What use are models of change? An experiment in Tanzania

Accountability in Tanzania). jane lonsdaleHere’s a blurb from the programme coordinator, the redoubtable Jane Lonsdale (left, apologies for the Oxfamese – she wrote it at the end of a long, it was a hard trip): ‘Chukua Hatua (Take Action) does what it says on the tin. The programme is testing different approaches through a series of pilots to learn which can best act as a catalyst for Tanzanians to claim their rights. These include training a network of ‘farmer animators’ at village level, student councils, and an ‘active musicians’ scheme. Each pilot uses several of the following approaches in the design: 1) using visual and digital communication on issues such as monitoring election promises and land rights; 2) building the capacity of citizens to understand the concepts of rights, entitlements, transparency and accountability, and to seek information, organise and take action; 3) supporting citizen networking and the establishment/ strengthening of spaces for engagement and collective action; 4) researching issues that are a priority for the communities and providing simplified information along with disseminating relevant budgets, policies and laws and providing appropriate monitoring tools; 5) promoting women’s voices and rights, including in decision-making; 6) supporting communities’ initiatives to plan, organise and take action.  Following a year of piloting along with close monitoring of changes in communities and their leaders, the programme will be scaling up the most successful approaches through a combination of promoting natural replication across communities and groups, increasing programme coverage, and advocating for adoption and/ or replication.  The programme is delivered across the Shinyanga region and in Ngorongoro district, and is integrated with Oxfam’s agriculture, pastoralist and education programmes.’ The first step was two days ‘in the field’ (literally and figuratively). More on some of the encounters there in subsequent posts. In what was essentially a two day rolling seminar, we identified three MoC already exemplified by the programme, and a further three that could add new elements to the work. Ready? First the MoCs that best describe the current programme: Evolution: Take Action is a nice example of evolutionary acceleration, built on evolution’s core process of variation-selection-amplification. In the first phase, the programme sets lots of different hares running, from ‘farm animators’ to ‘active musicians’ to primary school student councils. It then selects (or allows natural selection, as projects multiply or die of their own accord). The final phase will be amplification: creating an enabling environment for them, promoting synergies between different initiatives, but otherwise staying out of the way so that new ideas and approaches bubble up from the grassroots. The Four Powers: One model of change holds that disempowered, marginalised people must first feel a sense of ‘power within’ – the unity is strengthlightbulb moment when people realize they have rights, and that those they elect should serve them, rather than vice versa. Then they move to ‘power with’ – coming together around common issues –  before achieving ‘power to’ – asserting their rights, campaigning, mobilizing. Finally comes ‘power over’ officials or companies. Chukua Hatua concentrates on the upstream part – power within and power with, especially among women. What happens next is up to them. Transitions to Accountability: This is based on the work of Jonathan Fox in Mexico (an elected one party state for most of the 20th Century, so some similarities with Tanzania, which has been under one party rule since independence). Fox found that local breakthroughs in accountability arise through the interaction of ‘the thickening of civil society’ and successful reformism by parts of the state e.g. particular ministries, or local officials. These often involve cycles of conflict and resolution. OK, so far that’s just a fancy theory(ies) to describe what is already happening (or at least planned), but three other MoCs we identified actually suggest changes in the programme design. Drivers of Change and importance of alliances: one of the findings of DFID’s ‘drivers of change’ work was that successful change often comes about through alliances of dissimilar actors, e.g. social movements, churches, sympathetic officials and private sector champions. What works best is if they come together around a simple, winnable aim – nothing like an early victory to galvanize people and overcome fear (a real issue in Tanzania). That suggests the relative purism of the programme in seeking to build ‘active citizenship’ needs to move much quicker to exploring alliances – e.g. when we asked them, five out of 40 farm animators turned out to be church leaders (protestant and Moslem), yet the programme had never explored alliances with faith based organizations. The lesson? Start building alliances from the outset – don’t wait til you’ve got a nice big citizens’ movement (and emerging leaders do it anyway – they don’t wait for your permission!) Granularity/local political economy analysis: This is linked to the previous point. Social movements are seldom homogenous masses. On closer inspection they are made up of building blocks of more permanent, stable organizations – churches and mosques, savings groups, village militia, faith healers, cultural groups etc. You need to explore and understand this local granularity both to identify potential allies, and to understand the political economy of change (and resistance to change) at local level. Positive Deviance: the evolutionary process doesn’t fit into distinct periods of variation, selection and amplification. It is constant. So even as you support successful experiments, you need to be constantly watching for new innovations. One way to do that is via positive deviance – studying outliers in terms of project performance or otherwise looking for what was ‘not in the plan’. Conclusion: In order to use MoCs to understand reality (rather than the other way around), you need as big a range of them as possible. Looking for a single grand theory may close down avenues and stop you spotting opportunities (I even found myself urging our staff not to get too hung up on active citizenship….). Instead, you need a toolkit of ideas, which each contribute to understanding what is happening and how to improve things. But overall, I am reassured that I haven’t been wasting my time in the ivory tower – this looks like an approach worth developing. Feel free to agree or disagree below……]]>

