Posts by cambridgedevelopment

The Cambridge Development Initiative (CDI) is a non-profit organization that improves the wellbeing of Tanzanians. CDI empowers student leaders in the UK and Tanzania to catalyse change in their societies through innovative projects in the areas of healthcare, education, entrepreneurship, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH). Since 2013, CDI has mobilized over 100 student volunteers to launch sustainable, community-oriented solutions to Dar es Salaam’s most significant challenges.

Fundraising: the highs and lows of powering the engine of an international charity

Determined to ‘save the world’ from a young age, I had been a passionate crusader for volunteering (especially the sexy, international type) and ‘doing good’… until a couple of real-life stints abroad opened my eyes to just how complicated and difficult the whole thing actually is. My critique of ‘voluntourism’ is nothing new and our very own Varsity has tackled the issue in recent weeks. I found myself deeply frustrated and dissatisfied over my time in Nepal this past summer as I saw the still-lingering earthquake damage all around me and thought to myself: is teaching the children English through the songs of The Beatles and playing a nerdy grammar version of Splat really the best things I could do for them?

This summer I finally had that epiphany that my peers ruthlessly gunning for those lucrative City jobs had perhaps grasped long before: money matters; money is not always evil; money can and often does do good. Just as I was belatedly realising that I could be of better use utilising my networks and communication skills to raise funds, CDI came to my attention in a fortuitous Facebook post on my newsfeed advertising for a Fundraising position! Small confession though: until relatively recently I had thought fundraising rather dull and uninteresting – it certainly seemed to pale in comparison to the heroic endeavours of those on the frontline, as it were, ‘changing lives’ and ‘helping people’. But what my experiences abroad have taught me is that this role is perhaps the heart of any charity, the engine of any organisation.

I like to think of my team (along with our lovely Finance Director, Sunil) as the Treasury of CDI. We may mysteriously hover in the background and not be directly involved in actual project matters, occasionally breaking our reticence to solemnly proclaim the importance of sticking to ‘the budget’, but without us there is no money and without money there is no good to be done, plain and simple. You do feel quite important! Having said that, it has undoubtedly been a baptism of fire. With choral singing having been my most ‘teamwork’-based activity thus far, I was suddenly thrust into a terrifying world of Slack and Google Drive. I have made mistakes and missed deadline and backtracked and panicked and wanted to quit at various points; I have felt hopelessly lost and confused and incompetent. But each time the wonderful committee rallies around to support and calm you down (usually over a sneaky pint or nice brunch at Queen’s) and you are reminded of how special CDI truly is.

Currently, my team and I are drafting letters to beg colleges for some money (you have to be quite persistent to wear down their usual we’re-so-poor-and-have-absolutely-nothing talk), researching grants and corporate firms we are hoping to target for sponsorship, and getting in touch with the finest nightclubs Cambridge has to offer (Lola’s or Cindies) to see if they’ll let us host a launch party there. After all, we only have until the summer to raise £50,000+…

By Sang-Hwa Lee Fundraising Director 2019/20

Sang-Hwa is a 3rd year History student at Gonville and Caius College.

Monitoring, Evaluating and Learning: What, why and how?

An introduction to the process and importance of ME&L

Let’s face it. You see the words ‘measuring’ and ‘evaluating’ and instantly feel like the fun police have rocked up to your project party. Horror flashbacks from first year stats class start to brew at the back of your mind and you are ready to scroll past this blog post.

BUT: buckle up, friends— I promise you, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is really not that bad. In 5 minutes when you have finished reading this post, you will know some jazzy technical words and handy tools for making decisions, designing projects, and communicating to donors and investors.

First up. Development Impact and M&E— what are they and why should you care? Many institutions or individuals are out in the world trying to make it a better place. Development Impact is the additional socio-economic/societal value that can be attributed to an organisation’s activities. M&E is a broad term for the tools that help you estimate whether you have generated a development impact, and indeed, made the world a better place.

M&E is critical to project design because it forces us to ask:

  • – Are we achieving what we intended to achieve?
  • – Are we contributing to our partners and stakeholders’ goals?
  • – If we didn’t exist would things be any different?

In this sense it is an essential part of strategy and performance measurement. Good strategy asks: “where do we want to be in 5 years, and what do I need to do each year to get there?” Meanwhile, a good M&E framework tells us if we are on the right track—or if we need to pivot our ideas and activities.

