PeaceTXT Outreach: Over 23,000 NEW subscribers in the first 3 weeks!

March 26, 2012

By Jacqueline Njeru, Sisi ni Amani Kenya Programs Manager

The new year has been truly great for SNA-K. We have a series of community sensitization programs as well as a project with PeaceTXT to upgrade our SMS system to an open-source and scaleable tool, and to increase our subscriber base!

We are all very excited about these new programs, and I wanted to take a moment to share with you my reflections on our expanded outreach in Nairobi. Our work to increase our subscriber base in Nairobi, will focus on Baba Dogo; Korogocho: Huruma: Kariobangi and Mathare. In Narok we will be doing outreach in Narok North, Narok South and Transmara.

The first ten days of outreach to increase our subscriber base focused on the Baba Dogo and Korogocho slums in Nairobi. In ten days over 9,500 new subscribers signed up to receive SMS from SNA-K, thanks to the high level of commitment and dedication from our twenty outreach facilitators! Last week we expanded outreach to Kariobangi, Mathare and Huruma, and these outreach facilitators were joined by another group of outreach facilitators, with whom they attended the teambuilding training. Last week alone, forty-four outreach facilitators signed up over 13,000 new subscribers – our total number of subscribers is now over 23,000!

All of the wonderful outreach facilitators come from various youth groups and represent different groups within the areas where we work – we want to thank them: you are the BEST, we cannot make it without you!! We have been receiving and continue to receive positive response from the community, which is indicated by high number of new subscribers. Moreover, most groups that our outreach facilitators have had a chance to engage with and talk to have expressed a high interest in networking and working closely with Sisi ni Amani. We are excited to work together with these individuals to create new opportunities for civic education and civic engagement through our unique component of the SMS platform.

We have faced some challenge in recruiting subscribers, but are finding ways to overcome these challenges. For example, at first volunteers did not have ID badges and it was harder for them to gain trust and credibility. As outreach went on, the volunteers were given ID badges and more community members knew about SNA-K, and this challenge of gaining trust was minimized.  There was also an issue of insecurity (because of high levels of thievery) in some areas where volunteers planned outreach.  Koch FM, the community radio station with whom we’ve partnered on a discussion of community needs let us use their space so that volunteers could leave their phones and any valuables at the radio station when they went into insecure areas, and come sign them back out later.

As we move forward expanding our activities and subscriber base, it is important that we work for our community with the top priority and top most purpose being to improve the lives and relationships of those around us. This requires that we all have a heart of volunteerism and a passion for peace, and that we work closely with key leaders in the communities where we work. From here, we will be able to achieve a lot even if its’ on a small scale.

The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and our journey as Kenyans especially in the areas where SNA-K is present is to have a positive peace based on active cooperation within communities and a foundation of solid civic education and positive civic engagement. Pamoja, tuweze kuijenga Nchi Yetu tukufu ya Kenya.


Narok Teambuilding

February 16, 2012

This blog post is by Caleb Njoroge, SNA-K Intern

A Description of the Day

The SNA-K Narok Team, Transmara Representatives, and Nairobi staff met in Narok Town, and boarded a matatu. The team travelled together to Ilariak grounds, an campground on the way to the Maasai Mara.

The first session was led by Narok’s DPC (District Peace Commissioner), Joseph Pareiyio, and the members got to introduce themselves so as to get acquainted with each other. After the introductions, members got to chat over a cup of tea. The second session was part briefing and part training. Jackie briefed the team on SNA-K’s activities and outlined the roles of the volunteers and how they are expected to conduct themselves during the outreach and events by SNA-K.

Volunteers play introductory games

Volunteers play "getting-to-know-you" game

Mr. Pareiyio took over the session and discussed how teamwork is essential in achieving organizational goals. His talk was tailor-made to fit the SNA-K setting that involves going for outreach and holding public events. This was an insightful session for the members as they asked many questions and participated fully during the discussion. “When one person wins in a team, the entire team wins and when one person looses in a team, then the entire team loses.” “If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go with a group/team.” These were some of the concepts that were expounded by Mr. Pareiyio

After a short break, Mr. Pareiyio concluded the morning session by speaking about communication and  the role it plays in any organization and in any team. He noted that communication is the fabric that sustains and maintains any successful team and without it chaos ensues. The team played several games and looked at several examples about how to ensure effective communication, and the potential impacts of ineffective communication within a team.

After the session with Mr.Pareiyio, the team from Transmara was asked to pin point the volatile areas that they thought would benefit from SNA-K’s work. Various hotspots were noted and the reasons for conflict in those hot spots were discussed so as to understand root causes of conflict and the areas in which SNA-K’s approach could be most effective.

The team broke for lunch and was able to bond some more over the lunch session, since eating together is also a form of bonding. After lunch the afternoon session involved games and team sports. The games were to show the members how well they know each other and how well they can function as a team under pressure. It was fun and exciting as members competed against each other in different teams. Members learned how to work with each other to achieve great results in the games. The games centered on communication and trust.

