Earlier this year, the World Bank got a taste of what African youth can bring to the table. I was one of 30,000 Twitter users participating in the #iwant2work4africa campaign. For months, we voiced our passion for Africa while shoehorning our qualifications to work for the continent, all in 140 characters.
Mwanachi, a Swahili word that means ordinary citizen, is the name of a governance and transparency program that was funded by the UK’s Department for International Development for five years in six African countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leonne, Uganda, and Zambia. This program is the focus of a new report entitled Rethinking Social Accountability in Africa by Fletcher Tembo, who served as Director of the Mwanachi program since its launch in 2008. The report acknowledges the important role of several actors in in strengthening citizen demand for good governance, including civil society, media, elected representatives, and traditional leaders. At the same time, it challenges common notions of effective citizen-state relations that focus on a preoccupation with actors and actor categories. Instead, it argues that effective social accountability programs should focus on relationships and contextual realties that are driven by 'interlocution processes.' In other words, processes that address the complex web of incentives and actions through actors that are selected for their game changing abilities.
- Context-specific processes
- africa transparency
- Citizen Demand for Good Governance
- citizen empowerment
- Citizen Engagement
- Poltical Economy Analysis
- Political Institutions and Systems
- Research and Analytical Work
- Policy Engagement
- Voice and Accountability
- Sierra Leone
Browsing Facebook back in August, I was greeted with a stark photograph of a young man doing homework under the glow of a newly installed street light in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. I clicked on the next image: grinning children on a swing. Next: a policewoman shines out from her patrol on the Old Road; child soldiers hand in weapons in Tubmanburg; and the baby of a returning refugee is handed down from a truck. There were many more dramatic images on the slide show - shared on the social network by the United Nations Mission in Liberia. It was titled “10 years of Peace”. I “liked” it. It’s rare to see such images of peace. Each photograph illustrated a powerful back-story of recovery – and together they plotted a credible and inspiring path to peace. My knowledge of Liberia doubled in five minutes.
A month later on International Day of Peace those same images were the subject of discussion at The Centre of African Studies at Cambridge University. Now framed and hanging in the Centre, it was interesting to gauge people’s reactions. A small group had assembled and although many of them were African, they also confessed to having no prior knowledge of Liberia. One touching observation, “This shows Liberians path to peace by Liberians…it is African’s who have made peace here”. True - although the photographs had been taken by United Nations photographers, the presence of the UN was distinctly low key. We also had a discussion about images of so-called “peace” being used for propaganda purposes. As a self-confessed cynic, I fully sympathize, but these set of images felt far more than just PR for the United Nations.
Twaweza’s Varja Lipovsek, (Learning, Monitoring & Evaluation Manager) and Rakesh Rajani (Head), respond to this week’s
series of posts on their organization’s big rethink.
That Duncan Green dedicated three posts on Twaweza’s ‘strategic pivot’ may signal that our work and theory of change are in real trouble, but we prefer to take it as a sign that these issues are of interest to many people working on transparency, accountability and citizen-driven change. His posts follow a terrific two day evaluation meeting. Here are a few clarifications and takeaways.
Spiritual matters first. We very much believe that Twaweza’s soul remains intact: we want to contribute towards change in complex systems in East Africa, by promoting and enabling citizens to be active agents and shape their lives. Our experience over the past four years has made us question much of how we ‘do’ citizen agency, but we are not quite throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
For example, in our original approach we didn’t want to be prescriptive about citizen action; we wanted to expand choices and leave it up to people to decide, what we called an ‘open architecture’ approach to social change. Sounds good; problem is that it doesn’t work so well in practice and the evidence of successful change suggests a need for less openness and more focus. New evidence about the bandwidth that poor people have to make good decisions provides useful insights on what one can realistically expect people to do.
The World Bank Group got the go-ahead on a new strategy aimed at repositioning itself to better tackle its two goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. The strategy aims to more efficiently and effectively leverage finances, technology, and talent to provide customized development solutions for client countries. In a communiqué at the close of the Annual Meetings, the Development Committee said it “strongly endorsed” the plan. The committee said the Bank Group has an important role to play “in delivering global development results, supporting countries with their specific development challenges, and helping them eradicate poverty and build resilience to future financial, economic, social, and environmental challenges.” Read the communiqué and article.
A new paper updated the Development Committee on the gender equality agenda at the World Bank Group. In the past year, all of the Bank’s country assistance strategies were “gender-informed,” and the total share of gender-informed lending rose from 83% to 98% between FY12 and FY13. This translates into a dollar figure of almost $31 billion, notes the paper.
