13 Dec 2010

Are we right to give editorial control to councils? Council reporting on the CDCF in Njombe

Daraja's Kwanza Jamii Njombe local newspaper includes a section that has caused a lot of debate among our staff, partners and supporters - the council pages. The reason for the debate is that we're essentially handing editorial control of these two pages, one each for Njombe Town Council and Njombe District Council, over to the councils themselves.

We provide editorial and design support, but the councils themselves decide what content to produce and share on their page. The only restriction we put is that they should not sell advertising space on their page, but otherwise the choice of content (and the responsibility to prepare that content) is theirs. Each council has appointed an official to be responsible for preparing and submitting content and both councils have taken this opportunity with both hands.

7 Dec 2010

Maji Matone yapokelewa kwa nyangwe wilayani Mbozi

Wapenda wote tunakumbuka ya kuwa Maji Matone tuliwasha mfumo wetu wa SMS tarehe 1/11/2010.

Tulianza kwa kurusha matangazo yetu katika radio tatu ambazo ni Uplands FM iliyopo Njombe, Abood FM iliyopo Mji kasoro bahari (Morogoro) na Mbeya Highlands FM iliyopo mkoani Mbeya.

Pia tulikuwa na warsha ya siku mbili ya kuwapa msasa wanahabari juu ya maradi, sera ya maji ya taifa pamoja na mambo lukuki juu ya uandishi wa habari zinazohusu maji na hali ya upatikanaji Tanzania vijijini.

6 Dec 2010

Atakavyotaka yeye ndo utakavyomlipa

A first video from Daraja, based on a much longer film by the Tanzania Women of Impact Foundation - TAWIF. It's a rough effort but with some powerful images and messages.

"bila pentsi maji hupati" - you have to fight for water so unless you're wearing trousers you won't get it

"mwalimu harudi tena" - newly appointed teachers don't stay long when they see how hard it is to get water

"atakavyotaka yeye ndo utakavyomlipa" - girls walking long distances to collect water are vulnerable to men with bad intentions

30 Nov 2010

Reflections on the elections through a Daraja window

A few weeks have passed, (most of) the dust has settled and life is beginning to get back to normal. So it seems an opportune time to look back and reflect on what was a very interesting election period.

If you find yourself thinking, "oh no, not another election reflection," rest assured we won't be going over the same ground that has been very ably covered elsewhere (Pambazuka; Vijana FM; The Mikocheni Report - all of which are highly recommended.) Instead we will be looking at the election through a "Daraja window", thinking about how the election affected core Daraja themes of water supply, local government, the media and civil society.

15 Nov 2010

Out and about with Kwanza Jamii: photos from Wangama ward, Njombe

One of the Kwanza Jamii newspaper's regular sections of public-interest journalism is Kata Maalumu, or Ward in Focus. Each issue takes an in-depth look at a particular rural ward, bringing attention to areas that are rarely covered in the media. This includes reports on local issues and the state of local public services, a sample of local opinion, a very simple questionnaire survey (using mobile phones and episurveyor) and a story on something positive that other communities can learn from that ward.

The team were out in Wangama ward last week, up in the mountains and about as remote as Njombe gets. They came back with a great set of stories and pictures. The stories will find their way into the December issue of the paper (and eventually online) but for the moment, here are some photos to take a look at.

Wazo Tete - Maswali na majibu na Kapongola Nganyanyuka, mtafiti wa Daraja

Afisa Ufuatiliaji na Utafiti wetu, Kapongola Nganyanyuka, alihojiwa na Radio Uplands FM wa hapa Njombe wiki iliopita juu ya kazi za Daraja na mfumo mzima wa mipango shirikishi. Kifuatacho ni badhi ya maswali na majibu kutoka kwa kipindi hiki:

1. Nini hasa kilichopelekea mpaka kuamua kujishughulisha na programu ya kuwaleta wananchi na serikali pamoja mkoani Njombe

Ahsante sana ndugu...... Kwanza kabisa naomba nitoe utangulizi wa shirika la Daraja. Daraja ni shirika la kiraia ambalo linashughulika na utawala bora hasa katika kuleta wananchi na serikali pamoja. Dira ya Daraja ni kuona serikali za mitaa zinafanya kazi kikamilifu kwa kuzingatia matakwa na mahitaji ya wananchi na kutimiza wajibu wao wa kupunguza umaskini vijijini. Shirika la Daraja lina makao makuu mjini Njombe. Pia ni vizuri kufahamu kua shirika la Daraja limeanza kazi mwaka 2009, hata hivyo ofisi ya kudumu ilifunguliwa mwanzoni mwezi Januari mwaka huu.

12 Nov 2010

Various presentations to Daraja's media partners on the MajiMatone programme

Daraja's Maji Matone programme hosted representatives of the programme's media partners earlier this week for a two-day workshop. It was an inspiring couple of days with some highly motivated people, both within Daraja's MajiMatone team and the media partners.

Day 1 was essentially training on water sector issues and on Daraja. Day 2 was more practical, developing programme outlines and recording and editing content. We'll have some audio content online very soon, but for the moment the main presentations from the fist day are below. They're presented in Daraja's working language of Kiswanglish.

