Launched in 2009, Twaweza (which means "We Can Make It Happen" in Swahili) is a 10-year initiative that seeks to enable people in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda to improve their quality of life through a bold, citizen-centered approach to development and public accountability. Twaweza is designed to give citizens the information and skills they need to hold their governments accountable, and does so by supporting large-scale partnerships and initiatives that create space for direct engagement with citizens. Instead of relying exclusively on organisations, Twaweza brokers relationships across a range of institutions and networks that ordinary citizens already use to meet and share information. These institutions may include mass media (radio, television, newspapers), private businesses such as mobile phone companies, commercial product distribution networks, religious organisations, trade unions, and other groups that tend not to be included in development efforts. By focusing on this brokering and mediation, Twaweza sees itself as fostering an ecosystem of change and a shift in information ecologies in East Africa.

Communication Strategies: 

The Twaweza project supports the following related activities:

  • making practical information available at community levels;
  • deepening media quality, plurality, reach, and independence;
  • enhancing citizen monitoring through "public watch" activities; and
  • encouraging learning, documentation, and effective dissemination of lessons.

Making practical information available at community levels includes expanding information flows to citizens and setting up platforms whereby citizens can contribute to generating their own information and share stories, in particular in conjunction with the 5 key channels and networks. In addition, Twaweza has set up a one-stop information shop called Uwazi to assist. Twaweza:

  • focuses on practical information about rights, laws, entitlements; makes information available through comparisons and contrasts; circulates stories of ordinary people taking initiative and through providing information about choices and pathways;
  • supports and compels transparency in central and local governments, and, in particular, government oversight institutions such as parliaments and national audit offices;
  • translates and popularises policy, budget, programmatic information, and news related to citizen agency, basic service delivery, and resource management issues;
  • expands the number and strengthens the vitality of information points at community levels, including public libraries and primary schools, faith-based centres, and informal entrepreneur sites such as TV/video viewing locations and mobile displays;
  • supplies information on existing distribution systems of consumer goods, health, and education supplies, as well as communication circulars of government, faith-based organisations, and trade unions;
  • enhances existing initiatives and uses new technologies to enable citizens to access a wide array of information.

Deepening media quality, plurality, reach, and independence includes the following activities:

  • supporting media organisations to produce quality news magazine and investigative journalism programmes;
  • subsidising high-quality public service adverts and films for radio and television that inform citizens on key issues and stimulate public debate, including reproduction and distribution of content through media, road shows, local video shops, and YouTube;
  • helping establish independent national media funds in Kenya and Uganda; and
  • supporting editors' guilds and other bodies to promote ethical and quality standards in journalism, including triangulation of information and practical ways to counter corruption in media.

Enhancing citizen monitoring through "public watch" includes supporting citizen monitoring and encouraging action around:

  • the money at the end-service delivery level (such as capitation grants for education and constituency development funds) and enabling citizens to compare and report on these against commitments;
  • the quantity and quality of key service delivery components, such as availability of textbooks and desks, the number of functioning water and sanitation points, and availability of medicines;
  • the performance of service delivery staff, such as whether teachers and health workers arrive at work on time and whether they are attending to students and patients, as well as their conduct towards clients;
  • basic outcomes such as education transition rates, literacy levels, and trends in disease incidence;
  • human rights violations and citizen actions to respond;
  • availability of information at community levels, such as on major national laws, policies, and budgets, as well as data on local levels such as funds received, revenues collected, and health and education performance data;
  • the practical opportunities for recourse that are available on the issues listed above, including what happens when citizens take action to improve the situation.

The Twaweza approach to learning involves the following:

  • fostering the idea of Twaweza as a learning organisation - internally, amongst their partners, and in the partnerships more widely;
  • focusing on learning as doing rather than as capacity building or training;
  • setting up a pool of mentors to help implementing partners, who will be able to draw from the pool to critique their thinking, develop their work conceptually, and make it more creative and effective;
  • undertaking field trips or immersion experiences for its staff. Twaweza has already visited 9 villages in Tanzania in order to orientate staff to local conditions and assess the relevance of its theory of change;
  • carrying out other activities to promote learning, reflection and sharing of stories like reflections on monitoring, a reading club, digital story telling, and learning histories; and
  • evaluating impact and documenting lessons together with a commissioned external evaluation unit that will work with Twaweza across the first 4 years.

