Using Mobile Technology for Civic Participation & Peace in Kenya

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Using Mobile Technology for Civic Participation & Peace in Kenya

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

SNA-K re-imagines the role of mobile technology by providing information & civic engagement to marginalized communities in Kenya

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Following Kenya’s 2007 election, misinformation and hate speech were used to incite violence. Without trusted information sources, rumours spread quickly, aided by SMS technology. Manipulation leading to violence is preventable, but individuals must have access to reliable information from trusted sources. As Kenya’s 2012 general elections approach, underlying causes of violence remain. Grassroots actors lack opportunities to make their voices heard peacefully. Politicians, not communities, dictate politics. Civic education and engagement are needed to create a foundation of policy-oriented politics that encourages unity. There is a need to tap into the same communication channels, particularly mobile phones, that were used to incite violence to promote positive civic engagement and peace. SNA-K targets 10% of the population (606,000 individuals) of six Kenyan constituencies at risk of violence. SNA-K more broadly targets marginalized communities in developing democracies: a toolkit and support system for our model will enable replication in other countries.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

SNA-K has built a model that harnesses mobile technology to inform and educate communities, while connecting disenfranchised populations to the democratic political process. SNA-K re-imagines the role of mobile communication technologies as a tool for civic education and engagement in the most marginalized communities. SNA-K provides each Chapter, comprised of community leaders with demonstrated commitments to peace and civic education, with a platform that enables them to send and receive mass SMS. Community members subscribe to the system through localized outreach and, once subscribed, receive SMS from their SNA-K Chapter. SNA-K joins the power of mobile technologies with the expertise and social capital of community leaders in a highly replicable model. Chapters identify community needs, and create and implement SMS-based programming. Chapters educate their communities on their rights, survey the community on critical issues, create collaborative visions for community improvement, bring their needs to political aspirants and the media, and prevent and correct harmful misinformation and rumours. SNA-K builds on existing information flows. Unlike other mediums, SMS messages are a cheap way for individuals to voice their opinions and can be aggregated, recorded, and shared to enable widespread participation and add leverage to gathered information through large numbers of participants.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

SNA-K provides a community-based information source with locally relevant content, managed and directed by community leaders, which goes directly to individuals’ mobile phones. This means information goes directly to each individual subscriber, and, unlike television or radio, comes in a form that can be targeted and is easily saved and shared. SNA-K's SMS system has a proven ability to influence individual perceptions and opinions. By using SMS as a communication medium, SNA-K taps into existing communication channels to get important information to communities. In the lead-up to a by-election in Nairobi, SNA-K conducted ongoing civic education on the qualities of a good leader according to the new Constitution, which was passed in 2010 and changes the political structure while increasing opportunities for community involvement in the political process. Ninety percent of subscriber respondents to an SNA-K survey said that SNA-K's SMS changed their perceptions of a good leader, and SNA-K members reported seeing subscribers forwarding and sharing messages. Similar education on the new constitution will enable communities to understand the new rules governing their democratic process and government. SNA-K provides an outlet for individuals to make their needs known within political structures and the media. During the same by-election, SNA-K gave 5,000 individuals the opportunity to participate in a survey on community needs which was then used to shape questions for a political debate between candidates.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

SNA-K knows of no similar technology-based initiative to create dialogue at the local level. SNA-K creates local ownership of its programs, working directly with community peace activists to build on local knowledge and create sustainability, thus ensuring that it does not compete with but instead enhances and supports local initiatives. SNA-K also actively partners with local, regional and national organizations working on civic education and engagement from community groups and civil society, to large NGOs and relevant government institutions, including the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) and National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC). Because SNA-K is collaborating with other organizations, potential challenges such as competition for resources or conflicting messaging, are mitigated.
About You
Sisi ni Amani - Kenya (SNA-K)
About You
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Sisi ni Amani - Kenya (SNA-K)

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact

, NA

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Established (you've got demonstrated success)

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for less than a year

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.

SNA-K’s founder, Rachel Brown, came to Kenya in July 2010 to support grassroots leaders working to promote peace and political accountability in Kenya. Rachel was inspired by courageous community leaders, many of whom had risked their lives to prevent violence and create positive change. Many of these leaders worked towards the same goals, but their efforts were isolated from one another and they struggled to engage the community rapidly, efficiently, and in large numbers. Rachel realized if these groups as well as their communities could be connected through one communication channel to educate people and give them a voice, the leaders would be able to efficiently collaborate for their communities with more leverage to impact policy. Noting the excitement of local leaders at the idea of utilizing technology, specifically SMS, she worked with together with SNA-K’s first local chapter in Nairobi's Baba Dogo slum to create SNA-K's grassroots-driven model.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

SNA-K reaches over 10,000 subscribers in three constituencies in Kenya. SNA-K has impacted subscriber perceptions of good leadership. When subscribers were asked whether SNA-K civic education SMS changed their perception of good leadership, 90% of respondents answered yes. Many explained that their perception changed from someone who bribes or campaigns well to one who brings development and works for his/her constituents.

SNA-K has created opportunities for marginalized communities to shape political dialogue. Over 5,000 individuals were given the opportunity to answer an SMS-based survey of community needs before a by-election for a Member of Parliament. The survey results were used to create questions for a political debate between the candidates.

