SNA-K is Featured on the iHub’s blog!

August 6, 2012

This weekend, SNA-K was featured on the iHub’s blog as an innovative use of technology for promoting peace! We are including the text of the article below, and you can read the original article, Harnessing Technology for Peace, here.

Ability to create positive impact is one of the qualities that gives technology power.  Harnessing this power can lead to great impact within a society.  Find out how one young woman set out to do exactly this. Below, Rachel shares her story: 
Armed with a research idea and a passion for community, Rachel Brown saw an opportunity to use technology in supporting peace building in grass root communities in Kenya. Sisi ni Amani Kenya (SNA-K) was founded to address the conflicts over land that were occurring in communities. 

When I was asked to write about Sisi ni Amani Kenya (SNA-K) , I was excited to get the opportunity to share my story and the story of our many members with the iHub community.

SNA-K is a Kenyan NGO that is dedicated to supporting grassroots peace leaders to use mobile technology to expand their reach and efficiency. In our target communities members can subscribe to our SMS platform to receive free messages from SNA-K.

I moved to Kenya in July 2010, with the idea to do a small research about different grassroots peace initiatives that existed in Kenyan communities. We got started in Baba Dogo, which is located up Thika Road. Together with a team of members from different peace intiaitives and youth groups, we launched the project. We set up FrontlineSMS and had a big community event where we asked people to text in information about peace initiatives in the area. While people were excited about the project, we saw very few results. I started talking to the groups we had worked with, trying to find out what excited them so much.

I found two key things. One is that many of these groups were very excited because of the use of mobile technology. Leading up to and during the 2007-8 post-election violence, they saw mobile phones used in their communities to spread rumors, fear, and hate speech and to organize attacks and weapons distributions. The idea of using mobile phones for peace resonated with them.

Secondly, I became even more convinced that original reason to come to Kenya – to support grassroots peace and civic engagement leaders who have taken courageous steps to promote peace and reconciliation in their communities – was important and relevant. These local groups understood with incredible detail the dynamics of conflict and peace in their communities, and had many ideas for how to work together to prevent future violence.

I worked with a small group of dedicated individuals from Baba Dogo and Korogocho to design SNA-K’s current approach – an SMS platform with community-based subscription, where local chapters design programs and create SMS content. We were then invited by a local peace leader, Freddy Kamakei, in Narok to meet with him. After the initial meting, Kamakei was so excited about the idea that he founded our Narok Chapter. Since then, Eastlands in Nairobi and the Narok area have become our two main chapters, each piloting activities and uses of the SMS system that are specific to the conflict dynamics in their area.

Our teams’ hard work is finally paying off: since February of this year, we have received support for three exciting programs in Nairobi and Narok, and increased our subscriber base to more than 30,000 subscribers:

Nairobi: Sauti Yetu Political Debates: In partnership with Inuka Kenya Trust, SNA-K is carrying out a series of political debates in Nairobi. As one of our Chapter Leaders said, “people fight about politics because they are never united about politics.” The goal of the project is to introduce a non-partisan platform where community members can discuss policy issues and find areas of unity and commonality in political contestation, which is generally divisive. The program includes elements of civic education and dialogue through the SMS platform, which enables the community to engage at a broader level.

Narok: Land & Rumors Education & Dialogue: In Narok, land issues are complex and contentious. Often, land disputes, even between one or two people, cause conflict between entire communities. This is because of a lack of education about how land procedures work, and because rumors often exaggerate and amplify existing tensions. SNA-K has a program of grassroots open air forums on land issues and to discuss rumors, how they are spread, and how they contribute to conflict with the communities. These forums create trust and relationships in the community, and can enable our SMS to be trusted and credible within the community. They also give us insight into local issues and tensions.

PeaceTXT: Methodology for SMS & Peace Promotion: PeaceTXT is an initiative that was convened by Pop!Tech with partners including CeaseFireUshahidi, and Medic Mobile to look at how mobile technology could be used to compliment CeaseFire’s approach to solving conflict. SNA-K was brought on board as a partner in this effort to create a replicable methodology for using mobile technology for conflict prevention. PopTech has supported SNA-K to expand its outreach to identify best practices, upgrade technology through a new open source software platform designed by Praekelt Foundation, and to create a methodology for messaging in response to conflict.

SNA-K has already been using SMS to respond to tensions and conflict at the local level, through its local chapters creating and vetting messages. We have several positive stories of conflict in Narok that seems to have been mitigated by the sending of a message.

