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July 2, 2012

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July 2, 2012

What difference does accountability make? Six real life examples from Tanzania (and a great job opportunity)

July 2, 2012
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One of my favourite Oxfam projects is Chukua Hatua (CH) in Tanzania, which is using an evolutionary/venture capitalist theory of change to promote accountability in a couple of regions of the country. CH is now looking for a new coordinator, because the wonderful Jane Lonsdale is moving on – if you fancy taking over, check out the job ad (closing date 20 July).

Talk of ‘Evolutionary theories of change’ all sounds very abstract, so here are six specific examples of the kinds of change the project is chukua hatua pastoralistsbringing about.

1) In Piyaya village (Ngorongoro) women activists who had received CH training on Women in Leadership (WIL) complained to the government about an urgent need for measles vaccinations during an outbreak, organising themselves and then asking for meetings with the village government, councillor and district medical officer. The local authority responded quickly and together with the village government carried out a vaccination programme that also targeted remote sub-villages.

2) In Negezi village (Kishapu), the CH farmer animator mobilised people to ask the government for support to get out-of-school orphans into education. They then wrote to the local authority proposing the construction of a market space in their village so they don’t have to endure a return walk of 4 hours to the nearest market to buy and sell goods. They got the councillor on board and followed up remorselessly; the local authority has agreed and allocated a space and money to construct a market place.

3) In Shinyanga district, CH organized students to hold elections for their student councils and chose girls as the head prefect in 80% of cases. These new leaders then questioned teachers on their lack of attendance to deliver lessons and worked with head teachers to convey their views to the school management committees. School management are now monitoring and trying to improve teacher performance.

4) In Malambo village (Ngorongoro), CH election trackers are monitoring the fulfilment of electoral promises by their councillor and MP, after using voice recorders to record the promises of all candidates during election rallies. The councillor is responding by meeting some of his promises, including the building of a new road, new classrooms and a mobile phone tower, improving both digital and physical communications to the village.

5) In Mwime village (Kahama) the CH farmer animator mobilised villagers to complain about the US$100,000 owed by a Barrick Gold mine, and the village’s lack of genuine representation on the committee established to oversee the contract between mine and villagers. She persuaded the councillor and the MP to bring in a parliamentary committee, and an agreement was made that a new trust would be formed to oversee the compensation and the committee selection would be changed to give fairer representation for the villagers. The committee gave 500,000 Tanzanian shillings (US$325) on the spot for the village to set up a bank account. The village then held a press conference to publicise what had been agreed.

6) In Ololosokwan (Ngorongoro) village, the community won a court case against a tourism company that had obtained a fake title deed back in 1992. In this community, which has several CH groups, CH linked up local NGOs with an international law firm that provided the village with pro bono technical advice and lawyers, winning a favourable ruling by the judge.  25,000 hectares of land (about half the village) has been returned to the village.

And here’s a 15 minute video introducing the CH theory of change and its several initiatives (election promise tracking, farm animators etc)

Once again, if this inspires you, check out the job ad.


  1. I’ve been following this work closely, and have been equally inspired.

    And it’s a great job opportunity – fascinating work and (possibly) occasional access to the Nairobi swimming pool thrown in.

    As usual I have a concern, though. What is the chance that innovative, open-ended work like this will survive DFID’s emphasis on results and value for money? It can’t easily be tied down to specific outcomes or to value-for-money beforehand, yet it delivers probably much greater value for money and more valuable outcomes in the end.

    Greater risk of failure (which is an inherent part of innovation) is accompanied by bigger rewards of success. But DFID (and others) are becoming more and more risk averse.

    1. Well the indicators are pretty good actually. DFID is a big backer of the project, not least because it has a well thought through theory of change that draws from private sector best practice. So maybe we have an interesting example here of two drivers of DFID thinking (quick results and private sector agility) pointing in different directions?

  2. Duncan

    In what way is DFID being driven towards ‘quick results’ (your words)?

    I’ve not seen any suggestion so far that their increased focus on results has made them any less likely to support this kind of work. Have you?


    1. Fair point Owen, and the speed issue is not the main one – it’s more of a concern that the focus on results will reduce the appetite for risk. I think this example shows that doesn’t have to be the case, if your case is strong enough.

  3. We are getting great backing from DFID for Chukua Hatua in country- they’ve just signed up to fund it for another 3 years. They are keen to see results of course, but like the fact we are honest in dropping what doesn’t work and learning from it- which is so much easier when evolutionary programming is set out as part of your theory of change. We’re planning an impact assessment shortly, and will be asking DFID’s value for money advisors to chip in on the design to make sure we can provide what they’re looking for on tying results to accountability work, and hope we can marry that with our desire to trace outcomes and at least demonstrate our contribution in this complex work.

    If anyone wants to ask more about the job, feel free to drop me a line at

  4. Having an interesting job right now, I won’t be applying but can only testify that this is a very interesting project and a very exciting job indeed. We are happy to have partnered with Oxfam on part of the activities.

    However, I wouldn’t gloss over the challenge of aligning accountability interventions (by its very nature long-term and process oriented) with the demand for short-term results, which is prevalent everywhere in donor country. I would take the Chakua Hatua project and its funding more of an exception than proof that it is easy to get these sort of things going. And it has probably more to do with the individuals on either side of the Oxfam – DFID link.

    Mind you, the examples you mention are valuable achievements, but in the result frameworks I come across would only count as interesting anecdotes. The demands from most donors (I cannot assess DFID beyond its glorious ACT programme here in Tanzania) is for much more linear and simplistic results.

    So, rather than seeing the results you mention as proof that it is possible to integrate longer-term processes with a short-term result orientation, I would see them as challenging that. After all, each of the mentioned ‘results’ are just small steps in a long journey towards improved accountability, and will require much nurturing and support.
    Rinus van Klinken, SNV Tanzania

  5. I was inspired by this blog and the way Duncan has written this for a wide range of readership. At the same time,I also feel that theory of change is also complex. All interventions may not benefit everyone at the level same at all times. Glad to see that DFID is also asking the same question, what is working and what is not working and why?

  6. Very simple yet effective empowerment measures seen through from start to finish and with a continuity plan, good job CH.

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