand how the project functions. That the funder is amazed at the scale of everyday work and effort being expended shows that this is not captured or represented elsewhere; and can be accounted for only by being present and producing one’s own account from the context of the activity. We later saw that this problem is compounded; and we illustrate this with a vignette of activity leading up to a scheduled evening event in the organisation:

I was due to attend a session with a group referred to as the ‘Slovak Lasses’ group, comprised of young Slovak women aged between 15 and 24. The sessions run from 1600 approx until about 1830, and the plan is to run a BBQ event for the attendees. From 1545, two participants had turned up alongside a part-time worker and sat at computers visit Facebook. Dean is also on Facebook using the account and has several chat windows open. When prompted, Dean responded that he is "chasing up" the rest of the group to make sure that they were coming. Whilst passing, Andi convinces the attendees to accept her taking a photograph of them. Dean signs off the computer at 1630 and at 1655, there is no sign of other attendees. Dean is visibly concerned, pacing back and forward. He mutters that "we should sack this group". Sonia nods then says "this is ridiculous. We have two young people and four staff". I am dismissed by Dean who says "You can go if you want. It’s a bit weird if we outnumber the girls and we have loads of staff in".

This example shows two things. First, it reinforces the issue of hidden hork only being able to be accounted for in-the-moment. Dean performs the additional task of ‘chasing up’ participants; work which emerges as the evening progresses and is only visible to those in the room. Secondly, it raises the issue of how the ’s efforts would appear if mapped to outcomes in an accounting process. Sonia indicates that such a mapping would not appear favourable ("We have two young people and four staff"), and Dean hints that this is not an uncommon occurrence ("we should sack this group"). has to balance the goal of maintaining a relationship with the beneficiaries – which can lead to important outcomes – with the need to make and be seen making effective use of their time and labour resources. The slower and seemingly less productive execution of the event also directly contrasts with what Mike describes as the funder’s surprise at the high levels of activity during a visit. This likely results from an intersection of elements such as the specific beneficiaries, the time of day, etc. but when isolated from context these two incidents each paint seemingly irreconcilable views of the organisation’s daily life.

Inferring Hidden Work

We did see that hidden work may sometimes be inferred by other members of the organisation, in addition to those present as it occurs. This is often achieved through the records that are produced as a by-product of activity in conjunction with the worker’s implicit knowledge of each others’ work practices:

I was participating in a planning session for the evening’s activities; initiated when Dean and Andi each took out large workbooks. Andi asks "Where’s Mike?", to which Dean responds that he is "down the allotment". Andi looks puzzled at this and Dean elaborates, "He’s seeing how [the gardener]’s getting on" and turns the notebook to show Andi. There is a task list which shows ‘allotment’. Andi looks at this, and nods.

This shows that workers may use records to infer the activity and thus the work of others in the charity. Dean shows Andi a workbook entry which contains only a single word that allows both Dean and Andi to construct a context around Mike’s current whereabouts. We see how Andi and Dean understand that work is being performed at the allotment, and that Mike’s absence indicates that it is him performing it. We also see how the workers are able to infer the nature of this work, as Dean is able to ascertain that Mike is checking up on someone whilst there. Similarly, we saw that financial records such as receipts could be re-appropriated and used for this inferral:

Mike was having lunch and moving items on the table out of his way, to place his laptop there and write a report. Moving a pile of paper, he turns to inspect it and finds a receipt, saying aloud "What’s this? Ohh. It’s the pancake stuff for tonight; Sonia’s been shopping."

The receipt makes Sonia’s work accountable internally, as Mike recognises that the items are a list of ingredients to make pancakes, an activity commonly run by the charity. He infers that there has been effort expended in acquiring these materials when he says "Sonia’s been shopping", and can attribute this to Sonia through knowledge that shopping was a task to be completed and that Sonia was assigned to it. The receipt also pertains to the charity’s activity – running a session involving cooking. This shows how accounting for this hidden work hints at the organisation’s work towards goals. Notably, this we see how a record may exist within several contexts: evidencing expenditure, the inferral of activity, and the by-product of work related to activity (a cooking session) that may be accounted for.


OI, FUTURE MARSHALL: Re-Read Bentley and Dourish Medium vs Mechanism 1995 where they suggest a CSCW system should be adaptable through high-level customisation to meet the needs of its users. Maybe if it's not adaptable maybe then a fundamental understanding of the work means that it can be appropriated as a means of producing accounts? Eh?