5 Nov 2010

Reflections on a year of blogging: What's it doing for Daraja?

It's now exactly 12 months since this blog was launched, followed a little later by a facebook page and twitter profile for Daraja. At the time, we did not have a very clear idea of what it was for, just a hunch that it was an idea with some potential and a belief that the best way to explore new territory is to get out there and wander around for a bit. This is exactly what we've done.

And we hope it's proved as interesting to you as it has to us. Our ideas on what social media can offer Daraja have developed somewhat, as a number of posts over the past year have documented. (See some highlights here.)

One year in, it's now time to take stock of where we are. What have we learned, what's working, what's not, where's the real potential, and how can we capitalise on it?

2 Nov 2010

More pictures of #uchaguzitz from around Njombe

Some more pictures from Njombe.

First up, we have some more flags. This time they are in Makambako town centre, having to compete with a Jacaranda tree in full flower that was bare when the flags were put up.

1 Nov 2010

Some images of #uchaguzitz

We don't post very many pictures on this blog, but several images struck me in the past few days of election fever that I felt we should share.

First, if flags could vote ... . There were over 30 CCM and CHADEMA flags on display in Njombe bus stand this week, with a clear majority in favour of Chadema. Some brave and/or stupid CCM supporter tried to remove some of the CHADEMA flags, but as there's little doubt who the majority of piga-debes at the stand were supporting they got chased off pretty quick.

28 Oct 2010

Monitoring rural water supplies - a job for experts or for citizens?

My attention was drawn yesterday (thanks to Rakesh Rajani of Twaweza) to FLOW, a recently-launched mobile phone app that can be used to monitor the functionality of rural water points. It was reported on recently by CNN. This tool, with the full name Field Level Operations Watch (hence FLOW), is the work of the US-based organisation Water for People. They describe it as
"a dynamic new ... baseline and monitoring tool that allows us to get a clear view of what’s working, what’s on the verge of disrepair, and what’s broken. Not only will Water For People use the data to make better programming decisions, but governments, partners, donors and the public can also easily monitor projects and take action when necessary. Plus, the data is easy to gather, share and understand allowing us to build better solutions for a lasting impact."

26 Oct 2010

Water (not) in the news: more evidence of water supply being sidelined in #uchaguzitz

(Click on the image to see a larger version)
How much coverage does water supply get in national newspapers? Answer, not much. In the past year since Daraja has been monitoring the press, there was a peak of stories around Maji Week and World Water Day in March, but otherwise not much. And in the election campaign period, the number of stories has been even lower than usual, presumably since space is taken up with other campaign issues.

24 Oct 2010

Good things come in small packages. This blog is now mobile friendly

It seems likely that growth in internet access in Tanzania will be driven by mobile phones. Mobiles are enabling people in developing countries not just to leapfrog landlines, but also to leapfrog the laptop. I haven't come across any up to date, Tanzania-specific data that backs this up, but it seems a reasonably safe prediction.

Part of the reason for Daraja being active on twitter, facebook and with this blog is to explore the potential of social media as a way of promoting good governance in Tanzania. So in this spirit of exploration, we've made this blog mobile-friendly.

21 Oct 2010

Be part of a national election monitoring exercise for #UchaguziTZ

Ushahidi comes to Tanzania! It comes in the form of uchaguzi.or.tz, implemented by TACCEO, a group of 16 Tanzanian civil society organizations that have partnered for election monitoring, with assistance from Hivos.

Uchaguzi.or.tz allows anyone  with a mobile phone to report on the election as it happens, wherever they are. This means that candidates and polling stations can no longer breaks the rules knowing that they are out of the view of formal election observers and the traditional media. Any citizen who sees something happening that shouldn't be happening can send an anonymous report that will be posted as text and highlighted on a map on the uchaguzi.or.tz site.

So what can you do as a citizen? How can you become part of a national election monitoring exercise?

19 Oct 2010

Water supply is missing in #uchaguzitz 2010. More evidence.

Just a little more evidence in support of the case made previously that water supply is largely absent at national level from the general election campaign. In this case, the chart shows the breakdown of issues focussed on in media election reporting during September, as monitored by Synovate's Tanzania 2010 Election Monitoring Project. Water supply doesn't even get a mention.

15 Oct 2010

Water supply in #Tanzania is political not technical, so where's the politics? #uchaguzitz

The challenge of making clean and safe water accessible in rural Tanzania is political rather than technical or administrative. As this blog has discussed a couple of times in the past (see here and here), deciding where new water supply infrastructure should be built as well as keeping that infrastructure functioning are political challenges. We'll take this argument further in this post, in the context of Tanzania's current general election campaign, but let's begin with a brief recap of why water supply is a political issue.

5 Oct 2010

Media and civil society in #Tanzania - too close for comfort?

A debate has been rumbling recently in the blogosphere about whether the relationship between civil society and the media is becoming closer than should really be the case. As the director of an NGO that could be reasonably accurately described as a media organisation, how could I possibly hold back from engaging in such a debate!