Human Knot

Volunteers work to untangle their "human knot." Communication is key!

The games and sports session concluded the day’s main activities as the team broke off to have a cup of evening tea. The team was excited about spending time together, and even began to propose and plan a team camping trip.

The day had been successful from the beginning and the members were all delighted to have attended and learned all about teambuilding. Members said that they were fully equipped to conduct the upcoming events and outreaches.

Lessons Learnt

Teamwork is the key to any successful organization because it carries with it the elements of success. Mr. Pareiyio explained to the members that for peace to be sustained in the country, the people of Kenya must work together and working together is another term for teamwork. Kenya is made up of 43 different tribes that have different cultures and practices. This makes it hard to come to an understanding, especially when utilization of natural resources come into play e.g. rivers, land, springs etc. This, however, could be solved if the parties involved came together and worked together to reach a solution because two heads are better than one and different tribes coming together to solve a problem makes it much easier to reach a solution than when they try solving a problem as two separate groups.

A team is made up of different people and this was shown clearly from the introductions that were made. Mr. Pareiyio made us realize that as much as we are working together, we are all different people with different names, characteristics, interests, ages etc. These differences are very important in a functioning team because in a winning team you will find everyone has a different set of skills that he/she uses to the best of their abilities to enable the team to function well. If all the people/members of a team had the same set of skills and no diversity, the team would be limited to only what these people know. Diversity of people and their backgrounds makes the team more flexible and diverse, giving it the ability to handle different tasks and solve multiple problems effectively.

Spreading peace and maintaining peace involve the very essence of teamwork because when there is no teamwork in any group or society then peace is threatened since everyone does what they think is best for themselves and are thus likely to offend others and destroy any peace building that might be going on. A winning team, or a successful team, teaches others who observe it so many things. One need not to explain to people what the team is doing right because it’s clearly visible when a group of individuals come together and work in synch – the results can be huge. This is to say that before we preach peace, we must be at peace with each other so that we can function as a team even when we are in different areas.

Another critical area in teamwork that was mentioned was open and clear communication. This was stated as the glue or the fiber that holds a team together and keeps it from falling apart. Members who share openly with each other about different aspects of the team are able to encourage each other to achieve any set goals. Hiding or not addressing any issues concerning the team only serves to damage the relationship of the team members which in turn ends up crippling the team because someone might have a solution to a problem but isn’t comfortable enough to share it due to one reason or the other.

Working as a team has many benefits, and as peacemakers, the number one benefit for us is to spread peace and maintain peace, as this is our goal. Different cultures, races, tribes, personalities, genders and age groups working together on a common goal, translates to teamwork which in turn for us translates into peace.

The SNA-K Narok Team!

The SNA-K Narok Team!

Nairobi Teambuilding

February 15, 2012

This blog post was written by Caleb Njoroge, SNA-K Intern. 

As part of our work with PeaceTxt, and with the support of PopTech, SNA-K has begun the year with two teambuilding exercises: one each in Nairobi and Narok. As we work to scale our outreach and increase community trust of SNA-K, building strong teams of volunteers is crucial.

On January 28th, the Nairobi team undertook a teambuilding with at total of 40 participants with the goal of ensuring that the volunteers would be able to know each other well and understand the importance of teamwork in their work with Sisi ni Amani – Kenya. The group met in Baba Dogo at SNA-K’s Kasarani office, and took a bus to Mji wa Furaha, where the teambuilding day was held.

Summary of the day

The day included getting-to-know-you games as well as an overview of SNA-K, the technology, and our expectations of the volunteers. The day was then facilitated by Nyaga Kamau who has extensive experience with teambuilding, capacity building, and has worked at and sat on boards for organizations in Korogocho for many years.

SNA-K Volunteers play teambuilding game

SNA-K Volunteers play a teambuilding game

Kamau took the approach of playing games and then facilitating evaluation and discussion of the games to help derive lessons about teamwork. The day began with a game that was a cross between basketball and handball. The group was divided into 4 smaller team, which named themselves Bluetooth, Dush, Eagles and Aquatic. The teams battled it out on the court and the game ended in a tie for all the teams. After the game the group evaluated each team specifically wanting to find out their strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This made the team members of each team re-evaluate actions that might have caused them to perform poorly. Volunteers then bonded over a refreshment break.

The second session was not so different from the 1st one since it involved playing a game and getting a teaching after the game. This was very effective as the members tried as much as possible to work as a team during the games since they knew that they would be evaluated after the game.

SNA-K Volunteers Play Tug of War

SNA-K Volunteers Play Tug of War

After lunch the four teams that were made earlier in the day were merged into two teams so that they could play tug of war. The tug of war marked the end of the teambuilding games as Kamau tried to find from the loosing team what they did wrong and from the winning team what they did right. The members then had chicken as the day came to a successful end. The volunteers were given instructions on the upcoming activities in February, and were excited and happy as they had learnt that for any team or organization to function there must be teamwork.

