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vulnerability in informal settlments

Part 1: How The COVID-19 Crisis Has Exposed Vulnerability Fault Lines

By Current Affairs, Ethics

This part 1 of a 3-part series provides a general overview of how the COVID-19 crisis has exposed vulnerability fault lines.

COVID-19 is a universal crisis, which affects each person in each country of the world. This does not mean that it affects all in the same way.

This article looks at how existing vulnerabilities have been exposed by responses to slow down the spread of the virus, and how access to technology and tech-savvy enables responsiveness and resilience in adapting to the “new normal” under lockdown in everyday life and in education.

An unexpected and exceptionally challenging global crisis

At the launch of the UN’s report on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres said that the world is facing the most challenging crisis since World War II.

A crisis is a situation of instability and danger or a period of upheaval. It can also be defined as “a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined”, or a turning point. In a medical context, it is a point at which “decisive change” occurs, or it could be used to describe the change itself.

Indeed, the COVID-19 crisis has brought the world to the point where nothing will ever be the same again, simply because of the way in which this crisis has affected the psyche of the world. We are much less safe and prepared for disruptive change than what we thought. And this applies to all areas of life.

Covid-19 is a health risk

Countries on lockdown all around the world

We cannot significantly change what is happening at the moment. Already on 25 March 2020, it was reported that 20% of the world’s population was under lockdown[1], and the number of people confined to their homes is increasing with more countries implementing lockdowns, extending lockdowns, or implementing stricter physical distancing regulations.

While most agree that lockdown is the only way in which the speed of the virus spreading can be slowed down, there is also widespread agreement that the economic implications of these measures will have a crippling impact on economies worldwide.

The impact of COVID-19 and lockdowns does not only affect economic activities, markets and trade – it has an impact on each and every aspect of life. At the launch of the UN’s report on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, Guterres emphasised that countries had to unite, not only to fight and beat the virus but also to deal with its “profound consequences”[2].

Importantly, he said that it would be important to “deal decisively with those issues that make us all unnecessarily vulnerable to crisis”. Vulnerability is indeed a fault line that has been exposed in the past few weeks, in ways that the world has not seen before.

The fault lines of physical vulnerability

The virus itself is a more significant threat for persons with existing medical conditions which makes them vulnerable already: diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. The world is waiting in anticipation for the knowledge that will emanate from countries which have populations with a high incidence of HIV, TB and malnutrition.

While there is no data on the impact of COVID-19 on persons living with HIV and TB, we know that their vulnerability will be amplified. Another vulnerability that is magnified by COVID-19 is age, given that many older persons already have pre-existing medical conditions, and as is evident from mortality rates, which shows a substantially higher death rate for older persons. Particularly those over 70 years of age.

covid-19 fatality rate by age

Source: as on 1 April 2020

Exacerbated existing social challenges

Other vulnerabilities that have been highlighted by lockdown are along the lines of social and economic demographics. The lockdown saw local authorities, social development agencies, community and faith-based organisations under severe pressure to provide shelter for the homeless.

The vulnerabilities associated with homelessness are not new, and to date, South Africa has been grappling with how to help large numbers of homeless persons, including youth, who sleep on the street every night, and who make a living on the streets. Hopefully, the temporary solutions implemented during lock-down can ignite change that will see better accommodation of this vulnerable group in future.

The COVID-19 lockdown also highlighted how existing issues regarding informal and overcrowded housing, water and sanitation increases vulnerabilities under a huge section of the South African population. Without access to running water and with communal toilet facilities, it is impossible to implement the hygiene standards required to prevent transmission of the virus.

This crisis is a stark reminder that too many South Africans have become accustomed to living in conditions that are detrimental to their health, and which poses a nearly unmanageable risk under current circumstances.

township in south africa

There is a down-side to public transport

The COVID-19 crisis has even brought unintended negative consequences of using public transport to the fore. Although many South Africans have increased their use of public transport, many still have the option of using private vehicles – something which has now become a safety mechanism. For the majority in our country, this is not an option, and being mobile has now become a major risk.

e-Commerce is not for all

Inequality in South Africa cuts through all aspects of life, including access to technology. In addition to the obvious advantage of technology as a way to access up to date information on a rapidly changing situation, it also makes it easier for some to practice physical distancing.

Those with connectivity and devices are exponentially better positioned to navigate the treacherous and unknown terrain created by COVID-19. For most of the middle class, salaries are deposited into accounts, debit orders go off automatically, and electronic transactions are done in the comfort and safety of homes.

Some of the most vulnerable in our country, who receive pensions, disability and child grants, the only option is to gather in groups, stand in long queues, and are unable to practice physical distancing as prescribed.

Online shopping is reserved for the privileged, and the rest have to take the risk of going to a shop, where the risk of coming into contact with people who are ill but non-symptomatic is a very real possibility. And as the incidence of the illness magnifies, this risk will also magnify when going shopping.

Bracing for tough economic times

The COVID-19 lockdown seems to have hit economically vulnerable people the hardest. The vulnerability of the informal sector and SSMEs have been exposed in an almost brutal manner.  The service industry, non-food and medical supply retailers and wholesalers, transport operators, the tourism and hospitality businesses have taken the knock head-on.

These sectors also have large numbers of casual and temporary workers, who are now sitting at home, many without pay. Hopefully, calls to employers of domestic workers to keep on paying salaries during lockdown will be heeded, as long as employers themselves have an income, and given the need to keep food supply up and running will to some extent protect agricultural workers.

During the lockdown, many who usually rely on information and communications technology to do their jobs, seem to be least affected in the short term. With access to technology at home, they can continue to work, albeit with some modifications needed to their modus operandi.

While the economic impact following the immediate COVID-19 crisis will ultimately affect all, the urgency of embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), has been highlighted.

Uncertainty about the education calendar

It has taken only a few days for the euphoria about an extended school holiday to be replaced by questions on how learners will catch up on lost classroom instruction. It seems that a systematic response is still lacking and that there are diverse strategies in place for assisting learners during this time.

Under lockdown, technology is the obvious solution, but in one of the most unequal societies[3] In the world, the current situation may disadvantage learners who do not have access to technology because of lower economic status even further.


