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Immersing ourselves in reality

Every year we close the office and the entire Twaweza team goes off on immersion. Immersions enables staff accustomed to working in the capital cities, in offices with strategies, plans, budgets and indicators, to come face to face with the realities their activities are supposed to address and the people whose lives are supposed to change. Even for those of us who frequently travel to non-urban areas as part of our field and research work, the immersion is a different experience, as it’s not a research exercise. It is a “deep dive” into one particular part of a country, and the main purpose is not to investigate, but to learn, to challenge our assumptions, and get a better sense of our context, particularly about how citizens make things happen – and as a result, to reflect on our own work from different angles.

Our approach involves staff from Twaweza and a partner organization spending three nights and four days with a previously identified host family. We do not administer questionnaires or conduct focus groups, we have conversations, share meals, accompany family members on their chores; we also stay overnight in the houses of the host families. Staff members participate in community living unencumbered by normal professional roles and hierarchies, with no pretense to proffer solutions or help 'bring development'. This type of participation offers a chance to scrutinize our personal and professional assumptions about development and the lives of ordinary citizens: a chance to listen to people’s perspectives and observe the mechanisms people employ to thrive and survive. In our experience so far, families respond with great generosity and curiosity, as interested in our varied lives as we are in theirs. Our internal note with further details is attached below.

This year, we are going to Eastern Uganda, from 24-29 May. Photos and reports will be shared soon.

Read more: immersion learning

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