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4 Responses to “What use are models of change? An experiment in Tanzania”
  1. Fascinating Duncan, thanks. Nice to see some ivory tower thinking being translated into concrete action (and hopefully vice versa). Just wondered if the programme is doing any comparison between the effects of any of these methodologies – positive and negative. Note deliberately not using impact as I think that would be really tough to prove.
    Duncan: thanks Dominic, they’re using something called ‘outcome mapping’, but are definitely not trying to prove attribution, and are also encouraging interaction between the different pilots, so comparing between methodologies will be a very imprecise affair

  2. pushpanath Krishnamurthy

    Thanks for this-Duncan and friends
    I am both worried and somewhat amused.
    Worried in that in a sceptical way-DIFID and all-I suspect UK and Europeon specilist will now have a new avenue for income as they become specilist in this new choreograph.There is no doubt with all thse categories and words there is no chance in life for an average Tanzanian women ever to understand this complex theory that explains what change that she is undergoing.
    Further my amusement is a product of an experience in Tamil Nadu that came as a flash- overnight a village in Tamil Nadu,South India, converted to the Darvidian party though they swore by Marx for over three decades and no party could break the strangle hold of the left including the new and innovative animation work by the local Ngo.The reason-seemed complex for a while until it was found that the leader of the left party had a an affair with a top lady from the Dravidian party!.Helps to understand theory of change.Does it?
    Now, to be a little more constructive- I am part of a team researching social eneterprise here in Banagalore city,India.
    We have come across many partnerships.We found that a new partnership for delivering emergency care called EMRI-108- very controversial but have produced a model of change that is significant from a public private partnership point of view massive scale and indeed the model is taken to many states and countries too besides to new business ventures in agriculatire scale ups and finance.Interested?the research will be available in a few months-with other examples too.
    Often an oldie like me will say there has been many experience before(Naturally)-of empowerment that is political.Please study the Training for Transformation from Kenya- really worth it.I insist.
    Duncan: Thanks Push, love the Tamil Nadu example. I guess there is a danger of creating a new ‘change industry’, but surely given that it is so central to our understanding of development, we should invest in a bit more analysis and reflection?

  3. On the note of striking a balance between focusing too much on models of change which may seem very far removed for anyone actually involved in the project, and ensuring opportunities for analysis and reflection, maybe participatory monitoring and evaluation could have something to contribute?
    We’re experimenting with this in a slum area of Bamako, Mali, in relation to supporting community groups to organise health initiatives and claim their rights.
    Using PM&E methods, participants are involved in the process of assessing their own status and progress in relation to the broad stages defined in The Four Powers model. The idea is that evaluation can actually be a useful analytical tool for programme participants who are working towards creating social change in their community.
    ‘Measuring Empowerment? Ask Them’ , is one way of doing this