Resilience and solidarity

It is clear that the current situation calls for resilience, innovation and collaboration like never before. There have been several encouraging initiatives aimed at pooling resources, finding solutions and coming up with innovations. Most of these are focused on the immediate physical needs of vulnerable persons, on alleviating immediate economic pressures, and assisting with medical responses.

Many in the education sector seem to operate from the assumption that schools will go back to operating as usual at the end of the 21-day lockdown. It is unlikely that this assumption will hold, and soon it will be necessary to provide urgent and tangible solutions to ensure that learning can continue for the class of 2020.

While not underestimating the dire consequences of the inherent vulnerabilities in our society as a result of inequality, the positive side of this crisis is that it has woken us up to how important it is to urgently address these issues and to bring about changes that will enhance our capacity to navigate challenging circumstances.

Find out more about how Development Works Changemakers is involved in research, development and evaluation projects.

By Fia van Rensburg

[1] Business Insider: Countries on lockdown

[2] United Nations report on socio economic impacts of COVID-19

[3]South Africa suffers among the highest levels of inequality in the world when measured by the commonly used Gini index. Inequality manifests itself through a skewed income distribution, unequal access to opportunities, and regional disparities. Low growth and rising unemployment have contributed to the persistence of inequality. Source: IMF

road map of ToC

Programme Theory: Theories of Change and Theories of Action

By Evaluation, Theory

“Theory of Change” (ToC) has certainly become a popular word in the social development sector among funders, nonprofits, government departments, and others. The programme theory is used by those who are increasingly wanting and needing a ToC as an integral part of their programming and interventions for beneficiaries.

As experts in evaluation, we at Development Works Changemakers are often requested by our clients to either assess the rigour of an existing ToC or develop one from scratch. Assessing an existing ToC helps to ensure that a programme is designed to reasonably achieve its intended results (done within the context of a design evaluation).

Underlying principles of a ToC

underlying principles of TOC

Essentially, the ToC should be a road map, or visual representation of what your programme does, what it is supposed to achieve and suggest how to achieve this. The ToC will assess the activities you are running, your intervention and what results you want to get out of it.

The purpose is to get all key stakeholders of a programme to understand what the programme does – especially if it’s a complicated programme and there are many stakeholders.

A ToC is a helpful exercise. It’s the “design” of the programme. It asks important questions such as – is the programme designed to achieve its intended results?

By mapping out the programme, you are able to identify what activities you do and the type of people you reach. You are then able to scrutinize the programme and see if it’s plausible and that the activities will lead to the desired outcomes.

description of a ToC

A ToC is testable. One of the benefits of this aspect is that you can develop indicators which serve as measurements of how your project is doing. It allows a group to assess what the end goal looks like on paper, whether the programme is testable and introduces an element of accountability to funders, stakeholders and beneficiaries.

In addition, a ToC is not a rigid document. Instead, it is a working document that is flexible and should constantly be referred to as you navigate through the programme. This allows the organization to reconsider important assumptions as the programme advances.

When is a TOC developed?

A ToC is helpful in terms of accountability for both funders and stakeholders. It fills in the missing steps about the reasonability of a programme and how it achieves its goals. Breaking down a programme step-by-step helps make sense of the programme to all involved. This also helps with funding.

A ToC is also useful in rechecking assumptions. When things are going wrong, you can go back and look at what is missing or needs to be tweaked in the programme design. It’s helpful in knowing all of your outcomes (long, medium and short term). This helps to identify achievements in short term goals on the way to the long term goals.

Developing a new ToC is often done for clients who have been running programmes for years but do not have a clearly articulated ToC. Other clients request a ToC when on the cusp of launching new programmes.

If a ToC is developed early in a programme’s lifespan (i.e. at the design or pilot stage), it allows one to identify potential risks and curveballs early on, and either put actions in place to mitigate these, or even change the plan to ensure that these barriers are not faced.

How are TOCs Received?

quote on ToCThere is a mixed reception of ToCs in the industry. Those who have it, understand it and see the value with regards to tracking progress and having a single goal. The value lies in making sure that the activities reach particular milestones along the way.

On the other side of the coin, it can be daunting for those who are unfamiliar with the theory. There are so many different words for ToC and it has been adopted and represented differently among various organizations.

Ultimately, it depends largely on the capacity of the organization to develop one and how they need to communicate with their stakeholders (marketing vs. strategic purposes).

The jargon and different wording for a ToC can be confusing for clients and sometimes even evaluators themselves. This is largely because ToC is used interchangeably with, or represented as, a programme theory, log frame, logical framework, logic model, results chain, impact theory and even more!

Adding to the confusion is that there is no single right way to develop or articulate a ToC. If one simply googles the term “theory of change” you will be faced with an array of graphic representations as presented below.

different examples of a TOC

This confusion can also make people look at it with scepticism. Some get nervous about it being a form of testing their work and their services because there’s something a little bit more systematic in place (which can cause resistance).

Overall, practitioners, implementers and stakeholders are increasingly seeing the value in it and coming on board with using and creating ToC.

Deciding on the format

The format depends largely on the unique needs and requirements of the organisation or their funders, but is also very much dependent on the evaluator/individual developing the ToC and what practices they studied or typically employ.

For example, a ToC and ToA do go hand-in-hand. Essentially, a ToA is how you operationalize your ToC. This is one practice that could be followed.

ToC refers to the broader theory which is framed with “if-then” statements when talking about the underlying theory which feeds into your ToA.

All look very different from box and arrow diagrams, to infographics and tabular formats.

Different TOC representations

Let’s look at some of the common ways organisations represent their ToC.

Tabular format

Below is a tabular format known as the “log frame” or “logical framework”. You’ll see here that the process flows from the bottom to the top, showing;

  1. The activities that are undertaken;
  2. What the immediate outputs or deliverables are;
  3. The expected change (i.e. improvement in knowledge, skills, attitudes, and/or behaviours) and finally;
  4. The ultimate goal the programme is contributing to.

This approach offers the benefits of including the indicators (i.e. the way that one will measure whether activities took place or outputs and outcomes were achieved) and means of verification (i.e. the sources one will use to measure the indicators).

