Fair Play Alliance

Quick Look

Creating tools and advocacy campaigns for ethical, transparent, professional public administration in Slovakia.

Beginning Date: 
March 17, 2010
Annual Budget 2007: 
Annual Budget 2008: 
Annual Budget 2009: 
Annual Budget 2010: 
How many unique hits per month?: 
Project Scale: 


There was a lack of necessary laws, a lack of access to information, the lack of political will, and a lack of access given to journalists.This all pushed Slovakian journalist Zuzana Wienk in 2002 to become a watchdog journalist. For the past 8 years, Zuzana and her team have been constantly pushing Slovakian politicians to become more transparent and have advocated for legal changes that a) bring about more openness and b) create the potential for public awareness. In 2009 she was nominated for US Secretary of State’s International Woman of Courage Award.

Discovering this project was a great lesson, how simple tools connected with proper promotion can fill in gaps in law. One of the first projects by Fair Play Alliance was a special database for politicians to submit their full financial reports. In Slovakia, only a small amount of publicly disclosed information is legally required and yet more should be made available - this is where the work of the Fair Play Alliance comes in.


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Date of Audio: 
April 15, 2010


What are the biggest obstacles to your success?: 

One of them is the lack of a full time fundraiser who would work on making our organization fully sustainable, the lack of capacities and financial resources, lack of civic initiatives and other watchdog organisations in Slovakia, rather extensive tolerance in society for corruption, clientelism and wrong doing, lack of people's to participate.

How do you plan on overcoming those obstacles?: 

We are working on the long-term strategy right now. We see huge potential in social networks, technology and its potential to bring people together to mobilise as well as self-organise.

What problem is your project aiming to overcome?: 

The goal of our organisation is to push for ethical, transparent, professional and effective public administration and polical representation. We want a better governed, and more ethical, professional and open state whose primary goal is to serve the people. We are a typical watchdog organization and use these main tools:
1. increasing transparency of public affairs through publishing a huge searchable database containing all possible data of flows of public money to private hands and personal background of public administration and political representation.
2. monitoring and investigation that lead to the public disclosure of concrete cases with the potential to create presure on politicians and highlight serious problems that later on can serve as a start to public debates over systematic changes
3. advocacy, campaigning and education or spreading of our know-how.

What are the roots of that problem?: 

Low political culture, non-existing or weak priciples for public life, society in transitions with un-defined rules and young democracy, non-existing democratic tradition.

Why did you personally become involved in this project?: 

I worked as a journalist with a high interest in public affairs, democracy, and rule of law. I wanted to contribute to the change, and not only reflect it, I wanted to go deeper into roots of problems.

Are you providing unofficial channels of information that should be provided by the government?: 

Yes. We have a special website where Members of Parliament can post their full statement on their finances. We have a huge database on the web of all possible data of flows of public money into private hands and personal background of public administration and political represenation we can find. It is searchable and recently it was re-designed to allow analyses of the data, data downloads by third parties and the production of visualisations, widgets etc.

Why is the government not providing the information?: 

Disclosure increases the risk of being caught in wrong-doing. There is not enough public pressure to legitimase this request and not enough willingness and expertise inside the government. We have a very good Freedom of Information Act though and information is also published on the web by government but it is done in a very bad form and is not sufficiently structured. There are also problems in the implementation of the law.

Is there a freedom of information law in the country where this project is based?: 
Is there a right to information law in the country where this project is based?: 
How does the information published on your website turn into offline change?: 

The websites have stirred public debate to create legitimacy for certain public requests (e.g. for a new law, or for new standards on asset disclosure). They serve as an important campaign tool (e.g. for our on-line petitions), they help to activate, spread the news and build pressure later turned to legal steps (eg. a request to EU to stop funding of a certain project which happened in the past, or the resignation of a minister which also happened in the past, or the initiation of criminal charges or legal initiatives).

What is an example of how information on your website has led to a concrete change?: 

It lead to the disclosure of couple of cases of illegal or unethical financing of political parties. As a result, a law on the financing of political parties has been changed as well as a law on public procurement. Journalists started to follow these issues pro-actively which lead to more cases of illicit practices disclosed, more eyes are watching, and there is larger awarness as well as higher public pressure for reform. Journalists also use our database when investigating cases.

How many people work on your project?: 
How many hours a week do you personally spend on the project?: 

Full time

How many hours does the whole team spend on the project?: 

As it is combination of projects and approaches – it is also fulltime, it is the core what the organisation does.

What are the most time consuming tasks?: 

Hard to say, it differs from time to time. Sometimes it is creating a strategy to convince politicians to take part in the voluntary publishing of asset declarations; sometimes it is getting the data, sometimes investigation and campaigning itself.

How do you extract value from large amounts of data? How do you build engagement around it?: 

We have built tools that allow us to compare whole tables. For example, you can find overlap between donors of political parties and the results of public procurement. We have a re-design of our database that will allow us to produce interesting graphics, maps, visualisations of data.

Engagement: Using press conferences, debates on TV, radio, the publication of blogs and columns, social networks and fun groups on facebbok related to our work, electronic newsletters, competitions, organisation of barcamps or privacy camps, etc.

How do you verify the identities of participants on your website?: 

We don’t have participants on our web service that publishes data about state administration, we have visitors. To follow closer what they use, what they need we will introduce registration. Registration will be also necessary to download our database as whole.

We have participants on our website that disclose voluntary asset declarations. We verify their identities by sending them passwords for the website by registered mail on their official address in public administration / political party etc.

