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Twaweza

So What Should Twaweza Do Differently? How Accountability Work is Evolving

Duncan Green's picture

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.

Twaweza, One of the World’s Cutting Edge Accountability NGOs

Duncan Green's picture

Rakesh Rajani is an extraordinary man, a brilliant, passionate Asian Tanzanian with bottle-stopper glasses and a silver tongue. The persuasive eloquence may stem from his teenage years as an evangelical preacher, but these days he weaves his spells to promote transparency, active citizenship and the work of Twaweza, the organization he founded in 2009.

Rakesh is a classic example of a hybrid social movement leader, bridging the divide between policy makers and poor people, equally at ease in the homes and meetings of poor villagers and the corridors of the White House or the Googleplex (both of whom he has advised).

Last week I spent two days at a review of Twaweza’s work; an intense, exhausting, intellectually tumultuous couple of days with the smartest group of people I’ve met in a long time. Not sure how many posts it will take to do justice to it, but here goes.

First, some background on Twaweza. Its name means ‘we can make it happen’ in Swahili. It is a ‘ten year citizen-centered initiative, focusing on large-scale change in East Africa.’ Its strategy was so brilliant and ahead of its time that I nearly blogged on it just as a piece of thinking. Here’s my feeble attempt to summarize it:

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The Guardian
Youth unemployment: can mobile technology improve employability?

“Attention in the development sector has shifted sharply towards two areas over the past couple of years: youth and employment. While the huge increase in some countries' 15-24 year old population offers an opportunity for catalysing change and bringing in fresh ideas and new energy, many are grappling with the challenge of providing young people with meaningful work opportunities and concerned about the growing number of youth who are disillusioned about their futures.

The ILO reported that 74.8 million youth between 15 and 24 years were unemployed in 2011, an increase of more than 4 million since 2007. Globally, the youth unemployment rate is almost 13%, and youth are nearly three times as likely as adults to be unemployed. In some countries there are no jobs. In others, there is a skills mismatch and with some quality soft and hard skills training and support, young people could be ready for existing, unfilled jobs.”  READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The Guardian
How citizens can make development happen

"The future of development lies in the hands of millions of citizens. It's a bold statement by Rakesh Rajani, founder of Twaweza, who was in London for the debate on the future of aid organised by the Overseas Development Institute. Only two years old, Twaweza, which means "we can make it happen" in Swahili, is attempting to do just that across three east African countries, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

Rajani's strategy is to spread information, believing that crucial to the process of development is access to ideas. Twaweza focuses on what it believes are the five main routes for people to hear new ideas in the region: religion; mobile phones; mass media, in particular radio; fast-moving consumer goods; and teachers. Twaweza builds partnerships in all these areas to spread ideas, draw in new voices and open up conversations. It works rather like a venture fund, initiating ideas and getting new organisations off the ground. Rajani cites Amartya Sen's comment that poverty is not about a lack of money, but about a lack of options. His aim is to find new ways to intervene in people's lives to widen their options." 

Five Key Networks You Will Find Everywhere

Antonio Lambino's picture

 

The video posted above is the second in a series we are featuring on this blog.  The interview was conducted last June, during a learning event jointly organized by the World Bank Institute’s Governance Practice and CommGAP entitled “The Political Economy of Reform: Moving from Analysis to Action.” The event’s primary objective was to bring together relevant expertise and take stock of experiences from around the world on the ways in which political economy analyses have been and can be made more operationally relevant.  Featured in the video is Rakesh Rajani, head and founder of Twaweza (“we can make it happen” in Swahili), a “citizen-centered initiative, focusing on large-scale change in East Africa.”  From years of experience working in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, Rajani describes five local networks that he has found exist everywhere in these countries:

They are organic.  They are powerful.  They go to scale.  They matter to people’s lives.  People invest in those networks.  And they would be there even if every aid dollar dried up tomorrow… And you’ll notice that those five are typically not the organizations or the institutions that development actors work with.

ICT for Accountability: Transparency "Bottom-Up"

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

At the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2010 in Santiago last week, I was able to gather a wealth of information and ideas regarding the use of ICT for accountability. In a session on this topic I had the chance to discuss with people who actually implement citizen media projects on the ground and shared their experience and insights. A number of very interesting and useful ideas came up:

Accountability needs "bottom-up transparency". Many governments in developing countries do not have the capacity for gathering data that they could then publish for citizens to hold them accountable. Supporting government capacity may not be the only and not even the most efficient solution: Several participants of the session introduced projects where it is the citizens themselves that provide information about public services.

"Where the Really Exciting Stuff is Happening"

Antonio Lambino's picture

Twaweza is a Swahili word that means “we can make it happen.”  In Tanzania and Kenya, it is also the name of "a citizen-centered initiative, focusing on large-scale change in East Africa.”  Earlier this week, at the Center for Global Development, Twaweza head and founder Rakesh R. Rajani delivered a presentation the title of which tickled my imagination: “Why Ownership and Capacity Building Don’t Work: Lessons from East Africa.”