A drawback is that this format is very structured and restrictive. It assumes that change happens in a linear fashion which is not always the case. Sometimes there are feedback loops. It also only shows one overarching outcome, while there may be various shorter-term, medium-term and longer-term outcomes that have to occur for goals to be reached.

toc showing goals

Image credit: The Guardian

Logic model

Another format is the “logic model”, which is often used commonly among nonprofits.

It’s important to note that the process has a more natural flow, but is still tabular. This makes the model useful for developing indicators separately.

example of a toc

Image credit: Student Affairs Assessment

Below is a more flexible logic model which is favoured by Development Works Changemakers when developing ToCs for clients. It shows the important inputs, activities, outputs and various outcomes and impacts. The main benefit is that change is not necessarily linear which is demonstrated in this model. The box and arrow diagrams show interrelationships, feedback loops, how one activity will lead to maybe only one outcome rather than all, how one outcome must be achieved over another, etc.

One addition that Development Works Changemakers makes is adding the assumptions of the programme throughout the diagram. These are both assumptions that support the programme achieving its intent (enablers) and those that prevent this (barriers).

Assumptions are extremely important to consider as well as may have a significant impact on the design. For example, an important assumption of offering an afterschool programme is that;

  1. Learners are provided with transport home after school hours;
  2. It is safe to be on school property afterschool hours, etc.

Such assumptions that do not hold, can often explain why a programme may not be working or achieving its outputs or outcomes.

example of a toc

Image credit: ICAI

Here is another example of a simple ToC and an effective way of presenting the results chain:

simple and effective TOC

Image credit: Better Evaluation

Points to consider with TOC

Constructing a ToC mostly depends on how the organization uses a ToC and if they use it at all. Certain formats assume that a programme follows a linear pathway, which isn’t always the case especially for more complex programmes or interlinking programmes. But sometimes outcomes can be complex and require feedback loops, etc.

It’s therefore important to construct your ToC in a non-restrictive manner. You need to understand the complexities of what you are trying to achieve.

Another important factor is how the sector accepts the ToC. It should be used as a learning tool and a way to constantly improve your programme and meet your objectives and outcomes.


The main purpose of a ToC is to put everyone on the same page by mapping out the design in a sensible and reasonable way. All stakeholders and funders can better understand goals; it helps with developing indicators and ensuring accountability; and should be used as a working document for programme improvement.

To find out more about how we can help your organization plan a ToC and create positive change in a powerful way, contact Lindy Briginshaw (

Written by Jenna Joffe

Appreciative inquiry value

The Value of Appreciative Inquiry in the Monitoring & Evaluation, Reporting and Learning Space

By Evaluation, Research, Workshop

The evaluation space can be a tricky one to navigate, especially considering that making evidence-based judgements about the merit or worth of programmes, what works and what does not work, is an integral part of the evaluation.

Development Works Changemakers (DWC) has been providing Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) support and capacity development to a non-profit organisation working in the basic education space since 2018. This organisation wanted to expand its M&E system to also incorporate reporting and learning.

We recently introduced Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to assist them to build on the positive core of their existing reporting practice and to track and magnify that into an improving reporting practice in 2020, as part of moving from a traditional monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system, to a monitoring, evaluation reporting and learning (MERL) system.

Understanding Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry is a useful and interesting approach to create positive energy regarding reporting, by focusing on what works. The methodology focuses on what works best, but also identifies areas that need attention, or could be improved.

It can’t be used in every circumstance – but it is a great tool that can be very useful in certain situations. DWC has used AI to activate organisational change processes related to MERL (as in the example provided above);  to supplement Theory of Change (ToC) workshops, and to elicit data from different perspectives during evaluation processes.

What is Appreciative Inquiry?

AI is an action-research methodology that enables organisations to co-construct their desired future, and which focuses on the positive qualities of an organization. These positive qualities are leveraged to enhance the organization. AI is founded on 8 key principles, namely:

  1. Constructionist – Understanding a reality that is socially constructed through language and conversations
  2. Simultaneity – Inquiries create an intervention and initiate change
  3. Poetic – Organizations are an endless source of study and learning which constantly shapes the world as we know it
  4. Anticipatory – Using a hopeful image to inspire action
  5. Positive  – Believing that positive questions lead to positive change
  6. Wholeness – Bringing out the best in people and organizations to stimulate creativity and build collective capacity
  7. Enactment – Starting the process of positive change with self as a living model of the future
  8. Free choice – Believing that free choice liberates power and brings about enhanced results

Source of principles: Sideways Thoughts

Using AI in evaluations

AI was developed as an organizational change methodology but has been adapted to be used in evaluations. In the evaluation community, Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is at best not widely accepted, and is sometimes even frowned upon. However, it does offer a different approach that adds a unique value.

What evaluators have been doing for the past few decades is to focus on the judgment aspect of evaluation. What distinguishes evaluation from other applied social research is that it has to make a judgment on the merit or worth of programmes and projects.

Each case is unique and AI is not suitable for use in all evaluations.  Care must be given to the nature of the task at hand, and what other methodologies are being used in conjunction.

It should also be noted that AI is not an evaluation approach, and does not feature as an evaluation theory. It is merely a tool that can be used for data collection and process facilitation.

When does Appreciative Inquiry work?

As mentioned above, AI can work where energy is required to move processes forward. It could also be used in evaluations. AI works well in a context where a project or programme is not working so well. In such situations, project or programme stakeholders may become defensive when evaluators are appointed, as they anticipate negative judgement. The idea that our questions have the power to shape reality may be a frightening thought, but one worth exploring.

This may impede the openness of stakeholders, which makes it difficult to learn from failures or challenges. AI provides a non-threatening environment in which stakeholders can discuss a project without fear of judgement. By starting off with the identification of what works, a safe environment is provided to also discuss what does not work so well.

Understanding the approach

The underlying philosophy for AI is that what we focus our attention on in the social world will grow and develop. If we focus on the positive, the positive will grow and multiply, but if we focus on the negative, that will thrive instead.

This means that if we follow a problem-centred approach, we get stuck in the misfortune of the problem. The more we try to fix it, the more it grows.

Well, let’s be fair – sometimes problem-solving works, but how many problems did development initiatives (mostly based on a problem or deficit analysis) manage to solve over the past 50 or more years?