How do you attract new participants?: 

We have participants on our website that discloses voluntary asset declarations. We attract these participants by calls for higher transparency before each election in the country. We offer candidates participation in this project and shortly before elections organise publicity about the outcomes of such a call where we name in the media those candidates who accepted participations and thoes who refused.

We really like direct contact when it comes to promotion of our projects. We go to fares, festivals, we co-organise our own festival connected to the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

What has been the most effective method of spreading awareness about your project?: 

The most effective way for us is to disclose new, unique information that is useful to the public. For example, when we have a press conference and release new info about a certain scandal or findings, the news spreads very quickly. This has important side effects. We define ourselves as an independent body observing a certain area or problem and it invites journalists to turn to us with specific questions regarding the scandal or the area or similar problems and leads to more awarness through further comments. It also secures places in TV, radio debates or interviews. We also use a web service of the most popular web news portal in the country that offer a top ten chart of the most interesting things on the Slovak web (whoever can register their “candidate” and readers vote for certain articles, the top ten of articles can get to the front web page and be visible to more people).

The best promotional aspect is the quality, “newsworthiness”, originality and public good of the news itself.

What are your biggest referrers? Where does most of your traffic come from?: 

It differs. Our homepage is visited mostly directly (42%), then through search engines where 95% come from google and the rest is refering web sites – the most comes from the most popular news web portal sme.sk, facebook or blogs.

Our databases is mostly visited through refering web sites (mostly from our other website on asset declarations and sme.sk), then directly, and about 10% comes from search engines (mostly google, with a small share from bing). Our asset declaration site Politika Open (Open Politics) is mostly visited thorugh refering web sites (site of one political party who bound all its candidates to publish their declarations on our site), then 25% of visitors come directly and about 13 through search engines (mostly Google).

Where is your content re-posted? What effect has that had on your project?: 

We are quite often contacted by other journalists who want to publish our comments. On the other hand we quite often cooperate with them on different stories, mostly through investigating. Our database is used by investigative journalists or academicians for their research. Our content often ends up on Facebook, or on the most popular web news portal sme.sk.

Has legal action been taken against your website?: 


What metrics do you use to judge your own success?: 

It is of course very hard to judge what contributed to a change in society in such a complex environment. We follow statistics from Google Analytics, or from our own domain about web visitors, we follow the number of readers subscribed to our electronic newsletter or facebook supporters. We follow discussions under articles on our stories on the web, or blogs or columns, we of course follow political reactions to our initiatives, see if our proposals are used, how much support we get through 2% of tax assignation, we follow how many people sign our on-line petitions, come to rallies etc.

What are the incentives to participate in your project?: 

This applies only to our on-line asset declarations: we use publicity before elections as an incentive for politicians – participants.

What skills and expertise would be of assistance to your project?: 

Lawyers, fundraisers, professional manager and financial director, IT in-house staff.

How do you plan on financially sustaining your project? : 

At this moment 25% of our income comes from 2% taxpayer donation. The rest comes from various grants, and donations. Recently many Slovaks living abroad started to send us money as they associate with our cause and they want to somehow support the country’s development. It is a big question right now and we finally received support to employ an expert who will help us with finding the right way to sustain our activities.

What other organizations are you working with?: 

Domesticaly with Via Iuris, Transparency International Slovakia, and Open Society Foundation.

Have you thought about developing your own tools?: 

We develop our own IT tools – our searchable web database, our own system for online asset declarations, our tool to analyse data and offer an API for other users or data download. We plan to explore the trend of self-organised events (barcamps, scoial innovation camps, etc).

Has there been any communication between your project and government officials?: 

Due to the character of our organization, we have constact contact with government officials and institutions. But it is always initiated by us.

Are there any legal obstacles to your work? Any laws that should be changed?: 

We could imagine minor changes in FOIA, procurement law, significant changes in laws that control the finances of political parties and conflicts of interest, changes in laws regarding support for NGOs and tax deductibility of donations.

Have there been any attempts to replicate your work elsewhere?: 

Yes, our software for database about flows of public money and background of political representation or public administrations has been used in Czech Republic and Georgia. The know-how was used in Montenegro. We have no information though of how the projects are run or if they are successful.

If someone gave you $30,000 how would you use the money?: 

We would use it for investment into new IT tools and web tehcnology to support civic oversight and activism. We would also like to support the team and start up self-financing activities or secure strategic development. With such a good base a chance of a sustainable long term watchdog would be easier to imagine.

What are your plans for 2010 and 2011?: 

Elections are coming up over here in June 2010. We have to assess the needs of society after the elections, our own situation, and concentrate on finding ways toward financial and organisational sustainability – very soon we will face a financial crisis in the organisation.


I am really impressed with

I am really impressed with Zuzana's attitude and the approach they have taken here - aiming to establish direct relationship with governing bodies, as well as exercising pressure on them. I think trough this approach even the problem with lack of public engagement can be addressed easier, as the results become apparent. Zuzana is creating an image of a transparent MP opposing those, who are not willing to cooperate, giving people engaged in governance an additional - and potentially very powerful tool - to achieve their private aims, i.e. more votes.
Great example of direct action and work for government accountability with those who will be able to improve the laws themselves in near future.
I think the work towards a change with part of society directly involved, but in many cases the least supportive too is the most challenging aspect of any action of this type. I really hope that other transparency projects will establish co-operation with Fair-Play Alliance to learn from their experiences.

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