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Assessing and building capacity for social welfare in Zanzibar

Denise Stuckenbruck

Denise Stuckenbruck, Andrew Kardan, Andrew Wyatt, Soren Haldrup

In recent years, the Zanzibar Ministry of Labour, Empowerment, Elderly, Youth, Women and Children (MLEEYWC) has experienced a significant extension of its mandate as the national institution leading the coordination and implementation of key social welfare interventions. Alongside our partner, the Association of Schools of Social Work in Tanzania (ASSWOT), we were commissioned by UNICEF and the MLEEYWC to assess its institutional capacity. Following this, we prepared a capacity building plan to enable the Ministry to meet its mandate in the effective coordination and delivery of social welfare services to vulnerable populations. 

The assignment also included a brief assessment of the capacity of the two higher learning institutions delivering social work education in Zanzibar, to understand their ability to supply the Ministry with qualified social workers.


The key social welfare interventions that the ministry aims to implement are outlined under the National Social Protection Policy and the National Plan of Action to End Violence Against Women and Children 2017-2022, among others. 

The specific focus of the assignment was to understand the roles and responsibilities discharged by three departments in the Ministry: the Department of Elders and Social Welfare (DESW), the Department of Women and Children Development (DWCD), and the Department of Planning, Policy, and Research (DPPR), compared to their formal mandates, and to identify capacity gaps to be addressed through the capacity development plan.

Our approach

Alongside ASSWOT, we undertook the assignment in three phases: inception, capacity assessment, and development of a costed capacity building plan. The capacity assessment involved an iterative process of documentation review as well as field work. Primary data was collected through a significant number of key informant interviews and group interviews, focus group discussions, and workshops held with a large number of MLEEYWC staff, lecturers, and students of schools of social work and other key stakeholders. The capacity building plan was developed based on the recommendations of the capacity assessment and was validated through a final workshop with key MLEEYWC staff.

In our research methodology, we distinguished between individual-level, organisational-level, and institutional-level capacity. Individual-level capacity reflects the competencies of people in the organisation, including skills, knowledge, and attitudes. The organisational level comprises the structures, processes, and procedures of the organisation, while the institutional level encompasses the broader environment of institutions, laws, policies, and regulations within which it operates. This framework covered technical as well as functional capacities; in this context, technical capacity referred to the specific technical capabilities required to discharge the ministry’s distinctive tasks, whereas functional capacity embraced the more generic and cross-cutting skills and processes required by all organisations to function effectively.


The project was instrumental in supporting the Ministry to understand where they faced challenges in discharging their mandate, particularly in the implementation of the national social protection policy and the coordination and delivery of child protection services. A close working collaboration with the Ministry's leadership allowed us not only to identify challenges but also to propose tailored solutions to improve MLEEYWC's organisational performance at all levels. Some of the key issues identified related to clarifying the Ministry's role during the ongoing government decentralisation process, clarifying the division of labour between the Department of Women and Children and Department of Social Welfare especially in relation to child protection, strengthening the Ministry's overall monitoring and evaluation capacity, and identifying the need to develop a senior management and leadership development programme and a workforce strengthening strategy.

As a result of this project, we have been further commissioned by UNICEF to support the Ministry in the development of its new Strategic Plan 2019-2024. The plan incorporated all the recommendations of the capacity assessment exercise and capacity building plan, which will support their operationalisation and resourcing for implementation in the coming years.