There are some conflicting opinions that speculate that you can’t just look at the positives – what about the negatives? In many ways, this concern is valid, and in others, it highlights how AI can be misunderstood.

AI does look at the negatives but in a different way so that it doesn’t dominate the conversation. The negatives/challenges get lifted out but in a more constructive way without pulling the energy down.

Steps in the AI process

In the monitoring and evaluation space, AI could be used as a fully-fledged AI process, or part of it could be used. The AI process is described in terms of the 4-D or the 5-D or 5-I models. These models can also be linked up to a planning process, which consists of some elements of the traditional SWOT planning process. SWOT planning looks at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The SOAR process considers strengths and opportunities, and works with that, to develop aspirations, and articulate desired results.

Evidence that supports AI

Through a remarkable body of research, neuroscience has established that we affect people either positively or negatively by the way in which we engage with them and the way they perceive us (also as evaluators).

Prominent neuroscientist Evan Gordon (2000) reminds us that the “avoid danger and maximize reward” principle is an over-arching organizing principle in the brain, and translates in the approach-avoid response.

When our brain tags a stimulus as “good,” we engage in the stimulus (approach), and when our brain tags a stimulus as “bad,” we will disengage from it (avoid). Translated into the evaluation space, this means that if our evaluation processes are perceived as threatening by stakeholders, they may well disengage.

We also know that when people are “seen, heard and loved”, the associated surge in brain chemicals enable them to think better and creatively (connecting behaviour, or approach). Conversely, when people feel that they are criticized, judged and dismissed, their brains literally shut down, as they go into flight mode (avoiding behaviour, or disengagement).

The power of AI

There is a wealth of evidence that shows the power of our words. When athletes use positive imaging and words to tap into their potential to perform at their best, we think it is extraordinary. Why then, do we hesitate to use the same approach to propel our projects and organisations to perform at their best?

Can we as evaluators find a way of using generative questions to tap into what works, so that we can learn from it and amplify it?

The power of questions is aptly described by Browne (2008) who pointed out that every question has a direction, and because of the direction of the question it either carries generative or destructive energy.

AI is interested in generative questions – those that “build a bridge” or “turn on a light”. The rationale for AI is that if we pose provocative questions that discover the positive core of a project or programme, we can multiply and magnify what works.

By doing this tracking and fanning, we focus our energy on what works, and this creates the energy for the programme to grow in that positive direction.

Final Thoughts

Essentially AI promises a lot of potential, especially when used appropriately. When you identify what works and amplify it, great changes can be implemented.

AI is underpinned by a relational and conversational approach to human systems. This approach pays attention to the patterns in the system and the expressive relationship between the elements of the system.

Human systems are living systems, and in these systems patterns of belief; communication; action and reaction; sense-making and emotion; are important – these are the things that “give life” to the system.

At DWC, we specialize in a variety of methodologies and creative approaches. We will adjust and customise each approach depending on each organization’s specific needs, expectations and other contextual factors.  To find out more about how we can help your organization to measure, evaluate, shape and create positive change in a powerful way, contact Lindy Briginshaw (

By Fia van Rensburg

mobile survey

Using mobile survey technology for data collection

By Evaluation, Research

Development Works Changemakers always strives to innovate and optimise the use of technology, especially in research processes and evaluation studies.  One way of improving efficiencies and data quality, whilst maximising time in the field is to use mobile survey technology.

Paper-based data collection / paper-based pencil interviewing (PAPI) has been the standard method for decades. However, errors are frequent, printing, transport and storage costs are prohibitive, and the chance of double data entry are higher.

The development of electronic methods

Electronic methods of data collection have been developed in order to merge the process of data collection and data entry. In 2017, more than 90 per cent of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa were covered by 2G networks. But more advanced networks are now beginning to take hold.

South Africa leads the continent in mobile penetration with 153 mobile cellular prescriptions per 100 populations. Use of mobile phones is widespread even in remote areas of rural South Africa.

Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI)

One example is Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) which our team have used as a method of data collection for an evaluation of upgrading of informal settlements programme.

The evaluation aimed to assess the outcome of the upgrading of informal settlements. The extent to which the programme had enhanced the security of tenure, improved healthy and secure living environments, and reduced social and economic exclusions, with the aim of identifying strengths, challenges and lessons for future strategy planning.

A mixed-method summative evaluation design using the Lot Quality Assurance Sampling (LQAS) methodology was used to assess the outcomes of the programme in designated areas of the Western Cape.

The methods of data collection employed were key informant interviews, focus group discussions and a beneficiary survey.

Our researchers employed a CAPI software application that was uploaded onto a mobile phone. The software allows for access to a survey, which takes the mobile phone user through the survey step-by-step. The data was saved and uploaded when the mobile phone was next within network range.

The process and application

With extensive training, the fieldwork research team found the whole process of creating and uploading the survey to be very user-friendly. Typically the application takes the fieldworker through the survey, question-by-question.

Fieldworkers are required to select options in example questions shown above. Including multiple-choice questions, qualitative or open-ended questions and tick-box questions.

Additionally, the application has prompted to ensure the validity of answers captured by the fieldworkers. Thereby forcing them to answer a question or give a valid answer. This avoids skipping questions.

Once in the field, the research team were able to use the phones with ease. Fieldworker Monalisa Guzana shared, “Using mobile survey technology was tricky when we first began, in terms of learning the questions on the phone and how they were formatted, charging the phones every night – we had to get used to these aspects not present with paper-based surveys. Once we had systemised our way of working, the application and tool made our work simple and quick.”

After the fieldworker had completed a survey, the results were uploaded from the phone once within network range.  Fieldworker Tarryn had this to say about capturing data electronically for the first time, “CAPI is the future… Conducting surveys/questionnaires via cellphone simplifies the process of capturing the data. No paper, no fuss. It is convenient and easy to use. It was such a delight to use in the field.”

The benefits

A key feature of mobile survey technology is that the system provides a fieldwork management spreadsheet showing the number of surveys captured by each agent, when they were uploaded and how long the survey implementation took.

This information is vital for an evaluation. It streamlines the process of fieldworker and survey management. It also allows project managers to see where each fieldworker is reporting from and how long each survey takes to complete.