In addition to changing perceptions and increasing community engagement, SNA-K has relieved tensions in a potentially volatile situation. When the same by-election was postponed, SNA-K sent messages providing accurate information and encouraging patience. Volunteers and subscribers reported that the messages helped maintain calm when there could have been violence, demonstrating the potential for SMS to de-escalate tensions.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?

Before the August 2012 elections, SNA-K aims to engage 50,000 individual subscribers in six communities at risk of violence, while supporting 200 community leaders to leverage mobile technologies to communicate and bring information from communities into political and media dialogue. SNA-K’s model equips and facilitates individuals who are already leaders to collaborate and use new tools, and is replicable in any country with community leaders and mobile phone accessibility as a method to empower them to leverage grassroots voices and educate communities. Within 5 years, SNA-K aims to create a toolkit and mentorship program to facilitate replication of its model in additional developing democracies.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

25,000 subscribers educated on Kenya’s new Constitution and are empowered to become involved in the democratic process

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

Continued community outreach to reach 15,000 additional subscribers in existing and new Chapters (carried out by local chapters)

Task 2

Conduct six civic education workshops with SNA-K chapters to create locally relevant SMS content on the new Constitution

Task 3

15,000 subscribers receive 1-3 SMS per week educating them on the new Constitution and opportunities for civic participation

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

50,000 subscribers empowered to participate in policy discussions & ensure that their voices are brought into political dialogue

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

Community outreach to reach 25,000 additional subscribers in three new constituencies (carried out by local chapters)

Task 2

Conduct SMS survey on community needs and solutions sent to 50,000 subscribers

Task 3

PublishSMS survey results in a Community Needs Assessment document that is presented to political aspirants and media partners

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured


What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

In Kenya, many local groups are suspicious of NGOs. SNA-K has overcome this barrier by building trust through connections with local organizations. As a result we are regularly invited by community leaders to implement programs in new communities. Additionally, funding has been a barrier to our success. Because of this, SNA-K is exploring an innovative model to ensure financial sustainability. SNA-K’s extensive local databases present the opportunity for vetted NGOs and social enterprises to send educational messages or promote products via SNA-K Chapters. Local chapters will be able to sell messages to the database to subsidize their own messages and activities.

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

Individuals are interacting more and more through mobile phones. In Africa specifically, the proliferation of and access to mobile phones has increased while mobile technologies continue to adapt to be affordable and useful to this population. SNA-K leverages this new communication channel to create new methods for distribution of critical information and opportunities for communities to participate in democratic processes, thus driving information access and contribution in marginalized communities.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

If civic education and surveying via mobile phones fails to gain traction, SNA-K can use existing databases and community relationships to create community information services, such that individuals access information about their communities, event updates, etc. via their mobile phones. This would be financially sustainable as the service could also sell messages to businesses seeking to advertise new products to bottom of the pyramid markets to cover its costs.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

SNA-K will pursue diverse avenues of funding and will continue to raise money through private donations and grant support from foundations and government agencies such as USAID. We will continue to seek monetary and in-kind donations of goods and services within Kenya. SNA-K’s SMS system was built by a Kenyan company as an in-kind contribution, and we have received contributions in the form of space and equipment. This serves both to raise funds and increase local commitment to sustain SNA-K’s work. Finally, SNA-K plans to subsidize funding through selling SMS to NGOs and social enterprises interested in sending educational or promotional messages. Any use of the database will be approved through an application process to ensure that it is non-partisan and helpful to the community.

Tell us about your partnerships

SNA-K partners with 5+ vetted local leaders and organizations in each community via its local chapters. SNA-K has partnered with and will continue to collaborate with Kenya’s Interim Independent Electoral Commission to conduct voter education, and is partnering with Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission to monitor and respond to hate speech. SNA-K also partners with Inuka Kenya Trust, a movement promoting unity, and collaborates with Kenya’s National Steering Committee on Peacebuilding and Conflict Management.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

SNA-K works with three local chapters of 5 to 15 peace leaders who direct programming on the ground and involve their communities. SNA-K’s CEO and Project Manager guide overall programming and manage local chapters, consultants, and additional staff and volunteers, while three SNA-K Board and Advisory Group members offer strategic guidance and support in research, partnerships, and fundraising. SNA-K has an accountant, media manager, and consistently has 1-2 part-time volunteers working to monitor and document progress.

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply

Investment, Human resources or talent, Marketing or media, Research or information, Collaboration or networking, Pro-bono help (legal, financial, etc.), Innovation or ideas, Mentorship.

Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Human resources or talent, Research or information, Collaboration or networking, Innovation or ideas, Mentorship.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list

SNA-K welcomes support from individuals with expertise in relevant areas, who can provide trainings and materials to support our local chapters. SNA-K constantly looks for ways to collaborate with similar organizations and to share ideas and information with other innovative programs and individuals, especially in understanding how SNA-K’s model may or may not be applicable in different settings and be adapted to support work in other countries. SNA-K is especially open to sharing its own research, experiences, and areas of expertise with others working to increase grassroots civic engagement and voice through new technologies.

Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

SNA-K combines local capacity & mobile technology to empower communities to become civically engaged & make their voices heard.