Twaweza Research & Evaluation Advisory Group at work

As we said here, one of the core components of Twaweza, along with the data and implementing units, is our organizational commitment to research, evaluation, and learning. This is manifested throughout the organization and implemented by various units, and consists of evaluating our own initiatives as well as engaging in and supporting innovative research relevant to the East African context and able to contribute to global knowledge. The Learning, Monitoring and Evaluation unit is tasked with overall guidance and oversight of this portfolio. 

Twaweza selected a group of researchers to join us in shaping our rich mix of design, implementation, evaluation, and research by becoming members of the Research and Evaluation Advisory Group.

The first Twaweza Research & Evaluation Advisory Group meeting was held in June 2017. The conversation focused on three main areas:

1. Twaweza’s overall approach to evaluation & research

  • Slow wins can turn out to be the most valuable in the long run. Twaweza presents itself as an organization with a coherent agenda, and an honest assessment of its strengths and successes. It is addressing challenging areas and development problems in which “solutions” and “impact” may be slow to register. So while it’s commendable to focus, we should be careful to not drop problem areas simply because it is difficult to show progress in the short term, as they may also be the most significant ones in the long term.   
  • Use best available methods but remain honest and critical when telling the story of our impact at national level. This is particularly in relation to national policy dialogue, policy formulation, and implementation, where there are many co-existing influences and actors, often pulling in different directions. Impact at this level is difficult to study, and the methods available tend to present arguments, not evidence. Nevertheless, we ought to construct the best argument we can, using political economy analysis, Outcome Mapping, and other relevant tools to understand the context and the actors in which we operate, and to trace our own trajectory and contribution to change.

2. On pivoting Uwezo: breadth of information, collective action, citizen agency

  • It is relevant and strategic to shift Uwezo from focusing primarily on learning (education) outcomes to covering a range of outcomes relevant for development (across sectors – including water, health, as well as governance) and linked to the SDGs. It connects well with wider, global efforts to measure progress against development goals in a range of outcomes at the local, not only nationally aggregated, level. We were also advised, however, to be cognizant of the myriad of other efforts at measuring and tracking the SDGs, and to be clear how Uwezo adds value to this crowded field.
  • It’s critical and commendable that Twaweza builds upon lessons learned around Uwezo and where it has and has not had an impact to date. Within this, the second shift in re-aligning the theory of change from an individualized information-sharing approach to community-based information sharing and call for collective action is compelling and speaks to broader interests in understanding how to galvanize collective action for governance. However, Twaweza ought to build on available international research in this area and be cognizant that galvanizing collective action is a long process, and returns are likely to be in long-term as well.  
  • Within this, Twaweza will need to balance two seemingly competing – though in fact complementary – approaches: being directive and specific, while also being open and exploratory.

3. On Sauti za Wananchi, and influencing public and policy dialogue

  • Twaweza is facing the general political market problem – the issues we are interested in promoting don’t generate many votes in comparison to other, more visible issues. The information we focus on may have little political value to those we want to engage, and yet to make a difference information needs to be used by the most influential actors. It is therefore essential for Twaweza to employ political economy analysis tools to understand the “value chain” of why individuals, particularly in government and policy positions, do or do not act, and where are the incentives and pressure points which might nudge them towards action.
  • Moreover, disaggregating and specifying “policymakers” is essential; we need to identify specific stakeholders and understand what motivates them in particular. The use of tools such as Outcome Mapping is essential in this while remembering that this kind of change is “a slow-moving train” and tracking change may be challenging. As noted previously, however, Twaweza needs to keep its ambitions high, and should not stop working in these areas – nor stop measuring progress – just because they are complex development areas in which progress may be challenging to track, let alone ascribe.

The discussion was rich, varied and engaging; this note attempts to distill and summarize the main points but does not ascribe authorship to specific ideas.

The second Twaweza Research & Evaluation Advisory Group meeting will be held at the end of 2017, at which point we hope to present concrete updates on research and evaluation efforts underway.




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