ALso this + Suchman notes that the goal-oriented and plan based models of human conduct have shortcomings; this is mirrored in the research space where we consider that spending and performed pertaining to grants may not conform to the original constraints of the funding application but is still contributing towards the wider goals, subject to complex nuances

Our findings demonstrate that those working in a charity may experience accountability in multiple ways, with reference to their values, work, and responsibilities both as an organisation and individuals. Our ethnography shows we see how legal and financial frameworks surrounding the organisation has a pronounced effect in the work required for a charity to account for the use of resources – both financial and labour – and also that members of the setting can experience this accountability as part of their everyday work in the organisation. We also saw evidence that the organisation and its workers view themselves as inseparable from their local community, thus accountable to it; this relationship requires a maintenance effort similar to the legal demands of government and funders.

Our findings show how conflicts may emerge from the ways in which the charity views itself as accountable to various stakeholders such as its community, its funders, and governmental bodies. In one key instance, we see how must be accountable to funders by reporting their use of grant money whilst simultaneously tailoring activities and spending with regard to the emergent needs of their beneficiaries. This conflict is rooted in the accountability pathways that they must engage in: charities are controlled by their funders to ensure that their spending falls within a specific remit, and this conflicts with a need to be responsive as an organisation and act in accordance with the needs of beneficiaries. This is discussed by Koppel as Multiple Accountability Disorder (MAD) [23] and compounding this is the various ways in which the organisation is required to make itself transparent. As discussed, transparency is often seen as a foundational element of accountability but the relationship between the two is nuanced – where various forms of being transparent may generate different forms of accountability [???,23].

This raises questions around the role of technologies in charities and how they allow workers to navigate conflicts inherent in their accountability requirements. In the following sections we discuss design considerations for future systems that seek to assist charities in managing the tensions associated with becoming transparent and accountable.

Support the Accountability of Work Practice

Our research began by examining accountability from the perspective of public and voluntary sector administration, where organisations may be accountable to others through a number of different pathways such as producing answers when questioned [23]. This is demonstrated in our findings as much of the work involved in ‘doing accountability’ involves workers producing answers for stakeholders in the form of reports on spending and how activities were delivered in relation to this expenditure. We posit this offers HCI an opportunity to affect change through a form of accountability with which it is intimately familiar: the accountable nature of work [17].

While ‘work’ in Garfinkel’s terms refers explicitly to interactional work in the accomplishment of ordering social settings, these interactions are what form the basis of an organisation’s accomplishment of its goals. For example, our findings show that a receipt of purchase obviously means someone has been shopping, and is also incorporated as evidence in the financial accounting process. We show that an organisation can account for the work that it does towards its goals but that the emergent nature of outcomes means that this only provides a partial view. We see that visitors to comment upon activity there as the work and the context of that work is made obvious; yet the accountable nature of that interaction is not supported through systematic processes for reporting.

Making accountability accountable here, then, involves producing systems that allow the communication of organisation’s accomplishment of their work practice in relation to their goals. This should be in such a way that the work of an organisation is made obvious at a glance. Our findings demonstrate that the charity appropriates social media as an ‘organisational accounting device’ [11], making their activities observable and reportable to those who care to look. As such, we propose that technologies be developed to support the communication of work practices in context with organisational goals. For instance, accounting software that appropriates social media features such as timelines, tagging, and events to contextualise financial records or work toward outcomes. This would provide a resource for both workers and stakeholders and in doing so may begin to address the current chasm between reporting processes and the emergent nature of outcomes; making it clearer to all parties how the work of a charity sits in its local context.

It is imperative to ensure that these systems cannot be used to control or monitor the actions of workers, effectively ‘managing’ productive labour to make this accountable to funders [19]. Systems should instead provide workers with means to produce accounts of their work flexibly, and express these accounts in a diverse manner. This enables the different forms of transparency that predicate various accountabilities [???,23]. Such systems will thus need to enable the configuration of transparency to support making work accountable for those who care to look. We discuss how this may be achieved below.

Enable configuration of Transparency

Charities such as are shown to engage simultaneously in multiple forms of transparency to satisfy their accountability requirements. While regulatory bodies and funders are concerned with spending money and monitoring output this is widely accepted to be divorced from the true impact of an organisation’s work ???. Simultaneously, take efforts to make themselves transparent and accountable to their community through practices such as using social media and having open-door policies.

