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Outcome Harvesting research in Tanzania

Using ‘Outcome Harvesting’ methodology, SIL Tanzania is researching how communities have been impacted by Bible translation (in particular the publication of the New Testament in print and audio form) and related materials and activities (in particular Scripture engagement materials and activities), in local languages.

The research began this year in the Malila language area, in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. We spent time visiting the community and listening to stories of change (whether that be a pastor starting to use the Malila Scriptures in church or someone being saved through hearing the audio Scriptures or people valuing their language more and having the courage to use it in public, etc.). We then spent time looking at these ‘Outcome Statements’, both as a research team and with representatives from the local community, to see what we could learn from them for ongoing ministry in the area and beyond.

Discussing findings with the Malila NGO

On Thursday, 25th May, the Malila Outcome Harvesting team (Katherine, Frank and Mwangwale) met with the Malila NGO to discuss findings (Mwangwale is also a member of the NGO). About half of the NGO were able to attend. The NGO is made up of men and women, church leaders and lay people, from different denominations. Many of them were part of the ‘Language Committee’ when the New Testament translation was ongoing and shared our vision for Bible translation. They engaged well in the discussions, though it was harder to draw the women out into sharing their thoughts.

Brief outline of what we covered in the meeting

  • Welcome & introductions
  • Short devotional, based on 1 Corinthians 3:6-15 (about someone planting seeds, someone else watering, but God making it grow)
  • What is our goal (as a NGO, but also as SIL)? Wanting to see people know God better through His Word, as well as to preserve and promote local language and culture. The research was directed towards the first part of this goal, as its primary focus was Scripture engagement (SE).
  • What needs to happen to reach that goal? Looked at the SE impact chain (see earlier blog post for picture): resources > reach (spreading those resources and also the knowledge needed for using them, e.g. literacy) > reading/hearing the Scriptures > changes in people’s lives > changes in the community. All of this is supported by the ‘legs’, which include, for example, church unity. All empowered by the Holy Spirit.
  • Why and how did we do this research? A brief explanation of why we did it and how we did it, emphasising that it is to help the NGO think about their ongoing ministry as well as to help SIL.
  • Learning together: Did some sense-making with the NGO by looking at half of the Outcome Statements together using the ‘significance’ scale. Also prayed, thanking God for what we’d seen. Then looked at some other results that I had compiled on a PowerPoint, in the form of word pictures and graphs and tables. These covered: actors and people touched, what contributed to the outcomes, time periods that the outcomes referred to, outcomes in relation to the SE impact chain, church denominations represented, progress markers (a very brief look at which ones were well represented by outcomes and which ones were weak). As we went we noted what we were seeing and learning, and finished with further discussion on what seems to have worked well, where are there gaps and what do we need to focus on moving forward.
  • Closed with thanks to everyone for their time.

It took us from about 10.30am – 4pm to work through this agenda, including a break for chai, though it may have been good to spend longer on the last part so that they had time to come up with more concrete plans moving forward. Instead, they indicated that they need to meet again, and meet more regularly, to discuss what we noticed together and to plan. I am not sure how much what we talked about will really influence their thinking and planning.


When looking at ‘significance’ very few outcomes ended up on the lower end of the spectrum – those that did related to basic literacy with children, not because they weren’t important, but because they were less significant in relation to Scripture engagement and also there are challenges in continuing basic literacy due to national language policies. It was interesting to see how some things that I had considered less significant, they all agreed were more significant, with good reasons. (I wonder if this was the most helpful sense-making activity to do? In some ways I think looking at ‘contributions’ may have been more helpful, as it would have helped us focus more on what leads to change and identify which resources, methods and strategies could be most helpful moving forward. We still did this a bit through one of the PowerPoint slides.)

When we asked which ones stood out to them individually as being particularly important, they identified:

  • The impact of the Jesus Film
  • An elderly person asking to be taught to read Malila
  • Pastor saying that he can now find all the answers in the Bible (now it’s in Malila)
  • And casting out spirits using Malila (It was interesting to me to see how important everyone saw this outcome to be)

Here is what they noticed as we discussed the outcomes and analysis more. Many of these observations were similar to things we ourselves had identified:

  • When people have the courage to change / try something new it can bear fruit (e.g. composing songs in Malila)
  • Jesus film has had a significant impact
  • Using local languages brings about significant advantages, has a positive impact (e.g. people understanding better, including understanding the Bible better)
  • Training/workshops played a big role in bringing about outcomes
  • Audio Scriptures on MegaVoice really penetrate people’s hearing and understanding, but there aren’t enough MegaVoice players in the community. Therefore a question: how could we increase distribution of audio Scriptures?
  • Think about how to use literacy lessons for children as a way also for reading God’s Word
  • How could we help church nurseries to use MLE or/and it would be good to have an education centre for children
  • Invest in broadcasting on radio
  • Public events (e.g. choir events, reading events) weren’t mentioned in the outcomes but people really liked them, they drew people in
  • Literacy classes need to be continued (because people who learned in the past have started to forget etc.)
  • Need money to do things like workshops – where will that money come from?
  • Some denominations aren’t represented by the outcomes, or are under-represented. Need to visit all denominations and use different churches for literacy classes, so that people don’t think the Bible is just for one denomination

They also identified that they still need help from SIL in running the NGO and with Old Testament translation.


Quick note about budget: for all our meetings in the community, we covered the travel fares of anyone who couldn’t get there on foot, provided chai (a mug of tea and a light bite) in the morning and gave everyone money to go and buy lunch after the meetings. (As the meetings often started late, and chai was served late and was enough food to keep people going for a while, it wasn’t a problem to be having ‘lunch’ late in the afternoon!) My preference is to arrange for someone to cook lunch so we can all eat together, but this isn’t always possible and people prefer to be given money.

What’s next

Writing up all the findings! I need to think about how to pull together the data, sense-making findings and other analysis into reports for different audiences (e.g. organisational leadership, funders, the community, other SE practitioners). This week we will also begin the process again in another language area (Nyakyusa).

For more blog posts, describing the process we are following and some initial findings, please visit:

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