The post that drew this discussion most particularly to my attention was from Pernille Baerentsen’s After Africa blog, asking the question: How much should international NGOs push the media to provide a certain kind of news? (Some other key links are listed below.) Pernille uses Twaweza’s DaladalaTV project as an example, a project that promotes public debate in the back of a commuter bus-turned-TV studio. Though she likes the programme, she complains that HIVOS, the Dutch NGO behind Twaweza, makes unlikely claims about the agenda being set by Tanzanian citizens.It is certainly the case that many NGOs (whether international or national – and most national NGOs are anyway largely dependent on foreign funds) have sometimes found attracting media coverage for their research and advocacy work to be challenging, and have shifted towards engaging the media directly in various kinds of partnerships. Whoever pays the piper picks the tune, as they say, so the content of such programmes is undoubtedly determined by the NGOs. Is that an infringement on the editorial independence of the media?

2 Oct 2010

Cards up in the air: Digital media as a disruptive technology in #Tanzania

The destruction brought by digital media to traditional media in the global north has been fascinating to watch, but pretty terrifying for people whose jobs and business models are at risk. The internet, blogs, social networks, and even mobile phones have all contributed to declining newspaper sales and advertising revenues, and to the closure of hundreds of newspapers.

In Tanzania the paper with the largest circulation is said to sell around 40,000 copies a day. Most of the papers are highly dependent on advertising, with the only possible exceptions being those who put political interests before commercial profitability. Meanwhile internet access continues to grow rapidly, driven by mobile phones. With mobile phones, developing countries have already leapfrogged fixed line networks, but they are now also leapfrogging laptops.

1 Oct 2010

A car crash in slow motion? The Joint Water Sector Review, 2010 #Tanzania

The past two days have seen Tanzania's fourth annual Joint Water Sector Review, the biggest annual discussion and consultation event in the water sector. In the past it has not been a perfect event by any means, but it has provided some valuable space for useful discussions on the direction of progress in the sector. In particular, it has proved the best opportunity for civil society to contribute ideas.

But this year has been disappointingly different.

29 Sep 2010

Water and the daily war of life

This is the English translation of Maji na vita ya kupigania maisha, published in Mwananchi newspaper on September 28th, and posted here yesterday.

Siwema faces a daily challenge to access clean and safe water. She lives in the village of Godegode in Mpwapwa district, but the nearest clean source of water is over 5km away in the neighbouring village. Each day she has a choice. She can either walk all that way, spending over two hours on the simple task of collecting water. Or she can collect water from a hole dug by hand in the dry riverbed, which is horribly dirty. There is a borehole in the village, but it broke down a few years ago and was never fixed.

28 Sep 2010

Maji na vita ya kupigania maisha

This op-ed article was originally published today in the HakiElimu Kauli Mbadala spot in Mwananchi newspaper, Tuesday 28 September.

Maji na vita ya kupigania maisha

Siwema anakabiliwa na changamoto ya upatikanaji wa maji kila siku. Anaishi kijiji cha Godegode wilayani Mpwapwa ambapo sehemu ya karibu anayoweza kupata maji safi na salama ni kijiji cha jirani kilichopo umbali wa zaidi ya kilometa tano. Kila siku Siwema ana chaguo, aidha atembee umbali mrefu kwa zaidi ya masaa mawili kwa ajili ya kupata maji safi na salama au akachote maji kwenye dimbwi lililopo kwenye mto uliokauka ambapo maji ni machafu na tayari yananuka. Kijiji cha Godegode kiliwahi kuwa na kisima kirefu cha maji lakini kiliharibika miaka michache iliyopita na hakijafanyiwa matengenezo.

23 Sep 2010

Quality versus quantity: The old education debate comes round again

This week saw two announcements relating to education in Tanzania that at first appear to conflict. First, on Monday, it was announced in New York that Tanzania has been awarded a prize for its achievements towards the Millennium Development Goal for education. And then on Tuesday, Uwezo launched a report on educational standards that found, for example, that one in five primary school leavers cannot read at standard 2 level Kiswahili.

Of course there is no real contradiction. Tanzania has put huge efforts and resources into expanding access to both primary and secondary education, with some pretty impressive results (as Uwezo acknowledges), as long as the results you are talking about are increases in enrolment rates. If you’re talking about exam results, or the even just the ability to read, write and add up, then the results are much less impressive, which is what the Uwezo report highlights. In other words, Tanzania has done very well in terms of increasing the quantity of education, but not very well at improving the quality. The MDGs focus only on quantity.

Quantity versus quality is not a new debate in the education sector, but rather an old one. Go back 40-50 years and you’ll find that Tanzania prioritised expanding access to the education sector under Nyerere, who put a lot of effort into Universal Primary Education (UPE) while Kenya focussed more efforts on increasing the quality of education. The downside of Tanzania’s approach is reflected in the unofficial rechristening of UPE as Ualimu Pasipo na Elimu (teaching without education). On the other hand, ensuring that every child has at least a basic level of education is a noble aim.