The ‘Theory of Change’ underpins an institution’s M&E framework. It defines what ‘development’ looks like in terms of its inputs and outputs, as well as the outcomes and impacts expected from these. To this end, it will establish a conceptual link between the ‘what’, ‘why’, and ‘how’ of our operations. Integrated within the M&E framework, it will:

  • Establish what should be measured and reported;
  • Communicate to stakeholders (and donors) the rationale for chosen activities and how these activities lead to development outcomes;
  • Prevent unrealistic expectations of impact directly attributable to an organisation.

Theory of Change

When an institution’s theory of change is understood internally it creates alignment towards results; when it is communicated externally it demonstrates the value and purpose of our projects.

The next step: once an institution has determined its theory of change for any given project this can be translated into a logical framework (a logframe). This is used to describe what an intervention is expected to achieve at progressive levels. It summarizes not only what should be measured (by defining key indicators), but how, and by whom and how often – sometimes referred to as a Results Framework.

A logframe helps guide project workers to collect meaningful data over the course of a project, which will contribute to an evaluation of the project’s effectiveness. This in turn helps key stakeholders make decisions; it allows them to gauge where input resources are yielding more significant outcomes and long-run impacts. It also allows institutions to adopt a continuous learning mentality – refining ideas to design projects which yield a positive impact.

So… monitoring and evaluating: these words may have low sex appeal, but the concepts behind them are the keys to the success of any organisation. Wield them correctly, and you’ll unlock buckets of potential impact and progress.

By Jenni Henderson ME&L Director 2018/19

Jenni is an MPhil candidate in Public Policy at Sidney Sussex College.

Sustainable Development: Leveraging the Small for Big Impact

Friday evening saw CDI hosting their first event of the year, an introduction to the Cambridge Development Initiative, followed by a panel discussion on the topic of ‘leveraging the small for big impact’, with speakers Taskeen Adam and Nafisa Waziri.

Following an engaging introduction to CDI by our new Director, Oliver (self-named after Oliver Cromwell, we were told!), our project directors presented an outline of the goals and progress of each of our four community development projects: education, WaSH, health, and entrepreneurship. Our deputy director, Tads, then kicked off the panel discussion by introducing and welcoming our panel speakers.

Taskeen Adam is a Cambridge-Africa Scholar, pursuing a PhD. She pioneered Solar Powered Learning in South Africa and Mobile Education for Smart Technologies in India, and was chosen as one of M&G top 200 Young South Africans in 2014. Nafisa Waziri is a member of the Development Studies department in Cambridge. Nafisa has been actively engaged in international development projects for the past seven years, including participating in research for WHO Water Safety Plans, and project managing for Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

Unfortunately two of our arranged speakers, Mike Noyes and Tom Nott, had to drop out due to unforeseen circumstances. This, however, did nothing to affect the quality of the panel discussion which covered topics from the greatest obstacles faced by sustainable development organisations in today’s global world, to the merit of the winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics for 2019, Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer.

Tads did a great job at leading the discussion and involving questions from the audience. A pertinent question was raised by an audience member, who sought advice from the panel on how to navigate ‘white saviourism’ while pursuing a career in sustainable development. Nafisa advised that continual self-reflection and analysis is vital.

As highlighted by Oliver in his introduction, it’s important not just for individuals but for organisations like ours to pause occasionally and engage collectively in these conversations in order for us to reflect, grow, and maximise our efficiency. We’ll look to take the ideas we discussed yesterday and integrate them into our work over the upcoming academic year.

It was great to see so many new faces at the event! We’d love to see you again, so please do get in touch to be added to our mailing list, or like our page on Facebook.

By Laura Curtis Publicity Director 2019/20

Laura is a French and Italian 4th year student at Queens’ College.

A Summer in Review

Eight weeks ago, we started off as two organisations working on four projects and over the course of thirty-five working days, we end as a team – one team united in the shared commitment to deliver an equitable, prosperous, and sustainable future for all. There certainly have been challenges – it has at times been difficult, demanding, and draining. And while it might not have always seemed or felt this way, as we finish and reflect, it has without a doubt been an immensely rewarding summer.