These efforts are in line with calls to partake in more active forms of transparency which are seen as more communicative [???]. We see here, however, that this often requires extra work on behalf of the workers to articulate their results and efforts to the community on top of compiling reports for other government entities and funders. Important here is the narrative form this transparency takes, and HCI has previously seen how charities can construct narratives surrounding their work through the use of Open Data ???. engage in a process which involves them collecting data which they fashion into narratives. Digital tools also play a role in ‘Costing Work’ to satisfy requirements that spending appears to have been in accordance with funding conditions, but is actually spent as the charity responds more directly to beneficiaries. This is an example of how charities may feel compelled to frame their work by tailoring reports to meet expectations [25], and demonstrates how the values embedded in the design have negative impacts on how the organisation may achieve its goals [34].

While previous HCI work calls for qualitative forms of accounting ???, we put forward that new systems must do more than simply incorporate additional metadata into the accounting process; they must be designed with embedded values that better reflect the needs of an organisation and its beneficiaries. As these may differ between organisations, systems should seek to support workers in easily matching their records to the required format per request without much additional labour. Providing interfaces to retrieve, combine, and present data in a multitude of ways would go some way in supporting charities experiencing multiple accountability requirements. Doing so acknowledges not only the conflict of multiple accountabilities and transparencies; but the problem that is the effort required to manage these conflicts separately. This would allow organisations a material means to configure transparency based on context. It also presents new opportunities for stakeholders to engage charities; if systems allowed the controlled retrieval of information [30], then stakeholders may actually assist in configuration work and create new ways to interpret the data that is more meaningful for them.

This may be achieved practically through providing lightweight, interoperable, data collection tools and interfaces (e.g. mobile and web applications) that allow workers to easily collect, combine, and process information based on evolving needs but operate independently without commitment to one platform. Thus the design embodies values of organisational control and flexibility to support workers collaborating in curating an organisational account. This account would then take the form of an interrogable dataset that can be configured to meet the mode of transparency and accountability required for a given purpose. Providing this configurable form of transparency requires that systems consider the means by which the dataset is created, curated, and queried. We address this below.

Create Contexts through Linked Accounting

We have seen the challenges of accounting for Hidden Work; the activity behind what is being accounted for. This challenge also manifests in terms of the increasing demand for charities to not just account for their activity, but for their outcomes - the effect of their activity on the lives of those with whom they work [25]. Holding organisations accountable for delivering outcomes (e.g. improving the health of a community) has been critiqued as they are often the result of overwhelmingly complex systems, which any given organisation cannot control, and therefore cannot be held accountable for [26]. Our findings demonstrate that a disconnect exists in how organisations may perform work and how it is reported upon; such as being concerned about numbers attending a group.

Historically, the ‘Linking Processes’ between input of work and money to work output and eventual outcomes has been problematic and poorly understood ???. People often seek to create ‘program logic models’ which connect activity to outcomes as a linear model of cause-and-effect [37] but as discussed; outcomes are generally emergent and such models are not representative of how they come about.

Since outcomes emerge from complex systems interacting [25,26], we have proposed that digital technologies support configuration of transparency. The role of Linked Data ??? is central in this for two reasons. First, data is a boundary object [43] that may be appropriated and adapted as a means of providing ‘alternative lenses’ on work and spending [12]; as such, Linked Data supports the configuration of transparency by providing the material means to combine and show information in context based on need. This allows organisations to rapidly produce lenses on their work to satisfy reporting requirements while predicating only that an initial link be developed between income, work, and outcome to support traversal and presentation of the data. Second, Linked Data implies interoperability with other datasets which speaks to the complex nature of outcomes discussed above. These linking processes could support charities, or other actors, linking multiple datasets to better understand the complex nature of how outcomes are emergent; and from this produce a context that better situates the role of the charity in producing that outcome.

Such a system also has grounds in the legal procedures necessary to audit a charity’s financial accounts. We note that these are somewhat federated in nature; there exists a standard and agreed upon mechanism for having one’s accounts verified and signed, yet multiple actors may perform the ratification. This ecosystem resembles that postulated by the Dataware Manifesto [30], and creating a Linked Data set within a charity would support this process through the controlled sharing of data. This federation may be achieved through making digital tools independent and interoperable, as described above. Furthermore, linking data could see this form of federated system used to produce other forms of transparency; processes acting on Linked Data could be used to create new interfaces around work and spending that support the more active forms of transparency discussed at the start of this paper [38].

In doing this, systems would support the creation of ‘Linked Accounting’. That is to say these systems may engender accounting and reporting process built upon the premise that organisations are being asked to account for outcomes that have no control over, but their work (and spending) is accountable and may be linked to outcomes as having taken place. This shifts the focus of ‘accounting’ in charities towards the accountable performance of work, and contributes Linked Data for the wider community to use in mapping and understanding the complex systems contributing to outcomes.