But the real question the Uwezo report raises is not whether it is better to aim for quantity or quality, but whether Tanzanian school children are receiving even a basic level of education. For too many children this appears not to be the case.

- - - - -
Disclaimer: One of Uwezo's main partners is Twaweza, Daraja's biggest donor.

3 Sep 2010

Cutting the ribbon on Kwanza Jamii Njombe

Kwanza Jamii Njombe has hit the streets of Njombe. As I write, it is on its way (on the buses) out to the rural villages, and is being read all over the town and district. This is a proud moment for Daraja, the culmination of almost three years of gradual preparatory work, and two months of intense activity since the paper's production team started work in July. The full paper is available as a low resolution pdf here (4.24MB).

1 Sep 2010

Editorial/Tahariri: Kuweka Jamii Kwanza Hapa Njombe

Friends and followers of Daraja on Facebook and on Twitter, as well as those here in Njombe, will know that we launched our Kwanza Jamii Njombe local newspaper this week. A report on the launch, together with pictures of Mrisho Mpoto and others will be available here soon. In the meantime, as we unfortunately don't have the website for the paper up and running yet, we felt it was right to share a few articles from the first issue of the paper here on this blog. We will therefore be posting some of the best articles and features over the next few days and weeks, starting here with the first editorial.

(Apologies to readers who prefer things in English, but we also have many readers who are more comfortable in Swahili. And we will continue to post here in English as well.)

Kuweka jamii kwanza hapa Njombe

Mwitikio wa watu umekuwa mkubwa tangu pale tulipowapa wazo letu la kuanzisha gazeti la kijamii hapa Njombe. Asilimia kubwa wamefurahishwa na wazo letu, huku wakitarajia kuliona lina nini ndani yake.

18 Aug 2010

Designing the paper, a plug for New Horizons

The last couple of weeks at Daraja have seen a team of editors and journalists hard at work preparing for the first issue of the Kwanza Jamii newspaper. We're doing all the design work ourselves, and so we enlisted the help of Edward Takesh from New Horizons Computer Learning Centre in Dar es Salaam to do some in-house training for the relevant staff up here in Njombe. The transformation has been remarkable, and more importantly, the end product is coming together and looking great.

Our thanks go to Edward and New Horizons for doing such a great job. The lucky staff who got to participate (I'm jealous) had nothing but praise for Edward's ability both as a user and as a trainer of the various software packages we're using, as well as for his attitude and helpfulness.

So if anyone's looking for training on Adobe Creative Suite software in Tanzania, these guys are highly recommended. And they do a whole lot more besides.

13 Aug 2010

Short term research position for student of journalism or history in Dar es Salaam

We're looking for a student of journalism or history to do some research work for Daraja in Dar es Salaam in September and and October. Anyone interested, please go to this page on our website.

11 Aug 2010

Water supply in #Tanzania is political not technical II: local government reactions to Maji Matone

Daraja's Maji Matone programme includes an innovative approach to solving rural water supply problems - creating a mechanism for rural citizens to SMS messages to inform their district water engineer of a breakdown or other problem, so that the water department can help solve the problem quickly. We also work with local media to follow up on what actions the water departments have taken.

While preparing our annual report last week (will be available online soon), we came across an analysis written by us a few months back of the initial responses of district water departments to this apprach. It provides an interesting window on the attitudes of local government, so we decided to include it in our annual report, and also to share it here. In order to protect our working relations with the officials in question, their names and the names of the districts have not been included here.

2 Aug 2010

Getting the news out

The biggest challenge facing our local newspaper programme, for the moment at least, is a logistical one. For the paper to meet its objectives, it must be available right out into the more remote parts of the district. But how do we get it there?

This isn't an unexpected challenge, and we would not have decided on using print media if we didn't feel a solution could be found. But with the first issue of the paper due to be published later this month, working out that solution has recently been a priority.

28 Jul 2010

What does the East African Bribery Index say about #Tanzania?

Who do Tanzanians have to bribe before they get a service? Which institutions demand the most bribes? What actions to citizens take if asked for a bribe? And do citizens think corruption is increasing or declining?

Last week the Kenyan chapter of Transparency International published the East African Bribery Index, to provide answers to these questions and promote debate on corruption within the region. They've certainly succeeded in the second part of this, getting a fair bit of coverage in the press and drawing responses from the heads of several of the institutions found to be most corrupt, including the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Blandina Nyoni.

30 Jun 2010

A leader becomes a follower! @Kikwete2010

The President follows Daraja!

Along with 94 other Twitter users, almost all Tanzanian, Daraja received an email earlier this week saying "Pres Jakaya Kikwete (Kikwete2010) is now following your tweets on Twitter. His campaign team have also started a blog.

