Last week, members of the SIRLab Team returned from Dar es Salaam, a trip that marked the beginning of research projects across Tanzania for 2016 and 2017. Specifically, the SIRLab Team met with several organizations addressing issues of poverty across the country, including: TechnoServe, Cuso International, CARE International, Oxfam, Room to Read, Population Services International (PSI), Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), and the Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF), the country’s largest governmental development organization.
Over the course of the week-long visit, a number of interesting organizational challenges (and potential research opportunities) emerged, including some of the following:
- How can an organization appropriately design, facilitate, and/or govern producer cooperatives?
- How can an organization connect Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA’s) with formal financial institutions? Is there a viable, long-term model for supporting the creation of these associations?
- How can an organization address the issue teacher absenteeism, given the current incentive structure?
- How can an organization identify the right ‘big buyers’ to improve value chains and support the earliest suppliers?
- How can an organization build a robust market for an important good/service that has traditionally been available as a lower quality, donation item?
- Following the President’s ‘Free Education’ announcement on Tanzania’s Independence Day in December, how can an organization develop a sense of ‘ownership’ in communities around new and existing schools and libraries?
Over the next few weeks, the SIRLab Team and personnel at each of the development organizations will continue to discuss and ‘boil down’ the challenges that they articulated, as well as others that have emerged following internal conversations with their program staff. Once a final list of challenges and respective research projects is developed, we will share them here!
The SIRLab Team also met with faculty at the University of Dar es Salaam Business School (UDBS), consistently among the best business schools on the continent. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the details of a 4-5 day workshop to be held at UDBS this July. The first two days of the workshop will facilitated by some of the top faculty in management and strategy. These individuals, who also serve on a number of top journal editorial boards, will discuss ways to improve research and frame manuscripts for top journals. The second half of the workshop, the latter 2-3 days, will serve as the formal launch of the SIRLab research projects. The research teams and the partnering development organization staff will spend the days discussing their challenge in great depth, and hopefully by the end of the workshop, will have a series of critical questions to guide the initial data collection effort.
For the next update on these project, and all SIRLab projects and events, follow us @SIR_Lab.