In this paper we set out to explore how an understanding of the everyday work practices of charities could be used to inform the design of systems that seek to support them in becoming transparent and accountable. We explicate that the complex nature of transparency and accountability manifests as a variety of interconnected work practices that are experienced by the charity workers, and how socio-technical systems that are used by organisations also affect these same practices. We then present implications for the design of future systems that embed values of worker control and flexibility in order to support charities navigating their obligations in everyday practice. We discuss this by drawing upon our understanding of the accountable nature of work practices, and how this may be captured and represented through interoperable digital systems that allow charities to configure transparency and accountability in accordance with their needs; leading to the concept of ‘Linked Accounting’.

Charity organisations and the HCI community share important civic and social concerns, and the reduction of barriers to a charity’s efforts through digital technologies has far-reaching implications for society. Future work should seek to further engage with charities to collaboratively develop and deploy these systems to discover how they may be appropriated into work practice to achieve organisational goals. Care should be taken to ensure that these novel accounting technologies are developed so that they are not used to control the actions of workers, but used to provide the workers a flexible means to deliver work, and to have this interpreted in a diverse number of ways. In doing so HCI may affect civic change through engagement with this rich design space.

Chapter 5: Designing Accounting Tools

This chapter presents an empirical account of the design process that was undertaken in order to produce software that was later deployed. In addition to this, a technical overview of the software is also presented.


Background (Recap of relevant literature)

Study Scope and Methods

This section elaborates on the overall design process following the initial portion of fieldwork. The design process is discussed in detail with reference to literature used to ground the specific techniques used.

Initial Design Work

Futures Workshop

Iterative Development and Design

System Details and Design Rationale

This section outlines the systems and design rationale of the software that was developed for deployment. Attention is spent on its federated architecture, and the two main components of the system are discussed along with a provisional data standard that was produced to promote interoperability.


Federated Architecture

As discussed in the previous chapter, one of the design requirements for this space was to support a Configurable Transparency which did not impose a specific presentation or collection process onto the worker; thus allowing them to present their work in a manner that makes sense in that moment for whichever purpose they wish. I also noted that this would be achieveable through interoperable, federated, tools; allowing data to be exchanged between systems whilst supporting collection and presentation in various formats. This mirrors the work performed by organisations already since organisations already engage in collecting a wide variety of information to be used for accountability, and recombine it in order to present it to a variety of audiences.

(note: this gets a little fluffy for this paragraph, check this with a supervisor) Producing a federated toolset also challenges the de-facto solution of producing a catch-all "platform". One can produce a system which serves a need at a given time, but you force workers to engage with the metaphors and interactions that the platform allows (more on this later). Similar to the failings of the Charity Commission to support qualitative data ??? a magic platform to do the accounting we need it to inevitably becomes obsolete when society and technology progress, it thus risks causing more harm than good in the long-run when concerning interactions that support Accountability or Transparency. There is also always the risk of a platform acting as a "silo", a term coined on the Indieweb to describe a site which retains user data and centralises control over it [???]. Other than the interactional risks of silos discussed here, and privacy concerns for sensitive data, there is also the obvious question of what happens to data when a silo goes down, and the political economy of whom owns the "means of production" when concerning producing accountability if it is achieved through the web [22]. We have previously seen what happens when private capital attempts to own the production of Third Sector financial accounts (ie Sage Accounts, discussed here).

To that end, an attempt at a federated approach was present in the design of these systems. As noted by others [34], values are embedded in the design of systems and a (somewhat) federated approach allowed us to embed our own values into the applications and systems designed. Most prominent were the values of Flexibility and Worker Control (discussed earlier). These are embodied in a federated approach by decoupling components of what would normally be tightly bound. In this way, a worker may use a data collection tool without requiring an account on a platform, whilst an organisation may maintain an account on a hosted service but receive (and retrieve) data from other platforms or services.

This additionally has the benefit of being able to add applications, services, and services to the federation very simply. Creating a potentially very large set of interfaces targeted at a wide variety of potential stakeholders. In this thesis, I concern myself with charity workers and thus the systems developed are targeted at their work; however the federated approach means that other interfaces, views, and interactions for working with the data may be developed and deployed easily with other stakeholder groups. In this way I hope the values embedded in the tools developed provide an alternative vision for accounting work where we stop interacting with systems and begin contributing to ecosystems.

This section continues by providing an overview of how a form of federation was achieved technically.

Data and API Standards

In order to achieve interoperability and move towards a federated ecosystem, applications and services need a common language with which to communicate; allowing them to share and process data amongst themselves. A standard is a way of defining rules that dictate how data is described and recorded in a particular use, and as such a prototype standard was designed with Patchwork to support later system designs.

