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How We Work Determined to Develop Malawi

At Determined to Develop (D2D), we take a collaborative approach to our work, and believe that those who live in the area are best able to assess needs and create solutions for the community. We do not impose what we think should be solutions from the top-down, but rather work with community members from the ground-up. Our commitment to collaboration allows us to maximize impact and assist in the development of Chilumba in a responsible and positive way.

All our projects have community ownership, which is demonstrated in two ways:

First, communities are enlisted to identify their needs and solutions, which becomes the basis of our work. We participate in regular village needs assessment meetings attended by Village Headmen (chiefs), local village development committees, women’s groups, civil society leaders, and other community members. It is from these meetings that the concept, planning, and implementation stages of any of our projects begin. Furthermore, all work is vetted by community stakeholders.

Second, communities contribute to the running of each project. Our approach emphasizes the personal responsibility and accountability of all partners involved. This grassroots model for development utilizes local knowledge and ensures that we work in collaboration with traditional leaders and community-based networks, respecting cultural values and traditions. This process is assisted by the community liaison officer, who ensures that we stay fully engaged with everything taking place in the villages and vice versa.

We have expanded our programming, but maintain our focus on a relatively small geographic area of Chilumba, Malawi. Remaining a local organization has a number of benefits. We have developed a strong rapport with stakeholders in the area, which helps us to run our many projects effectively. Working on the ground also allows us to have close and on-going monitoring of all projects, and we pride ourselves on being able to adapt projects where necessary and learn through evaluation. This approach also ensures that all money donated is used in the most cost-effective way, as we have minimal overhead costs.

As a development organization, it is important to us that our initiatives are in-line with those of broader development strategies, both in the national and international context. These strategies include the Karonga District Development Plan, Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III, and the United Nation’s Standard Development Goals. Each of these strategies includes specific actions for improved youth education. By aligning our programs with the initiatives in these development strategies, we ensure that our programs are following the best fit for the development of Malawi.

Learn more about how D2D works by clicking below:

D2D Think Malawi NGO Management

Improved Efficiency in the Development Sector

Challenge: Reduced effectiveness and longevity of development projects

Findings: Beatty, N (2017) When Things Fall Apart: What Are the Reasons Donor-Driven Projects Fail? A Case Study of D2D and Chilumba Catchment Area

Relationships between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and village leaders in the Chilumba area of northern Malawi were examined through the lens of NGO management to establish reasons why donor-driven projects fail. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 13 NGO staff members across seven NGOs including seven project managers to uncover management styles, in addition to interviews with 17 village chiefs and supplementary village focus groups to establish communication between remote villages and NGOs. A village needs assessment and analysis of current projects delivered by NGOs also determined where and how NGOs were responding to village needs. Poor village accessibility was attributed to only 39% of villages in the study being partnered with NGOs at the time data was collected, while a lack of coordination and limited sharing of information between NGOs was highlighted by NGO staff. Despite strong communication being needed for increasing project efficiency and reducing distrust between NGOs and villages, projects that failed were often as a result of poor communication, both inter-NGO and between NGOs and villages. Informal goal setting also contributed to errors between staff and upper management in once instance, which furthermore reduced project efficiency. Conversely, community participation resulted in greater project success. The two-to-one success rate of projects in the area points out the need for greater project efficiency which can be improved through strong communication and sharing of information between NGOs, strategic planning, periodic reviews, evaluation and community participation.

Solution: Developing a 5 year Organizational Strategic Plan

The Determined to Develop (D2D) Strategic Plan for the years 2019 – 2023 is designed to guide the organization’s resources in a way that best promotes education and development in the Chilumba area where D2D operates, and in the wider region. Having now accomplished almost 10 years of successful programming with the help of donors, volunteers, and staff, we have used this Strategic Plan to reflect on how best to move the organization forward to its next phase of operations. In the process of developing a plan, a community needs assessment was conducted to ensure community participation. 

Challenge: Poor communication and collaboration leads to project failure

Lack of information on resources and who works where with whom within the development sector can lead to inefficiencies such as an overlapping of projects, relationship breakdowns and ineffectiveness. A lack of collaboration and communication can exacerbate this, ultimately risking project failure. 

Findings: O’Malley, E (2015) Effective Collaboration and Its Potential Role in the Development of Chilumba, Malawi: A Stakeholder Analysis

A stakeholder analysis was conducted over a two month period by mapping out significant players and institutions in the Traditional Authority Wasambo area following which interviews and focus groups were held with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government groups and village development committees (VDCs). Eight NGOs were approached to establish development programs delivered and all VDCs in the TA Wasambo area were approached to determine which programs work, in a combined ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ approach. Secondary interviews also encompassed attitudes and the history of partnership working in the area. NGOs expressed varying development priorities while VDCs had similar development goals but indicated no collaborative working to achieve these goals. Findings provide a composite source of data on current development projects in the Chilumba area which can inform stakeholders on areas to develop in future. Moreover research suggests that if stakeholders were to work collaboratively within the existing devolved development framework, there would be opportunity for more efficient change. Developing a common tongue to connect organizations at the area district committee (ADC) level is essential in the creation of a bridging organization to act as an independent forum for expediting and streamlining development processes.

