Following the RESULTS National Conference from the weekend of 10-12th May, Mark Pointer of our Norwich group shares his reflections on the days.

Following the RESULTS National Conference from the weekend of 10-12th May, Mark Pointer of our Norwich group shares his reflections on the days.

Enthused, Inspired and Focused are the words that best describe my experience of this year’s RESULTS National Conference.

This was my second National Conference and I am truly amazed how much was packed into those three days, from the first session at St Luke`s Community Centre to the final meeting at Portcullis House. In fact, I did not want it all to end and in the words of Depeche Mode, “I just can`t get enough” of International Development!

With so many highlights to choose from, the tone of the weekend was set by the first day. And what a first day it turned out to be, with a fantastic array of speakers – whose knowledge and insight gave us a taste that what is happening out there on the ground.

L-R Ben Taylor, Aminata Shamit Koroma, Dr Jeff Garmany
L-R Ben Taylor, Aminata Shamit Koroma, Dr Jeff Garmany

People like Dr Jeff Garmany (King`s Brazil Institute), Aminata Shamit Koroma ( Director for Food & Nutrition in Sierra Leone), Stewart Jordan (Peek Vision), Sarah Beeching (GPE) and Andrew Felton (World Bank) were all amazing speakers, talking at first hand about development issues in different parts of the world, the challenges they are facing and the successes achieved.

But the person who stood out for me, was Ben Taylor, an Analyst & Activist, for TWAWEZA (www.twaweza.org) which is based in Tanzania.

Ben had the unenviable task of opening the Conference and gave a wonderful insight to the work of TWAWEZA. Ben and his colleagues found out from their analysis that pumping more money into a problem does not always guarantee results and found that lasting change requires bottom-up action.

Ben talked about how in Tanzania, more money had been spent on education and had produced more students – but their overall results and standards of education were down. The same was true of Tanzania’s access to clean safe water, despite the investment.

Sarah Beeching of the GPE speaks
Sarah Beeching of the GPE speaks

In both cases, Ben and his colleagues found that the problem was that the Government was unresponsive and as a result the public had low expectations and had no role in holding their Government to account.

They found that real change takes time, but they needed to change attitudes of the national conversation on important issues, but also to empower the people of that country to make the change for themselves and to be part of that change.

Ben outlined a couple of projects. They have an incredible 70 projects in process and what an amazing transformation TWAWEZA has made for Tanzania.

One of those projects was, Sauti za Wananchi (which means Voices of Citizens), which uses mobile phones to regularly collect information from a broad cross-section of Tanzanian citizens. The project allows survey data to be gathered quickly and efficiently, at low cost, to inform citizens of what’s going on and to support policy-makers to be more responsive to the needs and aspirations of its citizens.

The crowd at the conference listen intently
The crowd at the conference listen intently

Conducting surveys can be costly and time-consuming and Sauti za Wananchi aims to bridge this gap so that all interested parties can regularly access frequently updated information on citizens’ points of view. In order to ensure that the sample is representative of the entire country, mobiles phones and solar chargers are distributed to participating households.

For example, from findings collected through a mobile phone survey by Sauti za Wananchi, parents in Tanzania perceived a downward trend in the quality of secondary schooling and by and large blamed this on the Government and teachers.

TWAWEZA means “We can make it happen” and Ben and his colleagues have started to demonstrate this in Tanzania and this model is now being rolled out into other parts of East Africa.

Future success to Ben and all at TWAWEZA and to all the other projects featured in opening day’s sessions. E.I.F

Mark Pointer
RESULTS UK Norwich