This standard was tentatively named "Qualitative Accounting" (hereafter QA) in reference to the findings from earlier work (namely [???]), although during the design process it was highlighted how the name might be misconstrued (discussed here). Regardless of this, the name remained in practice as focus later shifted towards developing the individual tools that implemented it.

The standard contains two main components: a data schema for collecting and annotating data representing money and work; and a Web URI schema which defined expected URI endpoints and behaviour so that systems implementing the standard could communicate with arbitrary domains using Web technologies.

The following sections were also presented as a public-facing website using language more geared towards prospective implementers.

Data Schema

The QA data schema is a JSON schema designed to represent an individual item or context, and to be as simple and flexible as possible. Not all fields will be required for each item, but having separate schemas for various categories begins to complicate matters and produces the arbitrary distinctions in accounting that the standard was developed to avoid. This way, it is left to the application developers themselves to determine how to interpret various combinations of fields and values that make sense for their application.

(TABLE NO) details the schema's fields.

Field Type Description
id string Unique identifier for the transaction created by your system
date_created date-time Date the record was created on the system (ISO 8601)
date_given date-time Date given for the record, to allow for retroactive creation of accounts (ISO 8601)
tags array[string] Qualitative tag descriptors for the item. No hashtags (see below)
quote Quote (see below) Snippet of text to capture sentiment. E.g. "It was a good day - Anon"
financial_data FinancialData (see below) Financial data associated with the item, such as spend or income.
media array[string] Array of URIs to media items, such as images, documents, or videos. See below for details.
location Location (see below) Geographic location of item, such as an address or lat/long
description string Any additional information or notes that the producer would like associated with the item

This is the unique identifier for the transaction or item generated by your application or system. We recommend that this takes the form of a string in the format of applicationName_deviceid_transactionid. The deviceid portion is included to help prevent collisions as some software may be designed to run independantly om devices without a centralised service to manage transaction ids (e.g. a smartphone application). How you determine the deviceid is up to you. Transaction ID doesn't need to be numerical or incremental at all, but must be alphanumeric and contain no special characters other -.

A possible id string for a decentralised set of systems:


Here the application has generated a unique device id from four random alphanumeric characters and the physical device's model. Their transaction id is an adapted date-time object.

A possible id string for data produced by a centralised system (ie one that has some form of transaction management):


In this case, the application doesn't need a complicated device id since all data is handled centrally. The transaction id is similarly simple, simply being a counter with a numerical id for each transaction.


The date and timestamp that the entry was created in the original system. Format should conform to ISO 8601.


Date given by the user that the item/context took place. This allows users to retroactively account for items. Format should conform to ISO 8601.


Tags allow an item to be given multiple, qualitative, short descriptors. It is recommended that software allows users to enter these tags manually. Transmitted tags should not contain any special characters, including hashtags. Whilst hashtags are useful and understandable, we believe that they are more useful as a visual metaphor for users of a system. We recommend that systems store all parsed hashtags without the hash prefix, so that they can be transmitted and converted to a system's desired format more easily.


A quote represents a verbal or written extract expressing sentiment. Quote objects have two fields, allowing separation of content from attributation

Field Type Description
text string Content or body of the quote
attribution string The name of who or what the quote is attributed to

An increase or decrease of funds associated with the item. A positive number is associated with income, whilst a negative number is associated with spend.

Field Type Description
currency string Three letter currency code as designated by ISO 4217 (e.g. 'GBP' for Pound Sterling)
value float Financial value associated with the item. Positive for income, and Negative for expenditure

Media items such as images, documents or video files. This should be an array of URIs provided by systems to allow other software to access the media. For software that operates independently on devices, URIs can be derived through a service that provides the appropriate URI endpoints.

example entry:

  "media": [

Any geographic location data associated with the item. To allow for flexibility and the potential for protecting some sensitive contexts, this can be as broad or as specific as the user/producing application would like (or can reasonably produce).

Field Type Description
name string Name of the location
address float Address of the location
latitude string Latitude point of the location
longitude string Longitude point of the location

Any additional notes or text that the producer of the data feels are important. It is recommended to use this field to allow users of the system to enter text freely and provide additional context that may not be captured by the current version of the data standard.

URI Schema

Where the data schema describes what constitutes an item representing under QA, the URI Schema defines API end points that an application must implement in order to receive QA information.

This is done so that applications sending information can construct a full URI given only a domain name. From the sending application's point-of-view, this means it can send the QA data anywhere given only a valid domain name.