It's created several reactions in Tanzania's growing blogosphere, including The Mikocheni Report, Faustine's Baraza and Subi Nukta on Wavuti.com. Mostly this is people simply noting the change rather than commenting on it, but there has been some more interesting reaction on Twitter and in the comments on the posts linked above. Search for @kikwete2010 on twitter.com for the latest thoughts, but here's a sample as well:
  • From @Sajjo: @kikwete2010 swahiba karibu, natumaini una lolote la kuleta jamvini // Asante, tutahabarishana!
  • From @robertalai: @Kikwete2010 great you have realised the power of social media. website not well socialised. Newsletter wapi?
  • From @DruYork: Now that @Kikwete2010 is following me, I feel like I should be making more politically correct tweets. Not that I don't already
  • From @AkbarTM183 I dont think @Kikwete2010 Twitter page is really by the president!! // its by campaign communication team
It is indeed (of course) the Campaign Communication Team that manage this account, rather than either Ikulu or the president himself, but it is an interesting development. @Kikwete2010 describes this as follows:
"we are a social media comm team reporting to the CCM campaign leadership, not Ikulu"
"Slowly making a presence here. Lots to learn but we are determined to engage and inform!"
"There is a growing realization of the power of social media, so hopefully we will see deeper engagement from Ikulu as well."
The signs are that this will make use of the interactive nature of twitter as well as creating a new channel for the campaign team to get its message out - several tweets have replied to questions or suggestions from other twitterers. It's hard to keep that up, but maybe that's the intention.

But why this new approach? The Mikocheni Report suggests this is a way of reaching the middle classes with their blackberries, and another commenter suggested it was simply keeping up with Obama's fashions. But given how the Tanzanian media is rapidly becoming established on twitter, facebook, etc., perhaps its intended as a way of reaching that influential group of opinion formers? And CHADEMA has long had a large presence in social media, most particularly through Zitto Kabwe on facebook, but also @chadematz on twitter.

21 Jun 2010

Njoluma Region - some initial reactions

It was announced late last week that a new region, Njoluma (or perhaps just Njombe) is to be formed here shortly. If I have understood the changes correctly, what is currently Njombe town, Njombe district, Ludewa and Makete will no longer be part of Iringa region and will become Njoluma region, and two districts, Nyasa and Wanging'ombe formed within the new region as well. The map on the right here shows what the new region and districts might look like. This is something people in Njombe have been campaigning for for a long time - I started to work here in 2002 and the idea was already being pushed - but it seems it is now about to happen.

Since the change became public last week (it was already known about locally), I've been asking lots of people what changes they think will come about as a result. Is it, overall, a positive or negative move?

8 Jun 2010

Placards to powerpoint? What are the incentives for and against citizens' agency in #Tanzania?

Geir Sundet of DFID's Accountability in Tanzania (AcT) programme made a presentation last week in which he argued that there was a trend of civil society in Tanzania becoming bureaucratised. In his words, "civic engagement moved from demonstrations to conference tables" and "from placards to powerpoint presentations".

He told a story to demonstrate his point, which I will paraphrase here:
An informal group of people with a shared interest forms to address a particular problem they face, a positive example of citizens taking action. But then someone in the group raises the point that there are donors that might be willing to give some money to a group like theirs, and the whole focus of their group shifts away from the original issue and towards chasing money. Gradually the group starts employing professional people who can write good proposals and account for any funds the group receives, and the activities the group engages in shift from informal and dynamic community mobilisation and lobbying to rigid and structured projects that suits donors but doesn't work so well in practice.
I can't argue with the suggestion that civil society in Tanzania is indeed too bureaucratised, too projectised, and perhaps even too civil (though I would prefer not to go that far). Nor do I dispute the related points that accountability is political not technical - I have previously argued that even service delivery work is more political than is usually acknowledged. And I would agree that working with the formal side of the policy-making process has rarely been effective for civil society in Tanzania - NGOs' engagement effectively becomes much like donor agencies, with marginally more legitimacy but without the technical capacity and without the influence gained by holding the purse strings. My experience with that kind of work is that most of what you do achieve (not much) is brought about by convincing a donor representative to make your argument for you, which is hardly the kind of accountability we're looking for.

But the point I dispute here is the idea that somehow civil society has shifted away from more activist methods - from "placards to powerpoint" - initially for the simple reason that I have seen very little evidence of the placards existing in the first place. When Dar es Salaam's water supply utility was privatised, the only placards to be seen were at a demonstration that took place within an NGO's office compound. Similar privatisations in other countries that attracted huge protests. The recent World Economic Forum event in Dar es Salaam saw protests, but these were led by South African activists and pretty much ignored by Tanzanians. And here at Daraja we recently conducted a survey of attitudes towards local governance (report expected shortly) in which 80% of respondents said that they would never attend a demonstration or protest march. In short, Tanzania doesn't have a culture of public protest, and I think this needs a little more analysis.

Geir did make the point that bureaucratised civil society organisations close down space that more demand-focussed citizens' groups cannot then fill. And perhaps this is the more accurate analysis - that civil society has become co-opted into the formal policy-making arena, therefore effectively preventing more genuine citizens groups from emerging. I'm just not sure that local groups would fill this space even if was available to them.

