16 Dec 2009

Unintended consequences

I was challenged earlier this week by the idea that work trying to increase the accountability of government to citizens could even have a negative effect - that it could reduce accountability rather than strengthen it. This unlikely-sounding idea might actually have a point in many cases, and we need to make sure that we at Daraja are avoiding this.

9 Dec 2009

Uhuru, Amani na Umoja

Today is Tanzanian independence day, exactly 48 years since the end of colonial rule on the mainland. This is obviously a day to celebrate, as without freedom there is very little that matters.

It is also a day to think about where the country has come in the past 48 years, and to think about where it's going.

29 Nov 2009

Innovation in recruitment. And a pleasant surprise

Last week was recruitment week, with five and half days given over entirely to the effort to fill eight positions. We met and interviewed 25 candidates in total, selected from around 600 applicants, with some going through a two day process of practical group exercises (see below) alongside more traditional interviews, computer tests and written exercises.

In all, I was very pleasantly surprised by the high standard of the shortlist. Past experience of recruitment in Tanzania, especially for more unusual or challenging positions of the type that we are recruiting, has been somewhat disappointing, but this experience was refreshingly different. The selection panel all ended the week with a lot of confidence and excitement in a young, strong, dynamic and committed team taking shape.

18 Nov 2009



I've spent the past three days going through around 600 CVs. A tough job but an interesting one. It's distressing to see how desperate people are to get work, especially recent graduates. Over 400 applications from people with a degree but no work experience whatsoever. But some very promising applicants as well.

Some lessons for young Tanzanian's applying for jobs:

11 Nov 2009

Keeping rural water supplies functioning

There's some pretty shocking data around on how many (or rather how few) rural waterpoints in Tanzania are working. The best available data, from waterpoint mapping surveys by WaterAid and other NGOs, finds that almost half (46%) of rural waterpoints are not working. Roughly, that means the same number of people that do currently have access to improved water supplies (around 8m) are lacking access because of a broken down waterpoint. Fixing that would more than meet the Millennium Development Target for rural water supply in Tanzania.

10 Nov 2009

Challenges for local newspapers

I came across an interesting opinion piece in the UK guardian this morning by George Monbiot. The Guardian's website has been running a series of articles on the decline of local newspapers in the UK and the consequences this can have for local democracy, but Monbiot (as usual) raises some challenges.

9 Nov 2009

The leaders we deserve?


There's a saying in the UK (and probably elsewhere) that people usually get the leaders they deserve. The point is that leaders are a product of the society they serve: they come from that society and, even in only partially effective democracies, take power with some form of society's consent. So if a society places a high value on integrity and public service, then so will it's leaders. And if a society is all about fighting for personal gain, its leaders will be in it for themselves.

I don't entirely agree with this idea, but I think it can still give us some useful insights.

Bora kujenga daraja


Welcome to my new blog, covering the ideas and work of Daraja, a innovative new organisation working to make local government more responsive to the community in rural Tanzania.

The idea of the blog is partly to encourage wider discussion of the kind of issues Daraja is tackling and the challenges we face in doing so, partly as a form of newsletter for keeping Daraja's friends and supporters up to date on our work, and partly a quick and simple way of floating new ideas. It's therefore a bit of a mixed bag, a bit rough and ready, but hopefully will have enough of a common thread to make sense.