Researcher Paul shared his insight, “CAPI is an innovative tool that not only improves efficiency in the research process but also secures data. Using the software also requires adequate training, an aspect, which should not be undermined.

Nevertheless, with appropriate skill and technical know-how, designing the surveys within the software online and actual execution of the survey and analysis of results thereof will become an exceptionally manageable time and cost-saving.”

data collection

Tips for using CAPI/mobile survey technology:

After using the technology ourselves, we’ve put together a list of tips to help with the effective use of CAPI technology.

1. Maximise on the input/support around the design and functionality of your survey 

Firstly, the initial navigation of learning how to design and create your CAPI survey can be quite daunting. Ensure sufficient time and budget is allocated for this crucial stage.

2. Train your fieldwork staff thoroughly

It is imperative to provide thorough training for fieldworkers who will be collecting data. When fieldworkers are comfortable using a new form of technology before embarking on data collection, it will create fewer problems once they are in the field. Run through your phone survey in the training!

3.     Pilot your survey, analyse the results and give yourself the necessary time to make any adjustments needed

Piloting your tools before entering the field is an essential component of any research process. When using a new form of data collection, it is advisable to give yourself enough time to analyse the results and make necessary adjustments. Practice, practice, pilot!

4.     Regularly check your data as it comes in

The CAPI web console allows you to access and manage data in real-time. This is particularly helpful as it allows you to monitor data as it is coming through. You are able to keep track of progress and identify any problems early-up. Project managers can keep track of fieldworkers and surveys online, in real-time!

5.     Regularly check up on your data bundles to ensure that your surveys are captured

A pay-as-you-go method for data collection with purchasing credit for mobile phones helps to monitor credit usage and ensure surveys are being captured optimally!

Our DWC portfolio highlights our years of experience in data collection and fieldwork. If you need effective data collection for any project, programme, research study or assignment, please do contact the Lindy Briginshaw at

In conclusion, for a detailed comparison between CAPI and PAPI visit Survey CTO’s link here. Survey CTO is a highly reliable mobile data collection platform. Our team of researchers and evaluators have used it often when working in offline settings.

community politics and tips to overcome

10 tips for moving beyond community politics

By Ethics, Evaluation

Research fieldwork can be daunting and often impossible when the community is not on your side. It is essential as an evaluator conducting research in the field for an evaluation to strive to overcome this obstacle by acknowledging the importance of community buy-in. This helps minimise the chance of community politics.  

To have the community with you – and not against you – is vital and cannot be underestimated. Politics must be negotiated carefully to avoid community objections, apathy or resistance.

Lindy Briginshaw, CEO and Founder of Development Works Changemakers, explains that without community buy-in, your research study or evaluation can be challenged or even derailed. 

community politics“Don’t anticipate obvious success in undertaking your community research or evaluation study. The strength of your work depends largely on partnerships developed between researcher, evaluator and community, as well as cooperation, negotiation and commitment to the research or evaluation project,” she says.

Here are 10 top tips for overcoming challenging community politics when conducting research,  completing surveys, interviewing community members and gathering data for an evaluation in a particular community.

1. Share responsibilities with your client from day one

Bring your client on-board as much as possible. Your client may be well connected to a community and so able to assist to identify community stakeholders, or influencers, who can legitimise the research process. Such stakeholders include local government officials with political office, as well as community leaders, activists and mobilisers. Once the community leaders have been identified, you will need a point of entry into the target communities. 

You must be given adequate channels of access and know the protocols that need to be followed. This can be achieved by obtaining a letter from the relevant officials in positions of power. This way, community politics can be limited, or even avoided, engaging respectfully and communicating extensively with respective community stakeholders to ensure buy-in and access.

2. Conduct a situational assessment with your client

Get to know the community landscape and social dynamics at play and share your experience of this at briefing meetings. Doing so will provide valuable feedback of how your client’s intervention has been received up to the point of evaluation. This will expose a preliminary assessment of the knowledge, attitudes and perception of the intervention. In turn, you can then identify areas of sensitivity to avoid when approaching the community and refine your methods where necessary.

3. Be up-to-speed on community current affairs

Identify a ‘community champion’ – someone who is a leader or is working in the community and who you may regularly contact for information and guidance before reaching out to the community and throughout the intervention. 

Champions are often your first point of contact as a researcher and evaluator. Usually, they have the community intelligence you need to assist you in your work. Open communication and a good relationship with your champion/s are key and this will support your understanding of the community, as well as your safety and security in the field.

4. Set up meetings with the community leaders

Community leaders are elected or appointed representatives of their community and feel responsible for what happens in their sphere of influence in their communities. It is essential therefore to identify yourself and your purpose in the area. 

Inform and communicate respectfully with the community and leaders of your research and evaluation objectives and who your client is. Failing to acknowledge community leaders can pose a serious challenge and limit access and may even derail your efforts entirely. 

5. Follow the proper channels of community awareness to facilitate buy-in

Once you’ve developed and nurtured a relationship with community leaders, they become an important asset for conducting your research in a particular community. They are instrumental in facilitating buy-in because of their position of influence. 

The leaders will make the community aware of the intended research or objectives of the evaluation study and benefits to the community.  Buy-in from the rest of the community is then more likely to be achieved. The community will be aware of your presence. Most importantly, you are secure in knowing that the proper channels have been followed.

6. Step back and take an objective standpoint

After the politics of access have been addressed, it is important to note that broader political issues should not be addressed by you. You should not represent any affiliation nor any political party, view or ideology. Rather, you should approach the community as an objective outsider who represents the research consultancy. Or an evaluation agency contracted by your client. 

You should emphasise that your role is only for data collection, research and evaluation purposes and that you have no authority, nor judgment, on views expressed by community members.

7. Treat community members with the utmost respect

Always obtain consent for participation from community members through the signing of a consent form. This is necessary before you begin. Community members should be treated with dignity and respect and should not be forced to participate in your research.

8. Be aware of political and community sensitivities

It’s essential to be aware of sensitive issues happening in communities and in the country at large. Knowing this can guide you as to how to dress, approach people and how to talk or even conduct your research. 

This becomes even more important if your research explores sensitive socio-political issues. Having such contextual awareness can mitigate the risk of frustrating community participants and it allows you to be politically sensitive.