Let's not forget that the incentives for individual citizens taking action against, for example, local petty corruption, are pretty strongly against such action. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," but where is that person? Anyone who profits in any way from bending the rules (whose brother used a faked form four leaving certificate to gain entry to teacher training, or who bribed a public official to speed up the process of getting a business license or birth certificate, for example) is likely to be unwilling to publicly criticise powerful others. And even if a "clean" person stands up and makes their voice heard they are taking a risk, since the perpetrators of petty corruption are usually also those with the power to make that citizen's life difficult.

Of course, this challenge does not undermine the bigger point, that civil society would have more impact if it moved away from trying to influence change through formal consultational channels and focussed more on finding safe and effective ways for citizens to make their voice heard through the political process.

But it does mean that trying to promote citizens' agency is a bigger challenge than reorganising donor funding to change civil society's incentives. If donor funding for NGOs working on accountability was taken away, for example, this wouldn't necessarily encourage more local groups to take more local actions. It might lead to very little. Instead, it requires finding new ways of creating channels for citizens to make their voice heard without putting themselves and their livelihoods at risk.

What are the incentives for and against citizens' agency? And what can we do to change them?

2 Jun 2010

NGO planning, ki-Mourinho

"Does Mourinho plan out 90 minutes of tackles, passes and shots in a logframe? Of course not, so why do NGOs?"
Rakesh Rajani of Twaweza posed this question last week, making a case for more flexibility and responsiveness in NGO strategy, particularly where NGOs are working in the ever-changing world of public accountability.

Duncan Green used his From Poverty to Power blog to highlight a similar point from a recent academic paper by Rosalind Eyben:

"At their best, aid workers surf the unpredictable realities of national politics, spotting opportunities, supporting interesting new initiatives, acting like entrepreneurs or searchers, rather than planners. But when they report back to their bosses, out come the logframes and strategic plans".
Duncan and Rosalind go on to suggest that this contrast between messy realities and tidy presentation is maintained by a fear that a more honest picture given to donors and donor country taxpayers would result in reduced willingness to hand over the money.

The key point for both is that the environment is so dynamic that only a flexible and responsive approach - "entrepreneurial" in Duncan's case and perhaps Ronaldinho-like in Rakesh's - can succeed.

Both make a powerful case, but it is Rakesh's footballing metaphor that I want to focus on here, to see how far it can be taken. Rakesh himself went one small step further, noting that what was important in a football match was the very clear goal - literally goals - and arguing that NGOs should also raise their eyes to a higher level, focussing on goals rather than getting bogged down in the detail of activities. But I think the metaphor can be taken even further. I hope it's clear enough without me joining up all the dots, and please forgive me if some of this becomes rather stretched!

Let's start with human resources. A football team is made up of 11 players, each bringing a different set of skills. Some have more fixed, disciplined roles - the defenders and most particularly the goalkeeper - while others are expected to be more flexible and creative. Isn't that much the same in an NGO team? Some staff - such as accountants and M+E staff - have more disciplined roles. Perhaps the goalkeeper would be the head of finance? Others are expected to be more creative - the frontline programme staff - who in my experience are the staff that complain most about rigid planning formats.

Players know their position, but this makes up a loose form rather than a rigid structure.

If you have too many creative players, you end up with a team that may be exciting to watch but is likely to give away a lot of goals. Balance is important.

There's a captain on the field, whose role is more about motivation and leadership than creating a decision making hierarchy.

And take strategy. Rakesh is right that football teams focus on the goal, but I think this can be taken further too. Teams rarely go into a match without some kind of plan - to defend deep, to go all-out on the attack, to play with patience and wait for opportunities to arise, etc. They would also usually have back-up plans already in mind - what happens if they concede a goal, or if the opposition is marking their best player very closely? And they would probably also have some set-piece plans, specific corner and free-kick routines, ready for when the opportunity arises.

Preparation is not about detailed planning but about making sure that the team has a wide range of options - skills, tactics, specific routines - at their disposal, ready to use when needed.

A few years ago I made myself unpopular in a team planning meeting when I argued against a colleague that planning was more an art than a science. But perhaps we were both wrong: it's really a sport?

31 May 2010

What right do I have? Expatriates working in good governance in #Tanzania

Daraja is a Tanzanian organisation, with a 100% Tanzanian board of directors*, but we have some non-Tanzanian staff. And we work in accountability, a field which seems more closely related to politics than would be the case if we were delivering health, education or water supply services. Several times we have been asked what right we expatriate staff members have to be doing this. I also came across a recent blog post by Owen Barder, answering a related question about his unwillingness to blog about Ethiopian politics.

29 May 2010

A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations: brief thoughts on a week in Dar

One of the challenges of basing an ambitious and innovative organisation like Daraja in Njombe is the risk of becoming disconnected from networks and discussions that take place during the coffee breaks of important meetings. I personally am very glad to be able to avoid attending so many meetings that take up so much time and often achieve very little, but sometimes there is little alternative to face-to-face contact as a way of getting things done.

So having spent most of the last week in Dar es Salaam, a week packed with meetings, presentations and a "learning cafe" (not entirely sure that this was anything other than a workshop for people who officially disapprove of workshops), what's been learned from the opportunity?