In one case, two groups were armed with bows and arrows and ready to fight on a contentious boundary in Mulot. SNA-K’s Chapter Member in that area, Pastor Wilson Mosonik, attempted to mediate and then called us to send a message. The message was vetted, and when it was sent, these groups left the boundary went to Pastor Mosonik’s office for mediation. After SNA-K sent messages promoting peace during contentious boundary issues, Pastor Mosonik, who is from the Kalenjin community, was donated 3 acres of land from a group of Maasai elders in the area in appreciation of the continued peace in Mulot. PeaceTXT is an especially exciting initiative, because it enables us to transition into a methodology that will enable faster response times and additional planning for potential events.

These past two years have seen incredible growth for Sisi ni Amani Kenya. I personally feel lucky to work with a team of incredibly innovative and dedicated people, and to be able to work with them to make their ideas become a reality.

Still Growing

We are currently upgrading this technology, so that individuals will be able to subscribe by entering their information into a USSD menu, and will send and receive messages to a short code. SNA-K is able to use this information to send targeted messages . For example, we can send a message to young unemployed men in a specific village within a slum or to all women working in a certain sector in a part of Narok.

Our local chapters – comprised of vetted groups of peace leaders – design our programming and decide how to use this system based on local conflict analyses that they conduct. Our teams have focused on civic education, civic engagement, and creating messages in response to rumors, tensions, or potential conflict in their communities.

Since I came to Nairobi, the iHub has given me not only a space to work in, but the ability to interact with a wide range of individuals who have expertise in different areas and are passionate about their work. By providing this space – physical and for thought and conversation – the iHub has helped SNA-K grow from an idea into an organization with a wide range of programs and the potential for scale.

Read more from Sisi ni Amani Kenya  on their blog. Follow them on Twitter


Reflection on the Kenyan Context

January 20, 2012

Happy 2012 from Sisi ni Amani – Kenya! We have some exciting updates on our programming this year, so please stay tuned for a blog post on our plans for the year.

One of the most exciting components of the new year is our collaboration with PeaceTxt.  As SNA-K launches this international collaboration, we wanted to take the time to reflect on the importance of this initiative in the Kenyan context.

In 2007, Kenya held a disputed presidential election, which resulted in widespread protests followed by violence throughout the country. The violence pitted ethnic communities against one another, and led to over 1,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the country.  While Kenyan elections have historically been marred by violence, the 2002 elections (which brought democracy after many years of dictatorship) were peaceful, and the 2007 elections led to months of violence and displacement at a larger scale than ever before. The damage and distrust created by the 2007-2008 post election violence has yet to be healed in many Kenyan communities. 

Within the next year and a half, Kenya will hold its next general election, the biggest election ever to be held in sub-Saharan Africa (the election date is yet to be definitively confirmed). The election is the first to take place under the country’s new Constitution, which was ratified by a peaceful referendum in August, 2010. While the Constitution and the approaching elections hold promise for increased checks and balances and opportunities for civic engagement, the election carries with it a risk of future violence.

The Constitution changes the structure of the country’s government and internal boundaries, creating a system of counties and changing the borders of constituencies. This has caused some tension over how boundaries will be divided. The Constitution also changes electoral positions, and many individuals at the grassroots do not understand how the new structure of government will work, or even which positions they will be voting for.

Additional factors add to the potential for tensions and violence. Six alleged suspects of the post-election violence, two of whom are expected to run for the presidency in the next Presidential Election and are the main political leaders representing two major ethnic communities in Kenya, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court, and had initial hearings to judge if their cases will proceed to trial. The response of Kenyan politicians and the suspects themselves has created tensions between political parties.

The country still has high numbers of internally displaced persons who have yet to be resettled after the 2007-2008 post-election violence. The resettlement of IDPs is a contentious issue, as many continue to suffer in camps and resettlement plans threaten to inflame existing land conflicts between ethnic communities.

Despite resistance to ICC trials, the Kenyan justice system has been criticized for a lack of will and ability to try local cases of violence adequately. International leaders recently warned that the next elections will be “make or break” for Kenya at a conference in Nairobi.

Finally, it is important to note that tensions continued after the 2007-2008 violence stopped. In late 2009, BBC reported on an “ethnic arms race” in which communities were re-arming in preparation for the 2012 elections in the volatile Rift Valley. This means that many communities within the Rift Valley rearmed and still possess the weapons that they armed with.

SNA-K was founded in response to the events of 2007-2008, and the potential for future violence and the use of mobile technology to create a foundation for, plan, and help spread the post-election violence. During the 2007-2008 violence, mobile phones – specifically SMS – were used to spread rumors and fear and to organize weapons distribution and attacks. Violent actors were extremely effective at using these widely proliferated technologies, while peace actors were neither well prepared nor able to leverage these technologies to the same effect.