Under the URI schema, three endpoints are defined to support the sending of data, shown in (Table XYZ). The schema decouples the sending of media and the sending of a data entry that may be associated with that media. This is so that use-cases such as mobile applications may send data entries and media asynchronously, and that upon failing to send a file the rest of the data is not lost and workers may recover the media another way.

Endpoint HTTP Method Description
/qa-data POST Accepts a JSON payload to store a single QA data entry
/qa-media POST Accepts a form-encoded POST request with form label media to support uploading files
/qa-media/[sha-1FileHash] GET Using the [sha-1FileHash] as a key, retrieves the media associated with that key to the requester
Sending Data Entries

Sending Entries involves the sending application performing the following steps:

  1. Determining the full URL to send data to, based off of the URI Schema and the domain name
  2. Translating its data entries into the QA standard based off of the JSON Schema outlines above, including URIs to any media.
  3. Sending the data entry with a HTTP POST request containing a single JSON-encoded entry.
  4. Repeating step 3 for all data entries.
  5. (conditional) If the data entry contains media that is stored locally (e.g. on a phone), send the media separately.

It is simple to determine the target URL for the data based off the URI schema outlined above. Given the URL, the application knows from the schema to append the endpoint /qa-data to the domain; giving the endpoint as

Sending Media and Entries with Media

Given the decoupling of JSON data entries with the media item, a problem emerges with sending data entries that have media affiliated with them; since the URI for the media will not be known ahead of time. One solution to this is for the sender to await a response from the recipient so that it may wait and send the entry with an appropriate URI. Another is to agree on a way that URIs pointing to media are constructed, so that applications can independently calculate a canonical reference to the media for transmitting data. We went with the second for several reasons remember to link me.

To generate the canonical URI for a file, the application or service makes a cryptographic hash of the file using SHA-1 [???], giving a unique identifier for the file. While SHA-1 is not perfect [???] it was deemed appropriate for the research as it was lightweight, many programming platforms support it as a hash function natively (e.g. android and PHP, used in this research), and the use-case in the research would not be working with a large dataset where there were risks of collisions or exposing data to malicious attacks.

After the hash is generated, it acts as a unique key to form part of a URI slug. This slug is then appended to the path /qa-media/ on a given domain e.g.

Of course, if the sending application also hosted the media in a manner that was available over the internet (e.g. two hosted web services communicating), it would mean that a URI already existed and the generation step could be skipped.For other cases, such as in local applications (desktop / mobile), means that a URI can be generated and sent as part of the associated data entry seamlessly.

Receiving Media and Entries with Media

Receiving media (ie files) is straightforward as well. The receiver must make available a URI endpoint /qa-media, which accepts a POST request. This request is expected to have form-encoded data with a single field; media, which contains the file being sent.

Upon receiving the file, the service must perform the SHA-1 hash to generate the unique key and then store it as they wish, as long as they provide an endpoint under their domain (/qa-media/sha-1Filehash) which points to the file. This means that, if they choose to, a web service can decouple the access and storage of the media further by hosting externally and using their endpoint to redirect to another service whilst keeping the URI canonical. This could be done for redundancy, or to control access to the media where appropriate.

Rosemary Accounts

Rosemary Accounts is a web application that was designed to support the administration work of budgeting and accounting in small charities, as well as supporting the presentation of this information for consumption by workers and stakeholders. It seeks to make information traversable through explicitly presenting links between information in the form of tags.

Rosemary was initially designed using the metaphors of commercial accounting software, before extending these to account for curating accounts of work as well as budgeting. Its name reflects this extension -- since Sage Accounts was presented as de-facto standard in financial budgeting, so Rosemary takes this a step further since Rosemary comes after Sage in the lyrics of popular folk song "Scarborough Fair" [50].

The following sections detail the behaviour and design rationale for each feature of the design. At one point, an entire side of the application was discarded (a public-facing API) by participant request. This is discussed in this section as a discarded feature.

Producing and Viewing Data

Rosemary supports all of the data types outlined in the QA JSON schema. It achieves this by mapping entries onto a Post object (Fig XYZ), named in reference to a piece of social media content (since in original designs all entries would form a social-media style timeline).

Rosemary provides several interfaces to generate data in the QA format; each attending to different matters of work. For example, the Add Income interface operates only on the financial_data portion of the schema and produces an entry with a positive value for this field. Add Expenses also operates on financial_data, but produces a negative value. Add Events and Add Images work on location and media respectively, without attention to matters of financial_data.

