Remembering Simon

Bill Anderson • 15 July 2016

Many of you will by now have heard the awful news that Simon Parrish died peacefully last Friday night after a long battle with cancer. Our thoughts go out to Chloe, his family and all those who have been touched by this sad passing.

A formal tribute will be posted on the IATI website later today, and there is a page on the DI website where you can send a personal message to Chloe or make a donation to the hospice where Simon spent his last days. We thought it would also be appropriate to open this topic for the IATI community to share their memories and tributes. Please feel free to post your thoughts, however big or small.

It is not an exaggeration to say that without Simon IATI might never have got off the ground. Simon led the research and evidence gathering that fed into the establishment of IATI in Accra in 2008. For the next three years he was both the lubrication and the glue that pulled together a disparate group of actors to create the IATI standard. He got tech geeks and policy wonks to speak the same language. He managed to get impatient civil society activists to find common ground with cautious statisticians and government officials. And fittingly it was Simon who presented IATI (with its 17 publishers!) at Busan at the end of 2011.

Bear in mind that in 2008 transparency, open data and multi-stakeholder initiatives were not the concepts we take for granted today. Simon stood in the forefront of this struggle and we will forever be in his debt.

He was also a really really good person. And a special friend.

Comments (14)


Very sorry to hear Simon passed away.

I remember meeting Simon at the OKFN 2012 in Helsinki and hooking up for drinks some night together with Steven Flower, Mark Brough and others in between the opendata rambling back then.

He seemed very dedicated and understanding. Although we never really worked on anything together the years after I had some IATI specific questions back in 2014 and from there on understood he had cancer.

Saddened to learn this talented young man has been taken away too early in life.

Rolf Kleef

Very sad indeed. It is a privilege and a joy to have engaged with Simon at various events, when we were still learning how to talk about open data, open development and IATI, together dreaming and scheming. Let’s keep his optimism and positive outlook alive!

Alan Hudson

Simon was a proper transparency champion. I remember in particular chatting to him at OKFest Berlin about how he was trying to get his village council to be more transparent and open. And more importantly, he was a super-top bloke. He will be very much missed.

Rufus Pollock

It was an incredible privilege to know the extraordinary man that Simon was. He was just full of generosity and enthusiasm. It was entirely thanks to his foresight and helping hand that I and Open Knowledge got involved in aid transparency back in 2007-2008. Simon was an incredible sort of collaborator - selfless, inspiring and positive. I feel genuinely privileged to have known him and am deeply sad at his passing.

David Megginson

Meeting Simon for the IATI tech kick-off in 2010 was like meeting a human avalanche — no barrier, real or imagined, could possibly stand up against the raw force of his energy and his absolute conviction that we were doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.

I wish I could be in the UK next week to celebrate his life with all of you — please raise a pint to him for me.

Janet Reilly

Simon was a great guy - passionate about his work, funny (in a geeky sort of way!), a private man and well respected. When I first interviewed him with Tony when we were setting up DIPR, he bubbled with enthusiasm. A sad loss. xxx

Bibhusan Bista

Simon was a mentor and a friend to me since past 5-6 years. I have learned much from him and give him all the credit providing us with the launchpad to engage with IATI since the very begining. All these years, he always inspired me with thoughts, ideas and vision to make a difference. Personally, I have always been impressed with his profound knowledge of the global aid transparency ecosystem and more than that his thorough understanding of the local national context. This was a rare combination that Simon had and will be dearly missed by the entire IATI community. A great loss to the global IATI and Open Data community for sure !!


Simon was a great person and he always inspired me and probably many others. I remember speaking on Skype and he always had time to reply to any question. It will be great if people will remember him as he was and how inspired us during the IATI path.

Mark Brough

Really sad to hear of Simon’s passing. My thoughts are with Chloe and the DI team.

Along with the likes of Karin and Bill, Simon was one of the people that got me hooked on IATI in the first place. His combination of enthusiastic wonkery as well as relaxed, down to earth friendliness motivated me and set me at ease even when I felt way out of my depth. He was a great moderating force, finding consensus while still retaining quite striking levels of ambition. Above all, as others have pointed out, he was a lovely guy, and I feel lucky to have spent time with him.

Agree with [~467] – let’s keep his optimism and positive outlook alive.

Asma Zubairi

So sad to hear about Simon’s passing…memories of working with him at DI many years ago was of someone so enthusiastic and generous, with a great sense of humour who managed to combine this all with being so passionate and committed to what he worked on. I moved to Bristol around the same time as Simon to work at DI and he was always extremely generous in giving me and other colleagues lifts into work (in the old Wells office). Those journeys were an education in more ways than one: lots of enthusiasm about music, talk of what we worked on and all mixed with a great sense of humour.

Simon, you will be sadly missed for your enthusiasm and passion as a person which was also extended to your brilliant and innovative work on data transparency My thoughts are with Chloe, the rest of your family, friends and colleagues at DI during this very sad time. Very privileged to have worked with you. Thank you Simon. xoxo

Andrew Clarke

I worked with Simon mainly when I was at Publish What You Fund. What a lovely, enthusiastic and talented chap. He made such an important contribution to IATI, as others have highlighted. I first met Simon in Busan at the high-level panel on aid effectiveness in 2011. We both had streaming colds and were trying to navigate the etiquette of (not) blowing our noses while eating kimchi stew I didn’t get to see Simon enough, frankly. But over a beer or huddled on the sidelines of an IATI meeting, we always had a good chinwag. I remember having a good argument with him about West African geography in Berlin after copious Ethiopian food. Those are the best conversations
I’ll miss him.

Steven Flower

Thoughts with Chloe, family, friends and colleagues

I remember first meeting Simon at the British Library cafe, as he enthusiastically talked about this “new global open data standard”. At the time, there were about three publishers (with one of them being DI!), but Simon had the conviction and vision to pull people along, and in. Months later he was in Busan, galvanising support and gathering new allies.

As others have noted, it was Simon’s sincerity and engagement that always shone through. I’d add modesty to this - Simon had the good habit of being able to let his work do the talking, rather than talk about his work.

Claudia Schwegmann

Simon, you went too early. I had hoped so much, that you would trick the cancer and be with us for many more years. There were so many things still waiting for your endless enthusiasm, and your passion for open data and transparency, for your talent and your determination. It was always so much fun to work with you and I will miss you!

My thoughts are with Chloe, Simons family and friends, the colleages at DI and the IATI secretariat.

Ole Jacob (OJ) Hjøllund

I totally agree. Simon was a hero; the right man at the right place at the right time.

His combined personal qualities and technical expertice was amazing, and helped many of us to overcome early obstacles - sometimes just in the margin of the hectic meetings in the early days. He probably didn’t even realise the lasting impact of such quick replies and recommendations, casually shared while moving from one room to another.

I am both sad and actually shocked - finding this info today. Even though we knew he was struggling.

What a loss.

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