Between 2007 and 2011, Peru doubled electricity access rates from 30 percent of households to over 60 percent. The national rural electrification program has been supported by US$50 million in World Bank financing and US$10 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
This is a remarkable achievement, but to make sure that the new opportunities benefit local people in rural areas, an additional initiative was launched. This “productive uses of electricity” pilot project adapted lessons from two World Bank-supported activities in Indonesia under which the national utility reached out to local communities through NGOs.
At least 80% of countries considered fragile or affected by conflict are home to valuable extractive resources that the global economy hungers for. Earth’s riches like oil, gas, and minerals often fuel conflict, trapping all but the elites in poverty amid vast wealth.
A high-level panel of industry experts and representatives from CSOs and resource-rich nations weighed in today on the challenges that define poverty or prosperity in a fragile country.
Fragile states endowed with natural resources have the chance to benefit from their transformational impact, said Sri Mulyani Indrawati, managing director and chief operating officer of the World Bank Group. "Success can mean stability and development, and failure can mean aid dependency,” she said.
Indrawati underscored the need to get things right — alluding to the recurrent discussion regarding the “resource curse.” “Our focus is on transparency, governance, and strengthening country capacity,” she said.
On transparency, panelist Clare Short, chair of the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative, an international standard that ensures transparency around countries’ oil, gas and mineral resources, acknowledged that extractive resources “are very difficult to manage.”
This is the last in a series of three posts on Twaweza, a fascinating NGO doing some pioneering work on accountability in East Africa, whose big navel gaze I attended last week. Post one covered Twaweza’s theory of change and initial evaluation results; yesterday I got onto the critique of its thinking and action to date. Today I’m digging deeper into some of the underlying issues.
Given its rethink, Twaweza is now contemplating a shift in direction – while keeping its focus on citizen agency, focus in on education (rather than try and cover education, health and water); reduce the number of partners; do more things on its own (eg research or education programming); expand successful areas such as policy and advocacy; do more experiments to uncover what works and help the organization ‘fail faster’ and so move on to new stuff.
Plenty of good ideas in there, but it also seems to me to mark an intellectual retreat from the initial commitment to finding new ways to achieve change in complex systems. I think there’s a strong case for digging deeper into complexity, rather than retreating from it. One suggestion that moves in the right direction is to set up a ‘positive deviance lab’, dedicated to detecting and then understanding examples of success in citizens’ action across East Africa.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs), including mobile phones, are increasingly seen as critical tools to improve public health and health outcomes in Africa. Several experiments, including some launched almost ten years ago, are starting to show progress:
In Rwanda, an mHealth system dubbed TRACnet monitors epidemic diseases. TRACnet has been financed since 2004 by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and Rwanda's Ministry of Health, and has helped track HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Health workers are equipped with a mobile phone and access TRACnet through SMS menu prompts, requiring them to document and monitor the status of patients in the health clinics under their jurisdiction. The system has helped create a registry of all health workers, their patients, rural clinic locations, staffing, assets, and medical supply inventories. Key factors in TRACnet’s success include sustained financing, scaling-up to all agents in all villages, and use by health workers in their daily work.
Yesterday I sketched out the theory of change and initial findings on the first four years of work by an extraordinary East African NGO, Twaweza. Today I’ll move on to what some NGO people (but thankfully no-one in Dar es Salaam last week) insist on calling ‘the learnings’ about the flaws and gaps in its original theory of change (described in yesterday’s post).
First, there’s a big ‘black box’ containing Twaweza’s rather large assumption that giving people information (eg about failing education systems), would lead to them taking action to change things. What issues in the black box determine whether this is true or not?
Evan Lieberman (one of Twaweza’s many evaluators, from Princeton University) called this the ’secret sauce’ – the miracle that links information to action. His team had come up with a smart attempt to identify some of the sauce’s ingredients – conditions for a →b:
Do I understand the info? →Is it new info? →Do I care? →Do I think that it is my responsibility to do something about it? →Do I have the skills to make a difference? →Do I have the sense of efficacy to think that my efforts will have an impact? →Are the kinds of actions I am inspired to take different from what I am already doing? →Do I believe my own individual action will have an impact? →Do I expect fellow community members to join me in taking action? Evan argued that only if the answer to all of these is yes, will the black box indeed turn information into action.
Actually it’s worse than that – they missed some pretty big ones (‘do I have the time to do this, on top of everything else?’ ‘Will I run any personal risks if I do this?’). It’s a hell of an intimidating set of conditions and, as was pointed out, the danger is that accountability proponents will just latch onto one of the steps, then wonder why nothing is popping out at the outcome end.