Independence and Ethics

ISD is an independent organisation that upholds the highest ethical standards. Our independence guarantees us the freedom and responsibility to work towards our charitable objectives in a way which aligns with our guiding principles (Integrity, Collaboration, Agility, Courage). We do not undertake work, pursue external partnerships or work with funders that could undermine ISD’s credibility, reputation and impartiality, or compromise the integrity or quality of our work.

ISD’s Independence

ISD is an independent organisation that upholds the highest ethical standards. Our independence guarantees us the freedom and responsibility to only pursue projects that comply with the core aims and values of the organisation – to challenge extremism, polarisation, hate and disinformation globally. Our strategic direction and policies are governed by an independent Board of Trustees.

To safeguard the continuing independence of our research and projects, ISD upholds the principles of integrity, independence, objectivity and accountability as set out by the UK Charity Commission. ISD only accepts funding for programmes in line with our strategic direction and mission, and the Ethical Funding Policy as outlined below. ISD’s contractual relationship with donors ensures funding in no way influences our research or decision-making, and we reserve the right to refuse or return funding which conflicts with these principles.

Ethical Funding Policy

ISD actively fundraises from a diverse range of funding sources in support of our charitable and strategic objectives, to ensure that all our programmes and projects are sustainably funded in line with our mission and values. We pursue funding from governments, trusts, foundations, companies and individuals and the diversity of our funding sources helps to maintain and protect ISD’s independence. Adherence to this policy is one of the ways in which we ensure that neither the opportunities we pursue, nor our funders’ requirements, have a negative impact on our independence nor distort our objectives.

This policy is intended to ensure that our work is funded ethically, and provide transparency to all our stakeholders with regards to our fundraising activities. This policy outlines our standards and processes for accepting or declining funding, and how we ensure these are applied evenly and consistently.

Acceptance of Funding Criteria

ISD pursues and accepts funding from sources in line with the following set of conditions:

  1. The funder demonstrates respect for and adherence to universal human rights, freedom of speech, democracy and the rule of law, and does not support or condone extremism or terrorism
  2. The funder does not conduct activities or implement policies that promote violence, hatred or prejudice on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, age or disability, and does not seek to deflect criticism from their involvement in any of the above by funding ISD
  3. The funding will help to challenge extremism, polarisation and disinformation and will support ISD in its pursuit of its charitable objectives
  4. The funder does not attempt to influence ISD’s objectives, policies or decisions, and the funding does not pose a risk to ISD’s independence, either explicitly or implicitly
  5. The funding does not pose a risk of harm to ISD’s reputation, staff, partners or beneficiaries

ISD is registered in the UK with the Charity Commission of England and Wales and complies with all relevant legislation and guidance, including money laundering rules, the UK Bribery Act and the Code of Fundraising Practice. We regularly review and update our internal governance and operations procedures and policies, including our Data Protection Policy, Diversity & Inclusion Policy and Privacy Policy. ISD is registered in the US as a 501(c)(3); in France as a charitable Association; and in Germany as a gGMbH. ISD adheres to all relevant legislation and local law in all countries it operates.

Privacy & Transparency of Donors

ISD aims to be as transparent as possible, and we have published this policy to communicate our approach to all of our stakeholders. We operate in accordance with the Charity Commission’s Know your Donor principle and will make reasonable and appropriate attempts to identify any individual or organisation that gives us financial support, particularly where significant sums are being donated or the circumstances of the donation give rise to notable risk.

If we receive anonymous individual donations, we will do everything possible to confirm that the origins of these donations are legitimate. Due Diligence will be carried out to within one month of receiving a gift equal to or greater than £5,000, including anonymous gifts. If a donor makes themselves known to ISD but wishes their gift to remain anonymous, we will honour these wishes on the basis that the donation is received in line with our Fundraising Criteria and carries no significant reputational risk.

When deciding whether to accept a donation, the CEO and the Trustees have a duty to demonstrate to the Charity Commission that they have acted in the best interest of the charity, and that association with any particular donor does not compromise ISD in any way. Upon initial review by the Senior Leadership Team, if any of these criteria are in question then a full risk assessment will be undertaken and reviewed by the Board for final decision. If at any point an existing or historic donor would no longer meet ISD’s fundraising criteria, the funding and donor will be re-evaluated and ISD reserves the right to no longer accept funding from that source.

Research Ethics

We hold our team to very high ethical standards in all our work. This includes in research, where the nature of the topics we address pose unique challenges to researchers, such as the difficulty of accessing research subjects; of managing researcher security and wellbeing concerns; of the traumatic and disturbing nature of much extremism content; and of the particular vulnerability of members and followers of extremist groups.

To ensure our ethical standards are met and maintained, we exhaustively consider the ethical responsibilities, methods and systems that must guide our work. ISD’s work is guided by six core ethical principles: Respect for Persons; Concern for Welfare; Pursuing Justice; Minimising Online Harms; Safeguarding Researchers; and Considering Exploitation. The principles are outlined to all staff in training and our Ethics Policy which is available upon request.

ISD’s Core Ethics Principles are put into action and enforced, both in their letter and spirit, through our Ethics Process. The ISD Ethics Process is the series of activities that ISD staff undertake when planning a new research activity, as well as the regular actions that ISD takes as an organisation in order to ensure that its actions remain compliant with its ethics principles, and that those principles remain up to date. This work is overseen by our designated Ethics Officer, who at present is Jacob Davey.

For more information about our programming ethical processes, or to learn more, please email [email protected]. If you have any concerns about our work, our Complaints Policy outlines methods for contacting us.