Over our thirty-five project days:

  • Our Entrepreneurship Project ran nine seminars and one network event which had nearly fifty participants
  • Our Health Project ran three workshops in two schools on four different topics which all aimed to increase awareness of sexual and reproductive health amongst school girls
  • Our Education Project ran eight KompyutHer sessions which helped fourteen young women enhance their businesses and
  • Our WaSH Project connected twenty-one latrines to our simplified sewerage networks to provide access to safe sanitation for more than two hundred people in the informal settlement of Vingunguti.

And this is only part of what we’ve been able to accomplish this summer.

On behalf of CDI’s Executive Committee, I thank you all for doing a part – your part. Thank you to our volunteers, our Trustees, our partners, our donors, and our supporters – thank you for believing in us and in our work as we endeavour to re-imagine the world. I am proud of how far we have come and all that we have been able to do. But this doesn’t mean that we are done and that there isn’t more left to do. Your commitment begins again here and now. This is our charge to you all: (Continue to) Do your part as the hope of tomorrow and as the promise of today.

By Peter Lee FRAI, FRGS, FCPS Deputy Director 2018/19

Peter is an MPhil candidate in Social Anthropology at Corpus Christi College.

Consultancy work for Blue Tap Water Filtration

This summer, myself and 2 KITE Dar es Salaam (KITE DSM) members of the WaSH Project have been exploring new avenues of work, in light of the project’s aims to handover its successful simplified sewerage project. The team, known internally as the Innovation Team, has been making use of our Tanzanian contacts to do some consultancy work for Blue Tap, a Cambridge-based start-up.

Blue Tap is a technology company that creates products to improve access to high quality drinking water in low resource settings. They came to CDI and KITE DSM’s WaSH Project this summer looking for a partner in the running of a feasibility study in Dar es Salaam. Through the promotion and sale of 50 water filters licensed for use in Tanzania, valuable lessons can be learnt regarding microfinancing and making filters affordable, distribution channels, how to incentivise vendors, the best way to advertise and promote filters, and how to convince community members that clean drinking water should be a priority. These lessons will be invaluable when Blue Tap comes to launch its novel water treatment product in the near future: a 3D printed chlorine injector.

Due to the extensive work that the CDI and KITE DSM WaSH Project has carried out in the informal settlement of Vingunguti through its simplified sewerage project, our organisations have developed good working relationships with the chairperson of the district and local community members. Consequently, getting permission to conduct surveys with the residents, and run and publicise workshops, is relatively straightforward. Our Tanzanian KITE DSM counterparts can help give local knowledge on the best districts to target certain market segments, give guidance to ensure we respect cultural etiquette and local laws, and speak Swahili to the locals and Tanzanian organisations. These links and contacts made us especially appealing as a partner for Blue Tap. The project also dovetails with our own interest in pursuing other clean water initiatives in the future. Although any future projects are still in the ideation stage, gaining a deeper understanding of the current situation will enable us to come up with the most effective solutions to tackle the challenges facing community members at present.

So, what exactly have we been doing this summer? The first thing we did was conduct a questionnaire to community members living in Vingunguti. This helped us to better understand their current drinking water situation, money saving habits, and attitudes towards investing in water filtration technology. We realised that due to CDI’s previous involvement in Vingunguti (running health workshops and implementing the simplified sewerage system), this area might not be entirely representative of other informal settlements in Dar es Salaam. To make sure our results would be applicable to a wider target group, we’ve put in applications to conduct questionnaires in other districts too, although we are still waiting to find out if permissions have been granted.

The second main task was researching microfinancing organisations in Tanzania. This is something that CDI has always been mindful of as it is very relevant to the work we do with lower income individuals. Through microfinancing loans, lower income individuals can invest in products and projects to improve their WaSH standards which they would otherwise have been unable to afford. Contact was made with several microfinancing banks, and the meetings we’ve had have shown great potential, with Blue Tap keen to collaborate with them.

Research was also done into similar water filtration companies operating in Tanzania and elsewhere in East Africa to try and predict the challenges Blue Tap might face during its feasibility study, and when rolling out larger-scale distribution of its chlorine injectors. Through the exchange of emails and phone meetings, we were able to learn about the strategies these organisations had used to make their filter distributions financially sustainable, methods of engaging the community to purchase water filters, and how to ensure continued proper use of the technology. This helped inform our decisions when planning a workshop to raise awareness on the importance of drinking water, that was held this Saturday at a venue in Vingunguti. We had a doctor in preventative medicine come in to explain the dangers of unclean water to give the workshop more credibility, we had a live water filter demonstration to show how crystal clear water can be produced from ‘muddy sludge’, and we collaborated with a microfinance organisation who came in to speak about the loans available if people want to invest in a water filter or other WaSH projects. We had 75 people attending the workshop and one lady that came forward to say she wanted to become a vendor of the water filters in her area. Fingers crossed, we’ll be seeing some sales in the next few weeks, with added publicity from our instagram campaign, posters and whatsapp presence! We’ve also been contacting hardware shops and retailers in advance to see if they’d be interested in stocking our filters if sales take off and scaling up proves a viable option in the future.

