Culture of learning
Our use of the term learning is deliberate. In fostering innovation and curiosity, we work with the idea of organisational learning, individual learning, of learning by doing and of reflection on our actions as well as on the frames and discourses that shape the field. We believe that staff members are responsible for their own growth, that learning never stops and it ought to continue outside the Twaweza “walls” – while at the same time, we want to ensure that the organisation does the best it can to promote learning and innovation among its staff.
The internal learning activities managed by Twaweza’s Learning, Monitoring and Evaluation (LME) Unit aim to contribute to a professional and competent work environment and to improve the quality of the work produced at Twaweza.
An outline of each type of activity is provided below with further detail in the Internal Learning overview.
Reading Club is designed to strengthen analytical skills, and critical reading and thinking among staff. Articles are selected through staff suggestions and cover a range of topics related to the organisational theory of change and goals. These take place on the first Tuesday of every month and we welcome outside participation.
Often the daily pressures of delivering work and making things happen take precedence over engaging critically with Twaweza’s theoretical framework and sectoral focus. The compulsory learning sessions provide some time for staff to be exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking about Twaweza’s work, particularly the Theory of Change, the sectors in which we work (education, health and water) and citizen agency. Internal and external experts provide interactive presentations on a range of topics on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month.
The Skills Lab allows Twaweza staff and partners to benefit from the practical and technical knowledge of other staff members or outside experts. The aim is to expand practical skills, relevant for work and personal development. Everything from writing a contract to sharpening your work with excel to GIS mapping can be covered in Skills Labs which are held on the third Tuesday of every month.
Food for Thought
Over lunch, Food for Thought sessions provide an informal space for fostering imagination for new ideas and work-in-progress, as well as for interesting and inspiring external people and initiatives (including our implementing partners) to present ideas, concepts and work. They also often provide an opportunity for staff to share their own work for wider feedback. There is no set schedule for these sessions but the idea is to hold one a week.
For one week each year Twaweza stays in communities outside of the large cities, getting a small ‘window’ into the daily lives of ordinary citizens. As our work is founded on the idea that people are making change happen on a dialy basis, we take time each year to ‘tune in.’ Immersion allows us to listen and see how people live and negotiate life, communicate, dream, and aspire. We look at how people experience services such as schools, water and health; and we look at how people solve problems and get things done. We do that through observation and conversation, hanging out and engaging, rather than through formal research or surveys. From past experience we find that our hosts are just as curious about ourselves and the lives we live in the East African capital cities. We avoid the temptation of giving advice, and instead share our own stories. We always have our assumptions and thinking challenged, and come back with greater confusion, insight and inspiration.
In 2009, along with partner SNV, Twaweza spent time in nine communities in Tanzania's Lake Zone. In 2010 Twaweza staff spread out across Kenya for Immersion, and in 2012 we were in the southern highlands of Tanzania with partner Daraja. In 2013, we went to Central Kenya. For 2014, we took the hard decision to postpone the immersion to early 2015, given the intense work on our new strategy. This delayed immersion experience took place in Uganda in June 2015.
For presentations on a past immersion experience in Northern Tanzania (2009) see ‘Is Policy Practiced? Stories from 9 Villages’ and 'Bridging a Thousand Miles: Development on the ground in the Lake Zone of Tanzania'. For a report on our experience in Central Kenya (2013) see this report.
For some news coverage of our 2015 immersion in Uganda you can read Life behind poor grades in remote schools, Are parents making their roles in schools obsolete? and When parents drown their children's grades in alcohol. A more detailed report is available here, and a summary by Twaweza's Varja Lipovsek has been posted on the From Poverty to Power blog of Oxfam's Duncan Green.