When retrieving data Rosemary provides several visual lenses in different formats. For example when looking at income, all that is shown is a table of income values (FIG). When looking at these same entries as a "Post" on a social feed they are displayed in a manner that makes sense using this metaphor (FIG). The more social-oriented interface also provided an interesting design challenge; while Rosemary provides interfaces that operate on the data schema piecemeal, the federated nature of the system meant that other applications could be developed which operated on the schema in a more holistic manner -- and then send this data to Rosemary. In order to account for these variations, the template used to display a "Post" displays UI elements dynamically, building up the item as it finds data in the entry. As such there is no way in Rosemary to produce a single entry containing all of the QA components -- although it is equipped to present such an entry to someone viewing it.

Financial Features

The financial features in Rosemary seek to support an organisation with its administrative work of budgeting. This section outlines the interfaces and features that were implemented in attempt to achieve this.

Income and Expenditure

Rosemary provides interfaces to produce data about income

Customers and Funders

Part of the work in entering income is making sense of where that income is from, and whether it constitutes a funding pot. To assist with this, Rosemary provides an interface for adding "Customers and Funders" to the system, which can be mapped to income. Semantically, a Funder would be an entity giving the organisation money in the form of a charitable grant, whereas a Customer would be someone acquiring services from the charity. This was grounded in the fieldwork as Patchwork were noted to be hiring out the Play Centre building, and as such the design needed to accommodate this. This also had the benefit of the system being able to infer a particular level of unrestricted funds; as all income derived from "Customers" would be unrestricted.

Internally, a single Customer entity provides the representation of a Customer or Funder in the system. To differentiate between a Customer and a Funder, a boolean isFunder is set when creating (see fig). This makes it simple for other interfaces to retrieve an entire list of Customer entities, or just those marked as a "Funder".


Costing work was observed to play a significant role in the production of reporting to charitable funders. During "costing", an expense is set against a particular income stream; usually retrofitted and presented in a way that matches the funding restrictions. This can be done for several reasons: to use up money from a particular fund so that the charity does not have to give any back; or to free up money for piece an expense that otherwise cannot be costed elsewhere in the current funding environment.

An interface was implemented to support costing work; in this interface a worker may look over their funders and grants associated with each funder. They then may take any expense that is "uncosted" and associate it with the fund. Conversely, they may "Uncost" an item to remove it from the fund (FIG).

Internally, this is achieved by establishing a one-to-many relationship between Post entities. A single Post may have many children, which are the expenses costed to it.

Budget Codes

Many organisations use Budget Codes to help label expenses. While Patchwork do not, it was decided to implement Budget Codes to accommodate other organisations. Budget Codes are used in many ways by organisations: some have only a few, some many; some organisations may give them a numeric code, and some choose not to; some allow multiple budget codes to be applied to an expense, whereas some are strict and allow only one. When considered like this Budget Codes effectively take the same form as Tags in that they are short qualitative descriptors that can be applied to mark up information.

Because of this, Rosemary stores Budget Codes internally as Tag entities, with additional optional properties isBudgetCode and budgetCodeNumber. An interface is provided to then add Budget Codes explicitly to the system (Fig). This differs from how other Tags are added; as there is no explicit interface for that and tags are added in-line, extracted in bulk from Posts.


An important part of Patchwork's production of their budget is the "reconciliation" of entries (discussed here). In short; this requires three components to be matched.

  1. An entry in the budget tool
  2. A bank statement mirroring the transaction
  3. A receipt or invoice for the transaction

The actual matching work is performed entirely offline, by the administrator. Once all components are matched, Patchwork mark up the entry in the budget tool as being "reconciled". To mirror this practice, Rosemary provided a checkbox on entries to allow reconciliation and Post entities were given the property isReconciled to support this. Reconciled expenses and unreconciled expenses are thus able to be looked up at ease.

Public-Facing Profile Page

The heavy use of social media by Patchwork influenced the inclusion of a public-facing profile page. The purpose of this page was to act as an alternative form of summary page suitable for a variety of stakeholders, contrasting the reporting style present on the Charity Commission. The design was heavily influenced by Social Media profile pages; with original designs prominently featuring a "Live" timeline of entries which had been entered into the system. There were also several pages branching off of the main profile page:

Later, discussions with both Patchwork and [EH] lead to the adjustment of the profile page's core interaction; it was determined that it was inappropriate to display a "Live" timeline by default due to an organisation's budget being an inaccurate reflection of their finances until finalised for the year (since spends are moved around) and additional concerns were raised over images posted to the site being made public by default -- as both organisations worked with vulnerable people.

