This blog reflects on the challenges facing institutions when there is a need to create inclusive development and is based on informed analysis of fourteen interviews with development practitioners, political actors and businesses in Tanzania.

The challenge to institutions.

Institutions that are fit for purpose are driven by values. They exist to pursue a common purpose; to embed values such as fairness, freedom and the rule of law; to safeguard those values and to seek equity (RSA).

The challenge for society is whether we have the capacity to address our most pressing challenges. Too many institutions are weak and unpopular, subject to public ire. There is an urgent need to renew institutions’ legitimacy and operating methods. Social progress relies on whether we can build new institutional capacity.

These reflections on the challenge to institutions informed my analysis of fourteen interviews with development practitioners, political actors and businesses in Tanzania conducted in January 2020. When asked about Tanzania’s development challenge their concerns ranged from

  • How to address the wicked problem that is inclusive development?
  • How to navigate a political environment that is focussed on centralising and holding on to power when civil society’s mandate is social change?
  • How to determine the ethic of the nation? And
  • How to operationalise win-win investments?

Inclusive development is a contested, values-based ideology.

Modern societies protect the vulnerable and marginalised and do so by providing people with security. This requires them to be inclusive and to take seriously the question “Does the system work for the many?” We need to grapple with power and influence, and how they are used, if people at the margin are to be included in the process and outcomes of development.

In spite of Tanzania’s low Gini coefficient the elite have captured decision-making and resources. The result is that the majority is marginalised; and some are more marginalised than others.

Inclusive development requires effective government. An inclusively developed state is one where everyone has a stake; and where the benefits of development are shared by all.

“You can’t have inclusive development if there is flagrant taking of advantage.”

Inclusive development is progressive aspiration to build the nation’s social and human capital. The desired end being a society that possesses a moral agency, that recognises interdependence and that possesses a socio-centric concern with each other’s well-being. The Tanzanian Government’s vision is of a self-reliant and independent nation.

Tanzania’s development challenge is how to grow the economy inclusively.

Tanzania inhabits an ambiguous space where the norms of the past no longer hold and those of the future are yet to emerge. Generalised insecurity combined with elite capture; diverging visions of Tanzania’s future; and weak institutions make it challenging to grow the economy inclusively.

We need a national conversation to co-create our vision for a modern Tanzania. Is industrialisation the right vision for Tanzania? Who do we want to be as a people?

Institutions, including the Opposition, the Constitution, and Civil Society are weak. This is in spite of the focus over the past decade on good governance. Vested interests captured the system a long time ago, and people have taken advantage. In spite of the anti-corruption narrative, corruption remains embedded in the political system.

Tanzania’s development challenge is how to grow the economy inclusively. But the practical dilemma for non-state and Opposition actors is how to navigate the complex environment of increasingly centralised power and decreasing space for progressive thinking.

Four mechanisms could be deployed to foster inclusive development.

  • Align political, business and ideological interests in defining the ethic of the nation. Host and diffuse a national conversation about where we are heading and recognise that achieving the national vision requires multiple means and actors.
  • Create space, structure and process for productive interdependence. Go where there is energy. Get the system in the room and build trust. Co-create a shared understanding of complex systems and align interests in support of connected action. Embrace equifinality; the reality that there are many ways to solve a problem and that ideological, strategic and practical flexibility is required to generate synergistic action.
  • Establish symmetric power relationships with communities and foster a variety of citizen driven development pathways. Government should assume that people are fundamentally predisposed to do the right thing. The role of Government is to create the conditions for them to do so. Educate citizens and their representatives about the nexus between tax paying, democracy and accountability. Centre citizens in government planning processes by decentralising and devolving power sub-nationally.
  • Innovate in the design, delivery, scaling and impact measurement of development aid. Aid modalities should make long-term bets and also invest in experimental work. Reframe the question of scale to focus less on reach and more on change in complex systems. Aggregate the impact being achieved and demonstrate what the multiplicity of outputs and effects add up to as a contribution to inclusive development. Critique and resist development fads that are driven by politicians.

I suggest that these mechanisms for change are key in effecting inclusive development. But they rely on a receptive State. In Tanzania, there is divergence between Government and non-state actors in how to achieve their vision. This creates dilemmas for development practitioners.

How can civil society and the donors that fund it contribute to effecting inclusive development?

Aid is not inherently developmental and tends to reflect national self-interest. Development and charity are not the same. Developmental donors should be honest that their efforts are at root an attempt at social engineering “to get society working well.”

Civil society’s narrative does not necessarily represent the lived experience of all Tanzanians. Inclusive development requires collective action but there is little evidence of that within civil society. Although civil society is legally non-partisan many progressives within the sector are motivated by and interested in catalysing social transformation. This is political. The challenge lies in how to be true to that political vision and at the same time to tactically align with the Government.

There are at least three avenues out of this dilemma:

  • Civil society needs to have a serious conversation about what they stand for and how they add value.
  • Civil society needs to become adaptable and agile.
  • Civil society needs to own its progressive political philosophy.

Civil society and the donors that fund them would benefit from applying the insights from the RSA’s analysis of the challenges to institutions. They should:

  • Think like a system and act like an entrepreneur.
  • Create visions for the future that align equity of values and efficiency of outcomes with a sense of emotional commitment.
  • Replace a solutionist way of thinking by opening up to greater voice and expanding the humanistic lifeworld further into the system.
  • Rebuild trust in aid by building a stream-lined, non-intermediated model of aid.
  • Centre citizens in democracy.
  • Address issues of accountability and responsibility amongst public servants.
  • Invest in explanatory journalism that presents reliable information in ways that are relevant and accessible.
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