Twaweza is an independent East African initiative that was established in 2009 by Rakesh Rajani, a Tanzanian civil society leader who founded HakiElimu and served as its first executive director until the end of 2007. Twaweza’s approach and theory of change is built on the lessons from the HakiElimu experience, as well as wide ranging conversations across East Africa conducted through 2008 and a review of the literature. Hivos provided the incubation space for Twaweza’s development, and currently houses the initiative before it becomes fully independent by 2014. Hivos is registered in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as a non-profit company (company limited by guarantee with no share capital).
Twaweza’s approach and its policies, systems and procedures reflect a set of values around effective and transparent governance. Five key values and principles guide their work: effectiveness and accountability; transparency and communication; ethical integrity; reflection and learning; and responsibility and initiative.
Twaweza means “we can make it happen” in Swahili. Twaweza works on enabling children to learn, citizens to exercise agency and governments to be more open and responsive in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. They have programs, staff and offices across all three countries, and a world respected practice of learning, monitoring and evaluation. Their flagship programs include Uwezo, Africa’s largest annual citizen assessment to assess children’s learning levels across hundreds of thousands of households, and Sauti za Wananchi, Africa’s first nationally representative mobile phone survey. They undertake effective public and policy engagement, through powerful media partnerships and global leadership of initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership.
Real change takes time. They are not keen to just do easy activities and check implementation boxes. That is why the Twaweza initiative has a ten year time frame, with two goals. First, they seek to enhance ‘citizen agency,’ by which they mean the ability of men, women and young people to get better information more quickly, cheaply and reliably; monitor and discuss what’s going on; speak out; and act to make a difference. This is important for its own sake, because every person should feel a sense of empowerment or control over their own lives. It is also important because it contributes to their second goal, which is to enable many more people to enjoy quality basic education, health care and clean water.
How do they work?
They do not believe that sustainable change comes through establishing little projects here and there. Neither do they believe that people in the capital city are best placed to bring change in thousands of communities across the region. Therefore they do not set up lots of Twaweza projects. Instead they find innovative ways to work through what they call the 'five networks,' which already reach millions of citizens across East Africa and are important in their lives– mass media, mobile phones, religion, teachers' unions and fast moving consumer goods. They broker ‘win-win’ partnerships, where each partner can simultaneously achieve its goals and support citizens by doing what it does best. By linking up partners who might not otherwise cooperate – such as teachers’ union with the church or mobile phone companies– they aim to leverage a greater ‘ecosystem effect’ of change on the ground.
Twaweza is supported by a consortium of five donors who provide long-term support towards the overall program. These are Sida, DFID, the Hewlett Foundation, SNV and Hivos. Twaweza provides one set of annual and half year reports to all its donors.