Uwezo has been established on the basis that we need more than top-down reform– we need citizen involvement and oversight. Uwezo believes that informed and motivated citizens are the most powerful agents of sustainable change. We view citizen agency as both a goal in itself and an effective means to improve service delivery and public resource management. The organizational ‘Theory of Change’ informs and underpins everything we do at Uwezo, centering citizen agency in building public pressure that will then trigger actions to improve learning and reaction from policy makers. There are four important stages to our theory of change.
Stage 1: Annual assessments of countrywide learning:
Uwezo establishes evidence by assessing literacy and numeracy levels for children aged 6-16 years using a large, country-wide household based sample. Three annual rounds of the Uwezo assessment have already been successfully undertaken in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
Stage 2: Communicate findings widely and foster broad public debate:
Building a solid evidence base is necessary, but usually insufficient for changes in policy and practice. Uwezo believes that concerned actors – whether parents or politicians, teachers or technocrats – will do the right thing when they are compelled to do so or have a clear incentive to act. Uwezo therefore places great emphasis on communication of findings; in fostering informed public understanding and debate about the situation and what can be done about it.
Stage 3: Shift from schooling inputs to learning outcomes:
We anticipate that over time, the communication of actual literacy and numeracy levels will lead to a realization among the public and policymakers that schooling is not enabling children to gain skills, which in turn will lead to a greater concern with how children can learn. We envisage this happening at two levels:
- At the community level
Having become aware of the crisis, engaged citizens (parents, children, local leaders and activists) will take concrete steps to improve learning, either through private actions (e.g. pay more attention to homework, follow up with a teacher, pay for a tutor, change schools) or mount collective action. We do not expect all people reached to act, in most cases actions start with a few, courageous outliers first and then start to catch on.
- At the district and national levels
Convinced by the evidence presented or the public pressure from below or both, key actors will begin to change (e.g. through sustained coverage in the media, constituency members demand answers). Here Uwezo will encourage key actors to examine the evidence before undertaking a particular course of action, and seek ways to identify the policy practices that have the greatest effect.
Stage 4: Learn, monitor and evaluate:
Flowing through Uwezo’s different stages and forms of work is an emphasis on learning, and on monitoring and evaluation. Uwezo’s annual cycle of planning, assessment, analysis and communication provides an opportunity to learn and make adjustments each year. Uwezo acknowledges that the flow of actions from stage to stage is neither entirely predictable nor linear: it is premised on sensitive recognition and analysis of, and responsiveness to, the forms of citizen action and policy responses that are taking place.