9. Know when you can push the limits 

If you find that a survey participant is uncomfortable, it is important that you are sensitive to this. Your task is not to cause turmoil or further damage to a situation. In some extreme situations, you are advised to release a participant from the interview who does not want to proceed. It is best practice to then refer the participant to a person or nonprofit support group, or counsellor, who may support them.

10. Show your appreciation

Once you have completed your research, it is important to give thanks and show appreciation for the community’s time and contribution to your work. You never know when research will need to be conducted in the same community again. 

Leaving people with a smile and a feeling that their inputs are valued is crucial.  This respect shows appreciation for the contributions of community members.

Development Works Changemakers conducts independent evaluations and assessments of globally of projects, programmes, development initiatives and communication campaigns. 

We strive to add value to public and private sector partners, funders and development organisations, by providing accurate, insightful and cost-effective solutions to enhance programme performance.  For more info do contact Lindy Briginshaw, CEO or Susannah Clarke-von Witt, Research & Evaluation Director for more information by emailing or

data literacy importance

Data Literacy – a language that speaks louder than protest action

By Research, Workshop

The South African Cities Network (SACN) hosted a “Municipal Finance Data Storytelling Workshop” on 5 November 2019 at the Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education at Tshimologong in Johannesburg.   Participants practically engaged with data through data storytelling and data journalism. 

Data storytelling and data journalism

Experts gave the following presentations : 

  • Overview of the State of the City Finances Report – Danga Mughogho, SA Cities Network 
  • The South African Cities Open Data Almanac (SCODA) and digital data stories – Jonathan Wilson, SA Cities Network; Richard Gevers, OpenData Durban
  • Data Journalism approaches to telling stories with data – Asanda Ngoasheng
  • Poster walk: Govtech innovations and Civil Society Stories  – Kirsten Pearson

data storytelling quote

The combination of background information, practical examples, links to key municipal finance information, sources and municipal finance data analysis tools, and a poster exhibition of recent initiatives to facilitate citizens’ access to key municipal data and the development of the capacity of citizens to engage with data and to hold municipalities accountable was an enlightening experience amidst the flood of dismal messages in the media following the Public Enterprises Minister’s recent announcement that Municipalities owe Eskom R23,5 billion.        

The most obvious valuable takeaway from the workshop was the opportunity to get down and practical. This is done by creating a data story in a group activity, guided by a data story template. This tool, and the skill of data storytelling, is not only useful to journalists but can be helpful to evaluators too. 

Data literacy

Another benefit of this workshop was the realisation of just how important data literacy is. Development Works Changemakers recently did an evaluation of a school-based software coding programme. It highlighted the importance of digital literacy, and specifically coding of a future form of literacy was highlighted.

In the not so distant future, the ability to code will be an imperative skill. Not only for software developers but in all fields. The South African Education Department is already implementing related initiatives and has intensified planning for future programmes. This is given the realisation that there is a vital need to capacitate teachers and to prepare learners for a data-driven world. 

These initiatives are often still pitched as relevant to certain career fields. Such as Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), engineering. Gradually the value beyond direct technical application is realised. This is expressed by Minister Angie Motshekga who said “This will not only develop STEM skills, but also contribute to effectively developing children’s creativity, critical thinking, design thinking, and digital skills. This will ensure that South Africa develops learners who are makers and inventors who will contribute to building an innovative culture in South Africa”.  

It is imperative that this intention shared by Minister Motshekga is acted on. There needs to be a follow-through by the Department of Education and key decision-makers.  This is only meaningful if these statements are translated into tangible action. This is to ensure access to quality education is enjoyed by all South Africans.

Active citizenship and accountable government

Critical thinking and digital skills are not only relevant to coding, but also relate to how we engage with data that is available in our everyday lives. It also influences the extent to which active citizenship is possible and effective. The Cities Network Workshop demonstrated how data literacy could enable ordinary citizens to engage actively and effectively with government at all levels. As well as how citizens can contribute to strengthening democracy. This goes beyond just participating in elections, and can hold government accountable in a constructive way. 

data literacy

Data literacy already is, and will become increasingly important, to enable citizens to play a more active role in ensuring that public finances are spent responsibly, and where needed most, for the best benefit of society.

The most compelling example of how data literacy can assist citizens to play an active role in communicating their needs and holding government accountable was found in the EU-funded Accounting for Basic Services (ABS) project.  This initiative which was implemented at local government level in selected communities through a partnership between various development stakeholders. The ABS project strengthened community engagement with local government to ensure “equitable, just and effective use of municipal funds”.

Through the project, the use of budget analysis and social accountability tools were promoted to engage communities. In addition it encourages responsive governance and emphasises accountability. The project demonstrated that communities and their organisations have the ability to understand and engage with municipal finances. The ABS project assisted communities to understand where and on what money is being spent; assess if government’s priorities and projects sufficiently address their needs; voice their concerns and needs, and keep government accountable.

Constructive and empowered participation

data literacy quote

This type of initiative may be key to constructively channel aspirations. It needs a strong sense of agency and involvement amongst ordinary people in initiatives. This helps make their voices heard clearly, and effectively. With higher levels of data literacy and active, empowered participation, it may be possible to find a language that speaks louder than protest action. It has the potential to ensure timely attention to pressing issues that could defuse the intense levels of frustration that frequently lead to confrontation and destruction of infrastructure. 

This project provides a glimpse of hope amidst many challenges by showing what is needed and what is possible. Imagine a future where data literate South African citizens are active participants in governing our country for the benefit of all?  

By Fia van Rensburg

gold standard in evaluation

A new ‘Gold Standard’ in evaluation design

By Evaluation, Research

The word ‘gold standard’ is a contentious word when speaking about evaluation designs. Often, it refers to randomised control trials (RCTs). These are evaluation designs that replicate the experimental design in physical and biological sciences that help us to make causal claims. Some claim that this is the strongest and most robust evaluation design.

The new gold standard

However, as evaluators who provide evaluation services in the development sector, when asked what the best evaluation design is for a specific intervention off the bat, you’re likely to have the ambiguous response “it depends”. Because interventions don’t work like neat and tidy laboratory experiments. 

