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Learning by un-doing: the magic of immersion

This year we were in Eastern Uganda. Fifty of us fanned out accross three districts to 'immerse' ourselves in other people's realities.

We have done this for several years now and each time we focus on a different theme. This year we wanted to explore a core concept in our new strategy, where we hypothesize that transformative change (in education and governance) occurs when there is a constructive overlap and interaction between active citizens and responsive authorities. That magic space called “public agency”: does it exist? And if it does, how big is it, what shape does it take, who is in it, how does it function? This may sound elementary, but in our experience, the lived reality of most East Africans is that either citizens themselves get things done, or they won’t happen. The government exists mostly in capitals and among the elite, and while some of its long arms do reach deep into the countryside, it’s not focused on service delivery, it’s not focused on people, and it mostly doesn’t work for the public good. It has its own purposes and it’s only a few lucky individuals that can become part of it and benefit from it through coveted government jobs. So the notion of these two parallel worlds coming together over a joint purpose (e.g., these are our children; how do we give them a good education?) seems impossibly utopian. And yet we know, from other countries and contexts that sustainable development (if I dare use these words) is premised on such a joint social contract.

So what did we learn and what did we experience? Our learning is captured in this short report, and summarised in this guest blogpost by Twaweza's Varja Lipovsek on the From Poverty to Power blog of Oxfam's Duncan Green.

Read more: immersion learning Uganda

Authors: Varja Lipovsek

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Organizations: Twaweza East Africa

Pages: 18

Type: Key document

Year: 2015

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