Since July 2010, SNA-K has worked to understand and implement programming that utilizes mobile phones, and specifically SMS, to help build peace, collaboration, and conflict resilience in Kenyan communities. We have built a subscriber base of over 10,000 individuals in our target communities, and implemented civic education, civic engagement, and peace promotion programming.

As we move towards Kenya’s next election, we can’t think of a more exciting partnership than the one we have just launched with PeaceTXT – a unique collaborative project of PopTech, CeaseFire, Medic Mobile, Ushahidi, and the Praekelt Foundation. The partnership supports our work here in Kenya to reach more people and more communities, while CeaseFire’s proven approach and successful methodology will add a new level of training and expertise for our local teams.

Most of all, we are excited to help create best practices on the implementation of SMS-based programming for peace promotion and violence prevention, and to incorporate these lessons into PeaceTXT International’s model, enabling the work we are doing here in Kenya to inform efforts on a larger scale.

SNA-K Enters Ashoka Changemakers Competition – Tell us what you think!

September 14, 2011

SNA-K has entered Ashoka’s Changemakers competition for citizen media. View our profile here and use the comments feature to let us know what you think!

SNA-K is Featured in Nextbillion Article on Marketing Peace

September 14, 2011

SNA-K has been featured in an article on Nextbillion. The article explores SNA-K’s approach to peace promotion through a marketing lens, discussing the concept of marketing peace. Read the article here.

Peace X Peace article by SNA-K Founder

August 29, 2011

SNA-K’s Founder & CEO recently wrote an article for Peace X Peace’s Voices from the Frontlines, which features articles about women in peace and conflict. Read the article on the relationship between peace and risk here.

August Newsletter is out!

August 18, 2011

SNA-K’s August newsletter is out – Read it here!

Why Sisi ni Amani? Interview with Ramadhan Obiero, by Megan Turner

July 14, 2011

Ramadhan Obiero is a member of the Sisi ni Amani- Kenya Kasarani local chapter and has spent months working for SNAK out of a dedication to strengthening the foundation of peace in the community.  Part of this dedication stems from his experiences with Post Election Violence in 2007.  Following the announcement that President Kibaki had won the election, fighting broke out almost instantaneously.  Interestingly enough, Rama notes, the fighting was mainly in the informal settlements- not the wealthier parts of Kenya.  In his perspective, the wealthy were coming into the informal settlements and manipulating the impoverished youth.  To combat the misuse of information, Rama began speaking with the youth telling them that even if the votes were stolen, violence was not the answer to their issues.  He did this in his village for two weeks until his neighbors began to see him as a traitor.  To protect himself, he moved to another village continuing to tell the youth that violence was not the answer.   In addition to this, he took charge of organizing security for international and local media houses to gain footage of the violence.  Also, he volunteered the center for his organization, ACREF, as a distribution center for food and medical supplies through UNHCR.

Rama cites his curiosity regarding the various ways of mobilizing the youth as a mainstay for his involvement in Sisi ni Amani Kenya.  While several community organizations utilize sports, competition, and dramas as ways to spread information, SNA-K provides a new, inventive way to spread information.    In urgent, tense situations, the SMS system is beneficial because information can be spread at all hours of the day- not necessarily something that a soccer game or theater could fulfill.  It serves as an inexpensive and convenient way to disseminate information.  Rama attributes his dedication to SNA-K to the fact that once he starts something, he begins it.  He believes that once other organizations learn about SNA-K, other communities will want to start a local chapter.  It is his hope that Kasarani will serve as an example to others communities and will result in a community where the youth is united and unable to be manipulated for others gain.

An important facet of SNAK is the strong emphasis on the role of local leadership in the implementation of the SMS system.  Rama says that this is the best way to conduct development as he, and others on the leadership team, have been victims of large organization entering a community, utilizing him temporarily for photographs and information, and then leaving without warning the local community.  The way that SNA-K runs their project, however, ensures that they take ownership of the project.  In addition the project is more effective because they know the problems of the community, the root causes, and joint community ownership lessens tension in the community because the resources belong to everybody.  Also, the local leadership team understands how to phrase the messages so as to ensure maximum attention as well as comprehension.  Occasionally, an international organization may try to spread a message but its meaning will be lost in translation- not an issue when the local leaders speak the language and are from the community.

Sisi ni Amani Kenya Kasarani Chapter will continue long after the current director leaves- they have made it so that they can sustain themselves which ensures the longevity and sustainability of the project.