The redesign was implemented alongside the addition of the 'Reports' feature (see below). With the redesign, the Live Timeline is turned off by default for every organisation. The public facing profile page will then display a list of Reports that the organisation has chosen to make public. To support the public-facing reports, each Post contained in the Report is made public. The reflection stage during Report generation means that the organisation has the opportunity to adjust the settings of the Report before releasing it, so that they could remove any sensitive information and keep those Posts private. A setting was also introduced onto a user's account, which allowed them to 'opt-in' to display a Live Timeline (which nobody did despite Michael saying it would be a good idea…).

(Discarded) Public-Facing API

The original plans envisioned for Rosemary included a public-facing API which provided endpoints to programmatically retrieve information from the service about an organisation. In this way, other applications could be developed to engage with the data in the system in ways not considered by Rosemary. This would have also supported an envisioned 'final stage' of the deployment which included building some lightweight alternative views on the data.

This was discarded due to a mix of concern and apathy on the part of Patchwork when discussing it. As their work didn't necessitate a familiarity with the term API it was discussed in terms of what an API allowed -- namely that it could support other applications retrieving the data they entered (provided entries were public). At first they didn't quite buy the idea that this was necessary, and later expressed somewhat mild concern that the data in the system could be used to present an inaccurate view of the organisation. In order to ensure their continued support, the feature was dropped in case this became off-putting to other organisations in the future as well. Instead, I made sure to discuss with workers how they felt about the possibility of data being made available to other applications to make sense of.


Reports in Rosemary were designed to be a flexible way to produce summaries of work and spending, mirroring the way information is recombined by the organisation for various audiences offline already. To create a report, a worker gives the report a title e.g. "January Manager's Report", "Trustee Report", or "Public Report 2018" and then sets a number of parameters for the report:

Choosing to enable or disable individual parameters was designed to allow the organisation to configure the presentation of the report

Importing from elsewhere

Via QA endpoint
Via File Upload

Accounting Scrapbook

Accounting Scrapbook is a lightweight mobile application that was designed to allow the charity workers to collaborate in collecting and curating information about their work and spending. Within the application, workers may create entries to reflect their everyday work and expenditure such as Images, Quotes, Activities, and Spends. These can then be organised by placing them into one or more "Scrapbooks", allowing them to be grouped thematically and associated with other content.

The following sections details the behaviour and design rationale for each feature of the design.


Types of Entry

The types of entry available to produce in Accounting Scrapbook are:

These types of entry were produced to mirror the components of the QA data standard (described above). Similar to Rosemary Accounts, the application's database does not differentiate between data types and instead stores all entries as a single class. Unlike in Rosemary Accounts, Content Inferrence is not used to dynamically display entries. Instead, a single field is used to denote the "type" of entry as understood by the application and display it appropriately.

Insert UML diagram


Adding Entries

The app provides several interfaces for adding an entry to the system, each tailored to providing the information for a different type of entry (Image, Spend, Quote, Activity).

Adding Images

Adding an entry with images is done by selecting the Add Images button on the main menu, taking you to the Add Image screen (Figure). At the top of the screen there is a single button labelled "Choose Images". Selecting this button brings up the phone's gallery interface, allowing you to select one or more images that exist on the device already. When this action is complete, the gallery closes and the first of the selected images is placed on the UI to affirm its selection.


Adding Spend Data
Adding Quotes
Adding Activities
Common Elements

Discarded Designs

There were several other components that we considered developing for the research, but were discarded due to limitations on time or because it may have been too disruptive to the daily work of Patchwork.


This section reflects on features and discussions in the design process in order to contribute to teh design requirements of software in this space. In addition to this, comments are made on the appropriateness of techniques utilised develop the designs in this setting.

Building metaphors


Summary / Conclusions

Chapter 6: Scaffolding Dialogues - deploying, evaluating, critiquing

This chapter presents an empirical account of deploying and evaluating the novel accounting systems produced in the previous chapter, and the design requirements that arise as a result.


Study Scope

Initial Deployments

Structured Deployments

Introducing Gateshead Older People

Interviews with Stakeholders

Futures Workshop


The context horseshoe (drowning in tags)

System use and non-use

TBC (Focused around desires for other stakeholders)


TBC (Focused around stakeholder buy-in)

Dialectic Transparency

Summary / Conclusions

Chapter 7: Discussion

Chapter 8: Conclusions


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  1. There are notable political and philosophical differences between the two. Free Software attempts to bring software tools back into the public Commons, whereas there are several notable critiques of Open Source as an implicit Capitalist movement attempting to subvert Free Software. If you’re interested in this at all, I recommend reading Stallman’s thoughts on the matter as a primer [41,42]