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As ZIMCODD launches the #CitizenApp: a few reflections from a campaigner

On the 16th of March, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) launched the #TakeActionZW Campaign as the sequel to the impactful and much recognized #HowFar campaign it started in 2021.

I have been privileged to be leading ZIMCODD and learning in leaps and bounds about leadership, developing an organisation, navigating a politically charged context and delivering highly resonating programmes in civic engagement and advocacy for social and economic justice in Zimbabwe, SADC and Africa as a whole.

While the #HowFar campaign sort to build a culture of accountability through asking questions to duty bearers by citizens, the #TakeActionZW, takes it a notch higher. It is empowering to ask questions in an environment where it is made hard to ask questions without receiving a tag or label that puts one at risk. It is also another thing to build on that voice and begin to take the responsibility of action.

Finding a voice through asking the #HowFar questions under the campaign broke the barrier between the citizens and the government, and the citizens amongst themselves as they rallied for a cause, a cause to see public resources work to transform their lived realities of poverty, inequalities, corruption and impunity.

There was a sense of close proximity between those who are governed and those who govern because the government began to respond to a number of questions that were being asked under the campaign through billboards, music, film and on social media platforms such as twitter.

The #HowFar campaign generated a lot of interest, stimulated agency and was well executed on many levels to the extent of being internationally recognized. Still, every civic campaign has to be sustained.

The campaign rallied citizens in a crisis, the COVID-19 crisis heightened the Zimbabwean citizens’ plight, and the demand for accountability was such a plausible challenge that everyone could carry out and raise their voice from wherever they were.

To sustain the #HowFar campaign and build on its success, the #TakeActionZW campaign was a natural fit in the ZIMCODD campaign toolbox. Having a voice is a fundamental right for citizens, taking action is an ultimate right of citizenship.

The #TakeActionZW for me, brings a challenge that can consolidate the citizens into a community and not people who are just brought into close proximity by the homogeneity of their lived realities. A community sees a cause, rallies together to see it happen, and is not afraid to act in order to live to see it or die for it, as expounded by Nelson Mandela back then in the liberation of South Africa or Robert Mugabe during the liberation struggle and at Lancaster House negotiations where he kept on saying “we will go back to the bush.”

While the two leaders were part of an armed struggle, which is not desirable or probably feasible today, through digital platforms the #TakeActionZW brings a powerful tool in the form of #CitizenApp, which the citizens in their different localities can download for free and rise up to challenge corruption, abuse of state resources, poor public service delivery, oligarchic tendencies and build a stronger democracy hinged on alert and active citizenry.

Efforts by civil society should aim to always make campaigns easy to understand, easy to follow, and easy to sustain by ensuring that tools are user-friendly, accessible, and replicable in communities, by different generations, and for different times.

The exact software in carrying out civic engagement may be different given the advancement of society. Still, the hardware remains the same- we all want a more equitable, open, and prosperous society, and it is likely to be delivered by the more liberties and power we give to the citizens as the base upon which we build that kind of society.

Looping in the two campaigns taught me a few lessons that I believe every campaigner needs to learn or keep in mind as they conceptualize, execute, catapult and evaluate their campaigns. I sum them up below:

  1. Run a simply messaged campaign such as the #HowFar Campaign if you are to help people discover or re-discover their voice. Voice is a powerful tool in civic engagement. It brings answers and a table for dialogue is created through the mouth.
  2. A campaigner never wastes a crisis. A crisis can be a good start-line for civic engagement. It brings people who would, on a normal day, be divided by barriers such as tribe, class, religion, regions, durawalls, and gender, just to mention a few. People come in close proximity, but it won’t be enough.
  3. Once there is close proximity, you must harness a community, it is what will last beyond the depletion of the campaign itself. A community is made by creating a culture, cause, and champions for it. This exactly became the question for the # HowFar campaign. Culture + Cause + Champions = COMMUNITY.
  4. The fourth and last point resonates with the 4IR:
    The next generation must not call you stupid! Bubble gum campaigns never see the light of day. They birth excitement, the either suffer stillbirth or die in infancy, never to be remembered. A campaign must leave useful remnants for the next generation.

Leaving a digital footprint in this age is as good as building those liberation museums by the yesteryear generations. They serve as an inspiration and there lying the courageous stories to be emulated. For the current generation, it will go a step further in that the next generation will further develop the tools we are developing, leaving for them to advance just and more open and accountable societies.

Be counted as a citizen that used their voice and chose action over inaction. I encourage you to be part of the #TakeActionZW Movement and for you to download the #CitizenApp and begin to use to change the society we live in.

If you would like to learn more Janet Zhou and Tirivashe run an XtrClass course on civil society campaigns online and in- person for aspiring, emerging and even seasoned campaigners. They share insights from their diverse backgrounds that can turn around your campaigns into real engaging platforms with astounding results.

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  1. Good job Janet! There you go…building a Public Resources No Nonsense movement. May the good Lord see yoi through this huge effort. Keep up the good work.