22 May 2010

Getting the best out of people: performance incentives for NGOs in #Tanzania

I've been working for NGOs in Tanzania for long enough to know that staff aren't always as hard working and motivated as their bosses (and donors) would like. Many NGO staff get powerful motivation from the work they are doing for the benefit of others, but that's not true of everyone. And even the most dedicated staff have ups and downs, not always working to their full potential.

16 May 2010

Lessons for job seekers in #Tanzania

We've just completed three days of recruitment, looking mainly for staff to deliver our forthcoming local newspaper. A tiring week, but - fingers crossed - one that has produced results. As before, we went for an innovative approach, putting the applicants in two groups and challenging them to produce a four page local newspaper in two days. As you would expect, the finished product was not as neat and tidy as a professionally produced paper, but for teams that had only just met each other, it was a pretty good effort.

I can't say anything about particular applicants, since we haven't yet made our final decisions about job offers, but I can make a few general comments that might well be useful to young job seekers in Tanzania. Some of it may seem obvious, but apparently not to everyone!

11 May 2010

The secret to good research in #Tanzania? KISS and tell!

No, I am not making a point about building rapport with interviewees. (That would be taking things much too far.) But there is a useful lesson to be learnt from some fascinating recent research by the Centre for Economic Prosperity in Tanzania. They conducted a very simple study of lorry drivers on three routes between Dar es Salaam and the regions, collecting data on how many times they stopped, for what reason, and whether they had to pay any bribes.

The results are interesting. For example, 90% of times a truck is stopped by the police, a bribe is paid. And the average bribe is 1,272 shillings, resulting in a total "bribe-price" of 6,000-8,000 shillings per trip.

But my point is more about the research methods than about their findings.

3 May 2010

#Fuatilia! Social media as a tool to monitoring #Tanzania's Constituency Development Catalyst Fund.

Facebook has over 100,000 users in Tanzania, up nearly 25% in just the last 6 months. It might be less than 1% of the population, but it is around 20% of all internet users in Tanzania and it still makes Tanzania one of the fastest growing countries in terms of facebook. I've noticed several Tanzania-specific adverts on facebook recently, evidence that the private sector thinks facebook has now reached critical mass in Tanzania.

And while employers everywhere complain about staff "wasting time" on facebook and other social networking sites, it has a potentially very positive side as well. Just as Daraja is exploring how social networks can be used as a tool for increasing public accountability, so facebook was today suggested as a platform for citizen monitoring  of Tanzania's controversial and recently established Constituency Development Catalyst Fund (CDCF). Where was this suggestion made? On facebook, of course. It was made in response to a post by Zitto Kabwe, who must surely be the Tanzanian with the most "friends" on facebook - almost 5,000.

Mvumilivu hula mbovu! If you don't ask then you don't get.

A new cartoon, still sticky with wet paint. More to come shortly.    

 - wake him up and ask him why he's forgotten about water services.
 - even you have a mouth, you ask him.
 - if you're also scared, let's leave him to sleep.

27 Apr 2010

Only successful applicants will be notified!

This is a very familiar phrase among job and scholarship applicants. Usually, employers include such a statement or something alike when they advertise for vacancies. Principally, job applicants are expected to consider themselves unsuccessful in case they don't receive notification within a set time. The rationale being a large number of applicants going far beyond the capacity (in terms of time and other resources) of the recruiting organisations to notify all applicants. For the example, Daraja received 600 applications for only eight vacancies during its recruitment process last year.

22 Apr 2010

Local Authority "Indiscretions" in #Tanzania

The Citizen has an article today reporting on the audit report on Local Government Authorities (pdf) for the year ending June 2009. It includes some pretty strong and challenging conclusions, including the following:
“It has come to our attention that many councils are preparing project implementation reports which are not based on the actual status of the concerned projects"
According to the article, Dr Slaa of CHADEMA, in his role as Local Authorities Accounts Committee (LAAC)  chair, reported to parliament that in certain cases projects were not implemented at all. In other words, prejects are being reported and funds reported as spent, when nothing has actually happened on the ground. Where has the money gone?

20 Apr 2010

93% believe in #Witchcraft in #Tanzania

An incredible 93% of Tanzanians believe in witchcraft, compared to only 27% in Kenya, 29% in Uganda and 37% in Nigeria. That’s according to a recent survey on religious belief in sub-Saharan Africa by the Pew Research Centre. Out of 19 countries surveyed, Tanzania has by far the highest belief in witchcraft, with only Cameroon (78%) coming close.

23 Mar 2010

Why is Daraja blogging, tweeting, on facebook?


Starting a new organisation is a challenging process involving long hours of work and pressured decision making. So why have we chosen to add to our workload and pressure by setting up a blog and a presence on facebook and twitter? And is it worth the effort involved?

There are several reasons for doing this. First, as an organisation based in Njombe, a full day's travel from Dar es Salaam, we're a little disconnected from the rest of the civil society and related community that is concentrated in Dar. That's a good thing in many ways - bringing us closer to the community and local government, less unnecessary meetings, much lower costs, less time stuck in traffic - but it can also mean that we're out of the loop, not able to network with other organisations and individuals.