Interventions should be bold and innovative and conceptualised to perform a specific function. Although this is great for social and human development it can be challenging for evaluators.

A landscape of interventions

In a landscape of interventions of all shapes and sizes, evaluators are presented with the task of being an educator, advocate, technician, and sometimes even a magician. At the core of an evaluator’s response to an evaluation should be ‘what is the purpose of this evaluation’.

More often than not, commissioners of evaluations are interested in outcomes and impact. But, as a result of various factors, an RCT becomes unfeasible. Factors can include programme design at conceptualisation and the time at which the evaluation is commissioned. It is at this point that evaluators need to do the best they can with what they have.

Let’s use the analogy of travelling from point A to point B. The best possible vehicle is not the Rolls Royce envisioned, but rather a dirt bike.

Some work still needs to be done in shaking off the stigma of not producing an evaluation design using the often elusive ‘gold standard’ in the hope that what will become the ‘gold standard’ of evaluation will be what is fit-for-purpose.

evaluation techniques

ethics in researach

Ethics in research and how to handle socio-economic challenges in fieldwork

By Ethics, Evaluation, Research

It is imperative for researchers to abide by clear research ethics in order to conduct their work in a professional and ethical manner. Simply put, ethics are a set of rules that distinguish between “right” and “wrong” and “bad” and “good” in any situation. Ethics are about the norms for conduct that distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in society.

Ethics in research

In research with human subjects, maintaining sound ethics is crucial at every stage. Be it in the research design, fieldwork or writing up and sharing of findings. At the most basic level, research ethics are informed by the principle of “do no harm”. Most of the codes of ethics used in research today were developed for the medical field, where trials/research on human subjects are common.

Many of the principles developed in these codes apply to social/development research and evaluation, including “do no harm”, and the need to bear in mind the power differentials between the researcher and the research subjects. Ethical characteristics, therefore, include honesty, objectivity, integrity, carefulness, openness, respect, and confidentiality.

One of the most important aspects of any research ethics code is informed consent. A participant has a right to understand fully the purpose of the research and the risks and benefits of participation. They have the right to anonymity, and to withdraw from the research at any point, or refuse to answer any question.

Vulnerable groups

When research is being conducted with vulnerable groups or individuals, such as children, refugees, people who are abused or ill, minorities etc. these principles take on even greater importance due to the power differential in the research relationship. The risk of harm to the participant, either during the research process or as a result of the publication of findings. Research design should thus include ways to reduce or minimise the risk of harm.

However, conducting social research is often challenging and throws up complex scenarios that are not ethically straightforward. Successful and ethical research outcomes require properly trained and well-prepared researchers. Research plans and proposed methodologies in certain cases (e.g. research with children or other vulnerable subjects) need to be submitted to a recognised research ethics committee for approval and guidance before any fieldwork can commence. It is also imperative that research abides by the various laws that apply in any country regarding research generally, and with vulnerable populations.

Overcoming challenges

At Development Works Changemakers (DWC) we take research ethics very seriously in all our research and evaluation activities. All of our senior research staff hold postgraduate degrees, have taken courses in research ethics, and have conducted advanced research requiring ethics clearance. They are thus in a position to lead fieldwork teams in ethical research practice. DWC also raises ethical issues from the outset with every partner or client. We also factor research ethics clearance into our proposed budgets and project timeframes.

Training fieldworkers

DWC works with an extensive network of trusted associates and freelancers on repeat assignments. This allows trust to be established over time and our ethical approach to be embedded. Our team is also rigorous with recruiting and managing new fieldworkers to ensure quality standards are always adhered to. Fieldworkers are provided with a detailed contextual understanding and briefing. Ideally, we work with researchers who are located from the community where the research is taking place. This ensures ownership and a deep sense of community connection, understanding and networks.

Fieldworkers go through a detailed training programme before a fieldwork intervention. We focus on the local context, research, ethics, requirements and expectations, study objectives, methodology and tools to be used.

Risk mitigation

The team also roleplays and discusses different possible risks and challenges that may arise through scenario planning and how best to mitigate any problems or challenges that may be experienced in the field.  Technical training is also provided on data gathering using tablets and mobile phones. Research teams are always fully prepared and well-oriented to carry out their fieldwork assignments as optimally and successfully as possible.

Given challenging socioeconomic conditions, risks do materialise whilst in the field. This includes security risks such as crime and safety of fieldworkers and equipment.  No research study is worth risking the safety of a team member. At all times ethical behaviour guides all decisions we make whilst running challenging research and evaluation assignments. Especially in under-resourced communities where risks are high.

People are unpredictable and sometimes community dynamics and political contexts are complicated. No matter how well-trained fieldworkers may be, working with communities can bring about unexpected challenges when they respond in different or unpredictable ways.

Understand the circumstances

It is important to be appreciative of participants’ time and input. However, a balance is needed in respect of any material payment or gift offered in return for participation. Airtime, a snack or small meal may be provided in return for a person’s participation in an interview. Our team shows gratitude and appreciation, in line with good research ethical practice and guidelines.

Fieldworkers always need to be trained in handling unexpected situations in a professional and ethical manner. If in doubt, there is always a senior member of staff to guide them in such situations. Treating people with respect, dignity and tact, and explaining the project objectives and terms carefully helps ensure mutual respect, good research practice and positive results.

Our DWC portfolio is a testament to how we practice ethics and understanding in the workplace. We’d love to work with you.

africa's young leaders in discusssion

The inspirational potential of Africa’s young leaders

By Evaluation, Workshop2,544 Comments

Leadership in Africa is often reduced to a caricature of old male dictators destroying their countries through patronage, greed, violence and abuse of the state. This is often the sole focus of international news reports about Africa in particular.   Africa’s young leaders have a chance to change this. 

While this depressing picture can reflect one kind of African reality, it tends to obscure the many different kinds of positive leadership demonstrated by thousands of African citizens working at a number of levels in society. Taking Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s warning seriously, it is important to challenge the single story of failed African leadership at the elite political level, with counter-narratives of multiple kinds of leadership emerging on the continent. 

The role of the youth

Perhaps if we could continue to build and harness this multi-faceted leadership potential, true democracy might start to loosen the grip of entrenched negative political leadership patterns. The younger generations are particularly important in this endeavour.     