Findings: Schuller, E (2016) Communication and Project Implementation Among Grassroots Leaders and Human Service Organizations in Chilumba, Malawi

Face-to-face structured interviews were conducted with 27 officially recognized village headmen and five NGOs to determine the interaction and communication between different levels of leadership in development projects. Data on village assets and resources were also collected in order to map out total resources in the Chilumba area as well as a survey conducted to obtain information for the creation of a local area directory. Only 40.7% of villages included in the study had current partnerships with service organizations despite most village leaders expressing interest in forming partnerships. Lack of knowledge and bureaucracy were barriers attributed to the lack of current partnerships. Of the existing partnerships, the majority were formed by service organizations directly contacting villages rather than using the decentralized governmental process. There was only one instance of a village directly contacting an NGO. Partnerships formed outside of the governmental avenue were found to be strongest throughout the duration of a project, even if they were not sustained onwards. Smaller remote villages had less agency to directly approach NGOs as they lacked knowledge and confidence in seeking assistance. Increasing accessibility to direct communication between service organizations and local communities will provide greater opportunities for more useful projects throughout the region. The needs assessment and survey data, when shared among stakeholders, can be used to increase this communication therefore the local directory born out of this study can enable this.

Solution: Creation of a T/A Wasambo Area Directory

Through researching collaboration between local level grassroots leaders, non-governmental organizations and stakeholders, D2D identified the need for streamlining the community-engagement process in the Chilumba area. However, not having access to information on current projects, village assets, or key contacts proved to be a challenge. Recognizing this, D2D created a directory containing information on villages in the Wasambo Traditional Authority area including contact details for chiefs, advisors, civil servants, and organizations working in the area. The purpose is to provide community leaders and development organizations the resource for communicating with one another and fostering collaboration. As the directory is rolled out in its first phase, it will be reviewed and eventually expanded upon in upcoming years to include details of current and past development projects, a detailed list of important contact details, and a map of villages and projects generated through geographic information system mapping.

Bringing Culture Into Development

Challenge: Lack of awareness of cultural traditions can hamper development efforts and relations with stakeholders

Implementing successful development projects which tie into local Malawian contexts can be challenging when the donors and development workers are non-Malawian. Positive relationships between local communities and NGOs, which are essential for positive development outcomes, are also threatened by cultural misunderstandings. By gaining knowledge on the local cultural context where D2D operates, D2D can find ways to effectively work which overcome discord between culture and development.

Findings: Herr, M.E (2015) The Relationship Between Culture and Development: A Case Study of Rural Malawi

A cultural examination of living generations to establish the impact of foreign development models on traditional Malawian culture. A series of qualitative interviews were conducted with chiefs, elders and youth aged 18-26 in rural and urban settings between Karonga and Mzuzu in the northern district of Malawi following which responses on the perception of culture, tradition and technology were analyzed through Nvivo data analysis software. Research found that older respondents typically tied culture to traditions and were more concerned that western influence would erode their traditional customs, compared to their younger counterparts who were more likely to associate culture with the everyday way of life. Technology was cited by youth more often as a difference between western and Malawian culture, implying greater prominence among this generation. Democracy was associated with freedom but older generations were inclined to view this negatively perceiving freedom, and therefore democracy, as an opportunity for youth to disrespect their elders. Despite the consensus that current culture would be lost in time, elderly respondents also agreed the need for development while engaging youth in traditional culture. Overall the study finds that foreign influences used to outline development policies have eroded traditional culture despite culture being a resource and determinant of development. As such, development policies that balance traditional culture with foreign influence are called for. Government officials including village chiefs should inspire local support for cultural preservation while NGOs should incorporate this into the implementation of policy.

Solution: Annual Community Day Celebrations

Research on culture and development reinforces the importance of taking into account local context for sustainable and effective development programs. This falls in line with existing D2D practices, which place a major focus on local needs and customs. D2D continually reviews projects with input from local staff and community representatives to ensure the inclusion of local viewpoints into project creation and implementation. 

As a development organization, D2D would not be able to operate without the continued participation and efforts from local community members. To highlight the partnership between D2D and the community, D2D hosts an annual community day. The event honors and supports cultural preservation with singing, dancing, and speeches from community members. 

Challenge: Shifting nature of relationships, education, information exchange, and connection to a larger world for youth as a result of mobile phones

The digital divide between developed and developing countries is closing. This shift can be attributed to mobile phones “leapfrogging” landlines with high infrastructure costs in favor of services such as prepaid payment options and transmitter towers. The study looks into the effects of the increasing access to technology on Malawian youth to form recommendations for D2D regarding its use of social media and technology.

Findings: Donovan, H (2018) The Use of Social Media and Technology by Youth in Malawi

This report utilizes a mixed methods approach of data collection with both quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews using convenience sampling. In total, 60 in-depth interviews were conducted with youth that focused on demographics of participants, uses of smartphones, Facebook, WhatsApp by owners and non-owners, and general technology questions. The quantitative surveys were conducted in four local secondary schools, resulting in a total of 175 surveys. In addition, a focus group at a university outside of T.A. Wasambo was used in order to receive feedback on specific questions that were unanswered by many participants in the first round of interviews.

Ability to use phones is dependent on two important factors: costs and accessibility. The majority of users of mobile devices and, in particular, smartphones, had several characteristics in common: male, in their late teens or early twenties, and able to spare money to pay for data bundles and services. The two most popular social media platforms are Facebook and WhatsApp. When exploring the dangers and disadvantages of phones and phone use, the most common answer was the increase in exposure of immoral behaviors such as pornography, with particular regard to the exposure of the content to youth. 

The examination of the effects of mobile phones on the youth of the T.A. Wasambo area allows for future research in areas such as cyber security education and use of social media platforms. Recommendations include creating Facebook and/or WhatsApp groups for sponsored youth and their families, introducing cyber security education, creating more text posts on Facebook to appeal to free version users, and including Chitumbuka or Chichewa languages in social media posts to better appeal to local viewers.