In 2011, the World Bank had ranked Rwanda’s statistical capacity as 10th in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2012, the country had jumped to being second only to Mauritius. The intervening year saw Wasafiri embedded within the National Institute of Statistics to manage a change programme that would transform Rwanda’s capacity to manage statistics.

Monitoring a country’s development progress requires a variety of socio-economic data. Until 2005, this was collected in Rwanda by several institutions under different government ministries. The National Institute of Statistics (NISR) was then created to establish a more integrated approach, with a UNDP-managed basket fund set up to support its implementation.

However, NISR performance fell short of stakeholder expectations due to a number of shortcomings, including poor budget execution, no release calendar for producing quality data, inadequate coordination of statistical activities, and limited dissemination of statistics.

In 2010, the Institute launched its National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS), complete with a now NISR-managed basket fund for implementing the 5-year plan. This posed a question of how a young institution with limited management capacity and only 50% of staff in post, could effectively raise and manage around US$80 million where the better-resourced UNDP had not succeeded?

One of Wasafiri’s Principal Consultant’s, Liberal Seburikoko, was embedded in to NISR and led the transformative change required to ensure the plan’s successful implementation.

Our starting point was to hold one-to-one consultations with all key internal and external stakeholders to assess the prevailing situation, whilst identifying opportunities for forging authentic partnerships. We then embarked on a clear systemic change agenda, focusing from the outset on empowering identified champions of change to drive the process.

Throughout our engagement, we focused on shaping new behaviours at all levels (e.g. more disciplined budgeting and planning, and improved accountability and delegation), with flexibility and adaptability also encouraged within the NISR and among donors. Finally, we developed management tools and frameworks to transition from capacity enhancement to an enduring legacy of actionable mechanisms.

The outcome has been extremely rewarding, with the NISR now perceived as an institutional role model both locally and abroad, drawing positive assessments from auditors and stakeholders alike, and securing additional resources from newly-interested non-traditional sources. The NISR is now on course to breaking yet another record, by releasing its 2012 Census results six months ahead of schedule.