Dear Dalitso

Everyday lessons for tomorrow

Questions that matter

September 7, 2023
Letter #

From the beginning we were keen to contribute towards a new utopia- and we framed ours as a quest for an inclusive society. There was need for elaboration on what this inclusive society would look like ( see next post), a theory of change and conceptual framework. How else do you set up an institute without a theory of change and conceptual framework. I was and remain skeptical of both. I made the decision to use a questions based approach. What if we set up an organization that tries to respond to a set of questions? Eventually we settled on four seemingly basic questions

  1. What is wrong with us (Zimbabwe and Africa)
  2. How do we ensure government accountability and effectiveness in responding to challenges faced in a country (paraphrased)?
  3. How do we reduce dependency on external resources?
  4. How do we ensure that citizens are at the center of processes of change?

I must state that we didn’t have a strategy. We had a number of one pagers, concept note and proposals. I still think this was the best way/approach. It allowed us to iterate around different approaches. The next question to address was on the approach we would use to tackle these questions. We opted for the Centres approach. We set up three Centres: policy analysis and advocacy, philanthropy and communities, entrepreneurship and financial inclusion. (Footnote- the Centre for policy analysis and advocacy was recently renamed to Centre for CIVIC Engagement).

However that was not enough. What kind of work would be done in these centres? This question helped us to standardize the work to be done in the centres. After several rounds of consultations we came up with tools of work and these were research, training, dialogues, networking and leveraging technology. Tendai Chikweche, board trustee, but actively involved in the design of the organization gave us the term ‘Integrated Technology Platforms ‘(ITPs). That term has stuck- but I still don’t know what it means exactly. It sounds sophisticated and that’s what we needed at that time.

One of our strengths has been in leveraging technology. We have built 17 platforms for different use and with uneven capabilities since establishment. Our remains the most popular and also my personal favorite. It reminds me of the journey that we have walked. And yes there is a garage story to it. The team developing the platform gathered for three consecutive days at our house in Chinhoyi working from a room attached to the garage-yes that’s our garage story. Additionally. leveraging technology in many tasks such as carrying out field research, communicating research findings has been cost effective and also allowed to grow exponentially.

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