18 Mar 2010

Water Supply Challenges in #Tanzania are Political not Technical


This week is Maji Week, an annual opportunity to focus wider attention on the water sector. It includes an exhibition of related organisations, this year in Kibaha, and the media typically use the opportunity to persuade many of these organisations to pay for articles and advertisements in special supplements.

But just a quick look at the exhibition stands reveal that the sector is still failing to recognise that delivering safe and clean water to people is a political issue at least as much as it is technical. On display are a range of drilling, pumping and purifying technologies, while hardly anybody is talking about the role of governance, politics and management.

16 Mar 2010

Why hide the #Tanzania budget numbers that matter?

Just a quick note that this interesting article in the Citizen raises a good question about the budget guidelines:

The purpose of Budget Guidelines is to help ministries prepare their budgets by telling them how much money they have available. So of the guidelines don't include this information, the ministries must have been told in some other way. Last year they got a letter, which the donors had no problem getting a copy of while the media and civil society struggled.

Transparency matters, but it's about more than making some documents and numbers public. The format also matters a lot.

Is there any good reason not to put the ministries' ceilings in the published guidelines? It looks like they're being hidden, but why? Maybe there is a better explanation. Any ideas?


12 Mar 2010

Local media in rural #Tanzania: print or radio?


I was asked yesterday, as I have been many times, why Daraja is trying to develop a local newspaper rather than a radio station. The idea of supporting local media in order to make local government more responsive is easy to grasp, but people are often surprised that we're talking print rather than radio.

It's easy to understand their surprise, since radio would be the more obvious answer. You don't have the same problem reaching more remote areas, you don't have to worry about literacy and radio is a more immediately interactive platform. So why did we decide otherwise and aim to establish a newspaper?

9 Mar 2010

#Wanademokrasia - The #Democracy Club in #Tanzania? (@democlub)


I recently came across a very interesting project in the UK - the Democracy Club - a country that, like Tanzania, has an election coming up this year. The aim is to make the election "the most accountable and informed election ever," by mobilising a movement of volunteers in every constituency to take very simple steps to report on local campaigns and local issues. This got me thinking about whether something similar could be done in Tanzania - call it "Wanademokrasia."

7 Mar 2010

An Underwhelming (SMS) Uprising

The potential of mobile phones as a means of mobilising citizens seems to be the topic of the moment. As so often happens in the development world, a new idea is attracting a lot of interest, praise and funds. But is this attention justified by the evidence - have the early efforts to use mobile phones delivered?

A recent book, SMS Uprising, (published by Fahamu Books and Pambazuka Press with support from Hivos), documents several such programmes from different parts of Africa. The book describes itself as taking a "try this in your campaign" approach, encouraging others to adopt the same tools. So they must be confident in what they're promoting.

1 Mar 2010

Maji Matone - A sneak preview


Here's a sneak preview of the provisional programme branding for Raising the Water Pressure.

26 Feb 2010

Preliminary Findings from Local Governance Attitude Survey

Thought I would quickly share a few early findings from the local governance attitude survey that we're involved with.

Of 1000 randomly selected citizens in Njombe Town, Njombe District, Ludewa and Makete:
  • 39% felt that the main role of a councillor was to bring development to their ward, compared to only 3% who felt their main role was to scrutinise the plans and performance of the district government.
  • 25% felt that their MP does not consider their interests at all, compared to only 12% who felt the same about their councillor.

17 Feb 2010

Stronger opposition improves management?


A question often asked in Tanzania is whether multi-party democratic government can be effective while opposition parties remain weak. There's no doubt that opposition parties are stronger now than a few years previously, but will this lead to improvements in government performance? And if so, where does this leave local councils, many of which don't have even one elected councillor representing opposition parties and where many seats are not even contested by more than one party?

11 Feb 2010

Does budget support encourage corruption?

I'm taking part in an online course on corruption, (run by the u4 anti-corruption resource centre, invited by DFID), which has thrown up some interesting questions about the links between corruption and donor aid. The traditional view is that all types of aid carry corruption risks, but that general budget support - where donors provide money to national government, which then decides how it is allocated - can lead to more corruption than project funding - where donors are more closely involved in planning and implementation of specific projects. There is certainly some justification for this view - look at how many big corruption scandals have there been in the last 6-7 years in Tanzania, since budget support was introduced, for example - but I don't think it is as simple as that.

8 Feb 2010

Three weeks with new staff

It's now three weeks week since our biggest group of new staff joined us, and it seems like a good time to reflect on progress and challenges up to this point. We're still a pretty small organisation, with just 8 professional staff, but that means we're more than double the size we were at the end of last year.

3 Feb 2010

Mobile phones as a survey tool

We're in the middle of a questionnaire survey at the moment, asking 1000 residents of Njombe, Ludewa and Makete about their attitudes towards local government. I'll write more about the survey theme once we get some preliminary findings, but for the moment, let me explain our use of mobile phones as a survey tool - which makes this survey unusual, innovative and possible even unique in Tanzania.