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Bringing ideas and evidence to light

Twaweza East Africa convened an Ideas & Evidence event on 6-7 March 2018 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The event was organized around broad themes in which Twaweza has been implementing and conducting research, weaving together our work in governance as well as education. In each theme, we showcased research generated by us or in collaboration with us, but also invited others to present, comment and discuss.

This event was attended by a mix of international and regional researchers and practitioners in the transparency, accountability and citizen participation field. We had a strong East African presence of researchers and think-tanks, combined with international researchers from, among others, UC Berkeley, University of Gothenburg, and Georgetown University. 

After the event, a number of blog posts were written by the participants and they were published at Duncan Green's From Poverty to Power blog. Here are the highlights from the posts:

1. Bruised but better: the stronger case for evidence-based activism in East Africa

By Varja Lipovsek and Aidan Eyakuze

The speed and depth of the pivot to authoritarianism by governments and to cynicism by citizens are alarming. Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the countries where Twaweza works, have not been immune to these dark developments. Kenya’s constitutional and electoral crisis in 2017, Uganda’s scrapping of age limits for its presidency in the same year, and Tanzania’s steady slide into use of restrictive legislations and the use of deadly force by incumbent leaders and their agents (both official and otherwise) are the tip of the iceberg. Continue reading here.

2. Which Citizens? Which Services? Unpacking Demand for Improved Health, Education, Roads, Water, etc. 

By Ruth Carlitz

Clean water. Paved roads. Quality education. Election campaigns in poor countries typically promise such things, yet the reality on the ground often falls short. So, what do people do? Wait for five years and “throw the bums out” if they fail to deliver? For many people, the stakes are too high, and they may have well-grounded doubts about the ability of democracy to deliver anything other than a new set of bums. It’s worth asking, then, what other actions citizens take to improve their lives. Continue reading here. 

3. Can Evidence-based Activism still bring about change? The view from East Africa

By Duncan Green

There has been a flowering of thinking and practice on institutional reform and governance, but there is a weird disconnect: the ‘Doing Development Differently’ and ‘Thinking and Working Politically’ types working on institutional reform seem barely on speaking terms with organizations like Twaweza and the whole ‘open government’ and transparency movement, even though they are often thinking and acting on parallel tracks. Continue reading here. 

4. Can religion play a role in evidence-obsessed governance strategies? Lessons from Tanzania

By Aikande Kwayu

When it comes to social change, religion is a double-edged sword. It can be both a force for good and/or for bad. The world-wide positive contribution by religious organisations in providing public services such as health and education is undisputed.  The role of religion in areas of human rights, democracy, accountability and governance has been inconsistent. However, that does not reduce the role that religious organisations and leaders have played in demanding and promoting good governance, including defending human rights, democratic ideals, and civic space for citizen participation. Continue reading here.

5. When does Tech → Innovation? Here’s what 178 projects tell us

By Duncan Green

I’m basically a grumpy old technophobe who can’t even manage Excel, and whose hackles rise whenever geewhizz geeks pop up and claim that the latest digital gizmo (blockchain, clicktivism or whatever) is going to usher us all into the Promised Land. I dislike the implicit individualism, the blind eye to issues of power and politics, the way politicians latch onto tech solutions as an apparently cost-free way to sound modern without actually challenging or changing the status quo. So I was delighted when Rosie McGee, a ‘scholar activist’ (her description) from IDS, presented her paper (with Duncan Edwards, Colin Anderson, Hannah Hudson and Francesca Feruglio) on the results of 178 small grants to tech projects funded under the Making All Voices Count accountability programme. Continue reading here. 

6. How can researchers and activists influence African governments? Advice from an insider

By Duncan Green

One of the highlights of the Twaweza meeting was hearing from Togolani Mavura, the Private Secretary to former President Kikwete (in Tanzania, ex-presidents get a staff for life, not like in the UK where they have to hawk themselves round the after-dinner speaking circuit). Togolani has worked across the various policy levels of the Tanzanian government, and his talk reminded me a similarly witty presentation by the UK Foreign Office’s Babu Rahman. Continue reading here.

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