The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) was launched in 2010 by President Barack Obama. It seeks to invest in the next generation of African leaders. Funded by the U.S. Department of State, it introduced the now widely respected Mandela-Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (MWF). Every year since 2014, hundreds of young people (ages 25-35) already demonstrating leadership potential have been selected from across Sub-Saharan Africa to participate in a six week “Leadership Institute” at a U.S college. 

This “Institute” is an intensive academic and practical leadership course informed by the Social Change Model of leadership. It is aimed at developing values-based and servant leadership among participants. Fellows are selected to participate from three areas: Business, Civic Engagement and Public Management. Alongside the many activities during the six-week course, Fellows also attend a Summit and are expected to develop a Leadership Development Plan (LDP) for implementation on their return to their home countries. 

youth at yali

To add value to these U.S.-based activities, USAID has sponsored several Africa-based “follow-on” activities which can be completed during the year-long Fellowship. These include

  • Professional Practicums (high-level internships at suitable companies);
  • Mentorships;
  • Speaker Travel Grants;
  • Continued Networking and Learning Events;
  • Collaboration Fund Grants; and
  • involvement in the Regional Advisory Boards.

Fellows have also gone on to form alumni associations in their respective countries and collaborate in various ways. 

Development Works Changemakers

In early 2019, Development Works Changemakers was commissioned to conduct an evaluation of the Africa-based follow-on activities. Along with an electronic questionnaire, and one-on-one Skype interviews, Development Works Changemakers conducted several country visits to meet with Mandela-Washington Fellows and learn about the impact of the follow-on activities on them.

We visited Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe, conducting in-depth focus group discussions and one-on-one interviews with Fellows and Practicum hosts. Broadly, the evaluation found that the Africa-based follow-on activities added significantly to the value of the U.S.-based Leadership Institute, cementing lessons through practical experience and building networks with graduates in Fellows’ home countries and elsewhere. 

Andrew Hartnack, a senior Evaluator with Development Works Changemakers Evaluator, visited Accra, Nairobi and Harare. He met with over 40 Mandela-Washington Fellows in the course of this evaluation. What stood out for Andrew in meeting these Fellows was their incredible energy, vision, integrity and passion to make a difference in their own sectors. 

Yali event

Kenyan Mandela-Washington Fellows collaborate by advising each other on projects they are working on. Here a Fellow trying to build a community hospital is getting important advice on her plans from a Fellow who is an architect, and a Fellow who works for the Ministry of Health in a Public Hospital.

The potential of Africa’s young leaders

Andrew met Fellows working in government Ministries who were positively influencing their colleagues and participating in various ways in building the institutional capacity of their units. He also met many young entrepreneurs who, through their MWF experience, had decided to apply their talents not just to money-making, but to the social issues they saw around them. For example, one fashion designer in Zimbabwe partnered with a local rural empowerment organisation to work with rural women in designing, making and marketing local products for sale. 

Other Fellows shifted their focus towards activism and lobbying on behalf of various constituencies which are under threat in their countries. In Zimbabwe and elsewhere, incredible bravery has been shown by a number of Fellows as they try to speak truth to power and make a difference in their countries. Fellows are building hospitals and orphanages, founding companies and non-profits, registering companies offering innovative solutions in areas such as climate change mitigation, and reforming government policy and practice in various ways. 

This crop of Africa’s young leaders – half of whom are women – are beginning to show what can be achieved with a little bit of support, and through networking and collaborating with other young people committed to making a difference. If Africa’s potential is to be realised, it is young people like this who must be the next leaders of economic, political and human development efforts on the continent. There is certainly cause for great hope if all this human potential can be fully harnessed.   

By Andrew Hartnack

Heritage Day

What Does Heritage Mean to You?

By Heritage, Legacy6,112 Comments

South Africa is a fascinating country. Commonly referred to as a rainbow nation or melting pot of culture, our beautiful home is vibrant, friendly and, most importantly, full of heritage. Recently, our attention has been drawn to various happenings that make it easy to be proud of our country – such as the incredible voices of the Ndlovu Youth Choir, or the Springboks representing in Japan with the World Cup Rugby, or the #ImStaying movement. 

There are many moments when, the deep pride, tenacity, hope and love for our country and it’s people, we are encouraged to unite.  Whether it be against adversity like the recent powerful rise of voices against gender-based-violence in our country, or ways of sharing and celebrating our common heritage we all need to speak with one voice with one commitment to a shared future. It’s for this reason that we are sharing here what Heritage Day means to us. 

Heritage Day

24 September 2019 marked Heritage Day in South Africa. All over the country, people took the day off work to celebrate their heritage, identity and culture. We asked members of the DWC team what Heritage Day means to them:

Unique and beautiful diversity

“I hope that Heritage Day this year will remind us, as South Africans, that our diversity and culture is unique and beautiful. At a time when SA is facing so many challenges, we need to embrace our diversity and work as a powerful unifying force, remembering that our culture and diversity should not divide us, but rather foster our growth towards a stronger nation.”

Celebrating being South African

“Heritage Day is about celebrating being South African, being patriotic and proud.  Our home country is so rich in diversity, expressed in our arts, culture, sport, music, theatre, languages, food and so much more.  I feel so proud of how far we have come as a nation, our diversity and rich tapestry of people.”   

A reflection on identity

“To me, heritage has nothing to do with braais! It is more a reflection of where I come from – the many layers and nuances of my family’s story for generations and how that fits into the complex story of southern Africa. I reflect on how these stories and histories have shaped who I am, and how I can in turn shape myself, my family and wider society in years to come.”

Embrace and build

“First of all, I am a South African. I am from Africa. What I have learned about my heritage is that I need to choose what I embrace and build on, and what I leave behind. Who I am today and what I choose to create, is the heritage I leave behind for my children and their children.“

Culture and tradition

“To me Heritage Day means being in touch with our culture and tradition, recognizing our identity.”

Whether you celebrate Heritage Day with a gathering, or the braai, or sharing stories with your family, we hope that you celebrated with pride!  

Let’s keep the banners lifted, the movement moving and conversations happening to seek the change we want to see in our world!