Programme partnerships are at the heart of the Twaweza approach. The project works with partners in the water, education, and health sectors, and with partners that support citizen agency more broadly. To this end, Twaweza is exploring the development of broad framework agreements with the 5 key channels and institutions, as well as with anchor partners in each sector. A key criterion for partnership selection is reach and scale. So far, Twaweza is carrying out the following activities with partners:

Water point functionality: In Tanzania, Twaweza is providing support to Daraja to: share information about water point functionality to the public in accessible formats, primarily through the media; enable citizens to update functionality information in real time via SMS (short message service, or text messaging); and analyse and publicise responsiveness of government to citizen notification. Twaweza is working to facilitate linkages between Daraja and media and religious leaders. Water point partnerships are also being explored in Kenya. In addition, Uwazi is undertaking its own water point mapping initiative in urban areas.

Education (East Africa): Twaweza is supporting the Uwezo initiative, a "citizen movement based" approach to assessing literacy and numeracy levels in East Africa, drawing on the ASER initiative in India. Uwezo is working with 3 partners in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Results from the Kenya assessments have been released and the data from Tanzania and Uganda are being processed.

Twaweza is collaborating with SNV Uganda on an experimental learning project to facilitate monitoring of teacher and pupil attendance and absenteeism in primary schools by using an SMS-based information system, with the aim to eventually scale to country-wide coverage (16,000 primary schools). The project will pilot an SMS based application that generates frequent and detailed overviews of teacher and pupil attendance in 100 primary schools, selected in 2 districts.

Radio and television broadcasts (Kenya and Tanzania): Twaweza is working with ShujaazFM to promote young people's access to radio and comic books in Kenya. In Tanzania, a set of radio and TV adverts are being developed to promote reflection on the "twaweza" idea - namely, that it is up to citizens to make a difference rather than to depend on "salvation from outside". The purpose is to get people thinking about and debating the concept rather than to publicise the organisation. Broadcast was expected to commence in early 2010. In Tanzania, Twaweza is working with DalaDala TV to establish a daily current affairs programme with an emphasis on analysis, debate, and discussion by ordinary people of news stories that have recently occurred or are ongoing at the time of broadcast. The programme is set in a DalaDala, a small bus which many Tanzanians use as a means of urban transport.

Development Issues: 

Democracy and Governance, Citizenship

Key Points: 

Twaweza believes that informed and motivated citizens are the most powerful agents of sustainable change. It views citizen agency as both a goal in itself and an effective means to improve service delivery and public resource management. The project recognises that most citizens lack the information and skills they need to hold their governments accountable and is seeking to address this.

Twaweza has an overall time frame of 10 years and wishes to see improvements in public services in health, water, and education. It emphasises the following objectives within 5 years:

  • Access to information: The project seeks to: ensure that more ordinary citizens are able to access information about their rights, responsibilities, and entitlements related to basic services, public resources, governance, and other issues of interest to them; and make it a point that available information is popularised and disseminated widely. In addition, the objective is to ensure that sources and content of information are more diverse, and are vehicles for transmitting information, especially at local levels. Also, the project seeks to make sure that citizens have more opportunity to generate and disseminate information and views, including through use of new technologies.
  • Quality media: Twaweza seeks to ensure: more in-depth and accurate reporting, with deeper investigative journalism and follow-up; improved quality of writing and better researched articles, with increased triangulation of sources; greater diversity of voices, particularly of and by economically poor/rural/excluded communities, in the media; increased reach of media, particularly in rural areas; enhanced and better informed debate of major public issues through media; and clear evidence that media is contributing to action and accountability.
  • Monitoring/public watch: This will be in the form of: greater understanding of citizens' right to and value of monitoring service delivery, government performance, and public resources; more practical options, tools, and means for monitoring available to citizens; increased monitoring undertaken at both local and national levels; increased knowledge about/independent verification of the relationship between policy/laws/budgets and practice, and the effects of policy on people; and clear evidence that public monitoring is contributing to action and accountability.

Twaweza's main base is in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In addition, small country teams were established in Nairobi (in 2009) and Kampala (in 2010). For the first 5 years, Twaweza will be managed through Hivos, a Dutch agency with 40 years of experience supporting civic action, human rights, and freedom of expression.

Partner Text: 

Hewlett Foundation, Hivos, Sida, SNV, and the United Kingdom (UK) Department for International Development (DFID).


Twaweza website on November 17 2009; and email from Catherine Kell to Soul Beat Africa on June 8 2010.