The Blue Tap feasibility study has been a really exciting project to be a part of, and I’m learning lots about business development and marketing which will be extremely useful when I begin work as a technical consultant in October. My handover report for CDI will ensure the information I’ve gained won’t be lost, and CDI can continue to build on the knowledge and contacts made this summer in future projects. Perhaps this will be the start of a new CDI specialism: consulting for external companies!

The Innovation Team 2019

By Natasha Wilson, WaSH Project Volunteer 2018/19
Natasha is fourth-year studying Engineering at Emmanuel College.

The role of ‘non’ students in a proudly student-run organisation

Just over two years ago I joined our CDI Board of Trustees. I had just started a job as a Management Consultant and was pleased for an opportunity to continue to work with an organisation I love. I first joined CDI 5 years ago when I applied to be a volunteer with the Entrepreneurship project. And, after quickly falling in love with the ethos of CDI along with Tanzanian culture, I volunteered to lead the team as project director in the following year.

A lot of CDI’s energy and, it’s unique selling point, comes from being a student-run organisation. CDI not only recognises this but is also proud of it – we splatter our banners with it. So what role do I and the other trustees of CDI play?

In most organisations, the Board of Trustees acts as a governing body since it has responsibility for the management of the organization. In CDI, it’s a little different. Our Board, which consists of seven members, seeks to provide guidance and advice, to support our volunteers in their work, and to ensure the long-term sustainability of the organisation. This last point becomes particularly important when your entire workforce is replaced every year!

Out of our trustees, four of us are slightly closer in age to our student volunteers. Patrick and Kelvin (CDI’s two founders), Raj (CDI’s Education Project Director in 2015) and myself. We work closely together in what we call the Junior Board (or ‘Baby Board’ as our Whats-App is labelled). Despite having less wisdom or field experience than the rest of the Board, I like to think we are more in touch with the students and the sequence of the Cambridge terms. We work closely with the Director and the Executive Committee by running training sessions at the start of their tenure, coaching them through the year, and being on call to discuss any pressing issues.

As many directors and committee members have experienced, being in a leadership position within CDI is one of the toughest and most challenging ways to spend your summer months as a student. Whilst your peers reside in air-conditioned investment banks aligning boxes on PowerPoint slides, you are with little to no guidance, leading a team and managing a fully-fledged project in a foreign country on a topic on which you may have limited experience. You are running on goodwill and a common purpose with little or nothing material to give in return to any volunteer, donor or stakeholder. It is without doubt, the toughest challenge I’ve undertaken to date in my career.

For those who volunteer for these positions, there is an enormous personal development journey ahead of them. Without doubt the largest joy of my role as Trustee is being able to watch the incredible development that our committee members and in particular, our directors undergo. I hope that in my role, I can in some way support our committee members in this journey where possible, whether that comes in the form of mentorship, coaching, guidance, advice or simple a poorly worded but well-intentioned pep talk. I am strongly of the belief that one of the largest impacts CDI can have is developing a network of global citizens of its volunteers. If we are able to support volunteer growth and development through a challenging and yet unrivalled experience, then our volunteers will go on to bring more of the ethos of CDI into their future career and where possible share our ethos with others. I therefore hope that CDI forever remains a proudly student-run organisation!

