“Today we have an opportunity to learn more about jelly and solid soap making at SOLASA, one of our eight system changer network (SCN) partners. Our community ambassadors will then go back and disseminate this information to their perspective communities,” shared Cavin, leading the NGO Wa-Wa at Lake Victoria.
Community ambassadors – in this case being members from our fisher communities at Lake Victoria – have travelled to our MMH center in Eldoret’s slum Langas, where the local community members and NGO/SCN partner Solasa has welcomed them.
“That’s the power of collaboration,” adds Sam Agutu, who runs the organization Tendo, in Nairobi’s slums. Also Sam Agutu, being an Ashoka and Making More Health fellow, has decided two years ago to set up an additional organization and to become with his communities a part of the SCN network.
What’s behind all these exchanges and the ambassador structure?
There is a lot to share about the idea of how to make sustainably impact happen. How to build on talents in vulnerable communities as key drivers of change …About system change approaches (instead of scaling single activities) and setting up a system changer network with eight different organizations in Western and Central Kenya. But let’s focus here on three key messages that drives us and what we experienced in the last years in a very positive way:
1. The deep belief that wherever possible the ownership of change should be with the vulnerable communities themselves. Because a real impact happens only if the people we target (be it through projects, digital tools or trainings onsite or online) learn, live and share themselves what is a win for them. Without owning within the community what “comes from outside” – although it might be a great initiative – nothing is really sustainable.
2. Probably it is not our main task – especially as a company or as a big organisation from abroad – to make impactful change happen “on the ground”. This is still a very traditional thinking. And who we are to decide which kind of change should happen? Isn’t it the communities and vulnerable people themselves who should develop, based on their own cultures and values, how to change? To have a choice how they want to change and what?
Change from inside is a long way to go and there are many single activities and stakeholders needed to make it happen. Probably, there is no single organisation who can tackle all basic needs (health, income generation, shelter, nutrition, mental health, water issues, farming…) in parallel, but if basic needs are not tackled in parallel how can a community grow? All these basic needs are interlinked.
Our contribution is more about ENGINEERING CHANGE STRUCTURES, to empower the communities, to create OPPORTUNITIES. To understand the whole system and context, to understand where are the needs and to see how to bridge the gaps. This means to build the right system structures, to build linkages, to create networks with changemakers, to bring together organizations and stakeholders of different backgrounds (universities, companies, employees, governments…) so that all basic needs of people living at the poverty line can be tackled in parallel. To empower local NGOs to implement together with their communities what is really needed. In the right sequence and the right solution makers. In short: it us our task to create a pattern of system change that is visible to the locals, that “opens door” so that real change becomes accessible long-term wise. A scalable pattern of change that can be scaled.
3. Trust. Trust in our system changer network partners. Trust in community members that they can make it. Trust that – while even starting small, but holistically – real change can happen and that the result of all that is impactful. Sustainably scalable. Trust in innovative ways of thinking and collaborating. Trust in us, the system changer network in Kenya!
“We are on track. Together we win! – This is great. The system is working!” – that’s what the local SCN partners comment on what’s happening. And as a community member and ambassadors adds: “Such exchange programmes will work as a catalyst to faster community development!”
What do you think about it?
P.S. Soon the next SCN ambassadors exchange visit will take place, then our ambassadors will share about furniture making and farming practices … in this way and with the help of the community ambassadors we reach hundred thousands of community members in different locations…
One Comment Add yours
So inspiring Manuela!
Thanks for sharing.