While many researchers and development projects struggle to get even a single relevant mention in their local newspaper, one project in Uganda has been receiving blanket coverage on another continent. Katine, a rural sub-county in the north-eastern part of the country, has been the location for a three-year project between the community, the UK newspaper The Guardian, the African Medical and Research Foundation (Amref) and Farm-Africa. PANOS has also been working with the project to ensure that the people living in Katine are able to contribute to the online resource.
The Guardian’s website devotes a whole section to the project, and there are new stories almost every day. The project planned to focus on education, health, water, governance and livelihoods, but has had to be flexible to respond to conditions in the communities, and to the needs of its media partner. The £2.5m project is being funded by donations from Guardian and Observer readers and Barclays.
The aim was to enable Guardian readers to get a more in-depth understanding of what development means in practice by following the development process and not just some highlights, and to give everyone involved, including the community, a voice. Followers of the project will have seen how difficult it has been to strike an appropriate balance, and it’s clearly been a big learning experience all round.
Katine’s Mid-Term Review has just been published, and like all the project documents is available from the website. There is also a very interesting evaluation of the MTR, (see Annex 11) written by Rick Davies, the Guardian’s independent evaluator. Mid-term reviews are notoriously difficult to get right, in the sense of making them useful to the funders, the people managing the project, and the ‘end-users’, in this case the people of Katine. There is valuable advice here about how to improve your chances of a useful evaluation by agreeing clear objectives and indicators at the beginning of the project.
The Katine website has won awards, including last year’s One World Award for New Media, and is ambitious in trying to provide a comprehensive picture of an integrated project. While few newspapers would have the resources to undertake a project on such a scale, there is scope for any newspaper to focus on and follow a particular community as they navigate the development minefield.
What do you think of the Katine project and website?
How could smaller media outlets take up a similar project on a smaller scale?
What could the Katine project have done better?