It’s three years now that within our Making More Health (MMH) Initiative we have launched programs in communities living at the poverty line in Kenya. We have started to work with several partners (NGOs, universities, government and social enterprises), among them also GAASPP (Golden aging albinism support program) in Webuye and also with Mukuru Angaza Academy, a very young NGO/ Social Enterprise in Nairobi‘s slums. First independently with each of them to understand well what they were planning and doing, while trusting, supporting and helping them to grow.
So, as one basic activity we founded the GAASPP- MMH center in Webuye in Western Kenya and identified and developed together with the local lead, Chrisantus, many projects, training sessions and concrete activities around hygiene and health prevention, water issues and housing, especially also taking into consideration people with albinism and elderly, but also training sessions on basic business and digital skills are taking place. With the help of social entrepreneurs from the MMH network, but also employees who engage (onsite and in online workshops) many basic skills, but also innovative skills for income generation, Animal Health knowledge, farming and self- understanding/mental well-being of the communities at the poverty line have come in.
We leverage train the trainer approaches so that today more than 36 broadly trained community members at GAASPP act as volunteers and reach out to ten thousands of people across five counties – an approach that other MMH partner organizations copy and develop successfully, too.
In a different location, in Mukuru Slums in Nairobi, we helped also Francis Gikufu, a young social entrepreneur who grew up in the slums himself to develop his projects more strategically.
With not even a lot of financial, but rather visionary support he was able to develop a mentoring program for young people in the slums that analyzes the many “hidden“ reasons of being and feeling poor and how to motivate the communities to become active.
“Njeri and I have come a long way to revamping the whole project and you’ll just be amazed of the growth that we have already, from the slum, to the new campus and on such outreach here at GAASPP,” says Francis.
Connecting the dots
Now, two and a half years later, these two partners – among other 9 NGOs, foundations, social enterprises and MMH have founded the system changer network Kenya, a network launched together based on an idea of MMH to build a subsystem structure of a limited number of diverse partners.
That’s not just a kind of association, but the clear commitment of partners at an organizational level to systemic change. This means the partners do not just invest in their own activities, but also very actively in connecting the different entities and spreading the different talents, skills and projects in the partner communities and volunteering structures at each partner site.
„We need to think differently when it comes to such structures although it might not fit into the way on how we write generally sustainability reports and want to track our own success stories. In a network based structure it is not about counting activities and outcome, but it is a lot about managing relationships, thus making things happen that we’re not possible before. We need Subsystems that link to each other and form together bigger systems. It’s not about the one big association, not the idea of bringing all together in one to become the best, mots efficient, most known one while growing the „one big association“. The number of partners in such a subsystem needs to be rather small,“ says Manuela Pastore, leading the MMH global community activation.
It’s about creating and connecting many likewise, diverse subsystems instead of building a big association. It’s about keeping activities agile, being able to combine partnerships on one site, but keeping also pragmatic, smart decision making, testing and little administration on the other site.
In this way the spread of skills, the holistic tackling of many different issues – from cultural exchange to health, from hygiene to basic business skills, from soap making to breeding black soldier flies … – across all partner communities can multiply the skills and outcome which then – all together – can also make a big impact.
What counts heavily: it’s a change that comes from within. A change that is done by the communities and for the communities.
MMH is the enabler, the one who brings the ideas, social entrepreneurs and NGOs together and enables them to grow. The one who helps with infrastructures and basic skill trainings ( trained to volunteers) and with systemic thinking. But it’s the very conscious empowerment of the partners that they are the ones who make the real systemic change in the ground happen. That they if they bring together their skills can create much more impact than stand alone players. This has a lot to do also with trust and leadership skills, with willingness and testing disruptive ideas.
Now see what happened when very recently the Mukuru Angaza Team has collaborated in a leadership and mentoring program with the volunteers of GAASP in this video.
It is one of the exchanges and it’s outcome among the partners in our subsystem. It’s a big win for everyone.
We don’t know how this approach will look in two years from now, we cannot count all numbers and figures and count the outreach or even the impact, but: it is worth to try. It is simply amazing to see what’s happening right now. What do you think?