This is the report of a study designed to reach some broad conclusions about social, economic and cultural change in rural and peri-urban communities of mainland Tanzania. It draws on previous accounts and on group interviews and other RRA methods. Substantive findings concern the responses of members of rural communities to the process of economic liberalisation and their reception of constitutional reforms leading to the adoption of a multi-party political system. Regarding methodology, the study confirmed the value of combining existing literature with fresh fieldwork, although problems of generating generalisable conclusions from location-specific material are acknowledged. Focus-groups were found to be particularly useful, when combined with the possibility of drawing on the long-term field experience of researchers.