By Georgia Ware, Member of CDI’s Board of Trustees

What the internet can’t teach you – realities of working on the ground, and the importance of learning from Tanzanian counterparts

In purely numerical terms, I reckon I’m a prime contender for qualifying as CDI’s Most Keen Volunteer 2019. As we come back to start work on the CDI and KITE projects after our mid-trip break, I’ve already been in Tanzania for over a month, and in East Africa for a good six weeks. Owing to the logistics of timing a backpacking holiday in neighbouring Kenya (as well as a touch of incompetence on my part about dates!), I arrived the day before the CDI committee, with around ten days to spare before the other volunteers landed. As the Director, Deputy Director Project Directors and Treasurer busied themselves with the necessary meetings and logistical arrangements before everything got properly underway, I found myself with quite a bit of time on my hands. This was despite my best efforts – even after pootling around the local markets, killing some time on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, and getting to grips with some rudimentary Swahili grammar, I was still at something of a loose end! So I decided to get stuck in to a bit of preparatory reading. The focus of the Health Project this year is on raising awareness of sexual and reproductive health among youth in Dar es Salaam, which, as the resources I found on the internet quickly made clear, is an area in which there is significant scope for awareness to be raised, myths dispelled, and services made more readily available. I learnt about how sexual and reproductive health fits into a positive, holistic understanding of health, as a universal human right, and about the specific barriers to the realisation of this right in the Tanzanian context.

And so it was that, at the first meeting of the Health Team, I came armed with a mental list of what I took to be our most urgent priorities, the most efficacious ways of tackling the issues at hand. But of course, it didn’t take long to realise that this theoretical, rights-based approach to interventions couldn’t simply be copy-and-pasted onto the context we were dealing with. From day one, my Tanzanian counterparts helped me to realise that we had to work within the realities of the Tanzanian situation, and that meant adapting some of the goals and tactics I had identified. When I suggested partnering with companies and stakeholders who would be willing to supply us with contraceptives to hand out to students, my colleagues responded with a definite no. ‘We can’t just hand out condoms in schools!’ they told me. ‘The parents would be horrified, and we’d never be invited back!’ Certainly, this has sometimes proved frustrating: how can we make the most necessary, impactful changes if we’re barred from delivering practical advice and resources in certain areas? Isn’t it precisely these taboos, this reticence towards discussion, that is what we’re trying to change? But as time goes on, the more I realise the importance of working within the framework in which we find ourselves, of taking small steps to tackle issues that are within our reach, without jumping the gun, jeopardising our work by provoking negative responses from the community. To do otherwise, to focus on the bigger picture and try to completely redraft the society we’re working in, would be utterly counterproductive. And let’s not forget, when we’re talking about sexual health, we’re dealing with areas that are pricklier than most, more likely to provoke strong feelings and sensibilities, and to challenge deep-seated beliefs. We, as volunteers from Cambridge and hence outsiders, are all relying on our Tanzanian colleagues to help us to negotiate these views with sensitivity, to navigate the realities of the cultural and social situation and deliver an impact that is both meaningful and acceptable.

Knowledge of the local context has also repeatedly been invaluable in other ways. When it comes to logistical matters, for instance, to the day-to-day practicalities of operating the project, some understanding about how things function in the country is indispensable. I personally, when faced with the conundrum of how actually to set up a workshop in schools, would have drawn a blank, scratched my head and perhaps fired off a few tentative emails, which would almost certainly have been ignored. But fortunately, the KITE volunteers in my team were much more clued up; they wasted little time in making sure we had the documents we needed, then jumping on a bus and heading off to ask the appropriate schools in person. The headteachers were more than happy to speak to us, and mostly proved very co-operative, readily inviting us to work with their students. This knowledge of how to open the necessary doors has served us well on many occasions: for example, I was amazed when I learned that our team’s publicity manager had somehow secured a spot to talk about the project live on morning television, and had connected more than hundred local youths in a WhatsApp group to start discussing the issues we’re focusing on. It’s a kind of know-how that would take me years to acquire, but that is vital in moving forward the pace of our project’s activities.

All in all, my weeks volunteering with CDI thus far have been a fascinating, and at times intense, learning process. Much of this has been about learning to view the theoretical principles and guidelines in new ways, through eyes more attuned to the intricacies and sensitivities of cultural context. As I move on to a postgraduate course in Development Studies, I hope to deepen my theoretical, academic knowledge of key issues in the field – but this more practical, pragmatic understanding of how development work unfolds is one that I will not leave behind. I now realise the value of reconciling both approaches, combining cognizance of certain contextual realities with a broader, more long-term view of the universal goals towards which we are working. And for that I will remain indebted to these experiences working in Tanzania, and to all the colleagues and friends with whom I have shared them.

By Kitty Chevallier, Health Project Volunteer 2018/19
Kitty is a fourth-year student studying Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) at Emmanuel College.