Key Takeaways 

There were several key takeaways from the full group discussions and evaluations throughout the day.

SNA-K Volunteers Discussing

SNA-K Volunteers discuss lessons learned from teambuilding exercises

Some of the discussion and lessons learned focused on peace as a way of life. There is usually a tendency for people who are working for a peace organization to put differentiation between the work they do and the lifestyle they live. You will find a peace worker getting violent when he is at home or with his friends and when asked how comes he is violent and yet works in a peace organization he will say that when he is at work, then it’s his work/job to be peaceful but when he is at home then there is no work involved there and he can do as he wishes. The message from the teambuilding is that peace should be a way of life it should resonate from home to school to work and to any other place a person relates with other people, it shouldn’t be limited to one place or area.

Additionally, there were important lessons about teambuilding. When a rope is being manufactured the more the strands that are woven into it the stronger the rope becomes. This strength doesn’t come easy because the more the strands the harder they have to be woven together to stay as one. This translates into the concept of team work nicely since in a team there are many members that constitute the team and these are like the strands and team members have to communicate, respect each other, carry out their tasks effectively, share victories and failures and this is the weaving of the strands together into a strong cord that can’t easily be cut and that is the essence of teamwork.

In a team the members work together and no one criticizes the other: instead, when the team isn’t functioning well the members sit down together to try and solve the problem as a group and not as individuals. Here there is no pointing of fingers or accusations. Instead, there is correction of mistakes so as to enable the members to move on as one. If there is a success in the team, the team once again comes together and analyses the reason for that success and how to maintain that success instead of crediting one individual as the reason of achievement. This motivates the members to know that they are part of the success rather than one individual who might get carried away and think that he/she did it by themselves.

Another important thing to note in all effective teams is that, they all are brought together because they share the same passion, and that might be the only thing they have in common since they are from different backgrounds, ages, gender, culture, religion etc. For example, European football teams buy players from Africa, America South America and Europe. These are people who have never met but they all share one common passion: football. They will work together to produce results. No-one coerced them or forced them to be in their teams, they all do it because they each have a passion for football therefore if anyone is in any group, they should be sure that their motivation is based on a passion and drive to achieve the goals set forward by that team. For example, with regards to SNA-K, members should share a passion for peace, and that is the most important reason to be involved.

SNA-K Launches Partnership with PeaceTXT

December 13, 2011

SNA-K is excited to announce that we have launched a partnership with PeaceTxt! Learn more in this post from Patrick Meier:

SMS for Violence Prevention: PeaceTXT International Launches in Kenya

[This post was written by Patrick Meier, and originally posted on the Ushahidi blog here]

One of the main reasons I’m in Nairobi this month is to launch PeaceTXT International withPopTechUshahidiPraekelt FoundationSisi ni AmaniCeaseFire Chicago andMedic:Mobile. PeaceTXT International builds on the original PeaceTXT project that several of us began working on with CeaseFire Chicago last year. I began thinking about the many possible international applications of the PeaceTXT project during our very first meeting, which is why I am thrilled and honored to be spearheading the first PeaceTXT International pilot project.

The purpose of PeaceTXT is to leverage mobile messaging to catalyze behavior change around peace and conflict issues. In the context of Chicago, the joint project with CeaseFire aims to leverage SMS reminders to interrupt gun violence in marginalized neighborhoods. Several studies in other fields of public health have already shown the massive impact that SMS reminders can have on behavior change, e.g., improving drug adherence behavior among AIDS and TB patients in Africa, Asia and South America.

Our mobile messaging campaign in Kenya builds on the very successful interruption and behavior change work performed by CeaseFire in Chicago. Note that CeaseFire has been directly credited for significantly reducing the number of gun-related killings in Chicago over the past 10 years. In other words, they have a successful and proven methodology; one being applied to several other cities and countries worldwide. PeaceTXT International simply seeks to scale this success by introducing SMS.

PeaceTXT Chicago builds another successful campaign in the US: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink and Drive.” Inspired by this approach, the PeaceTXT Team in Chicago is looking to launch a friends-don’t-let-friends-get-killed campaign. Focus groups recently conducted with high-risk individuals have resulted in rich content for several dozen reminder messages (see below) that could be disseminated via SMS.

These messages are user-generated in that the content was developed by high-risk individuals themselves—i.e., those most likely to get involved in gun violence. The messages are not limited to reminders. Some also prompt the community to get engaged by responding to various questions. Indeed, the project seeks to crowdsource community solutions to gun violence and thus greater participation. When high-risk individuals were asked how they’d feel if they were to receive these messages on their phones, they had the following to share: “makes me feel like no one is forgetting about me”; “message me once a day to make a difference.”

Given that both forwarding and saving text messages is very common among the population that CeaseFire works with, the team hopes that the text messages will circulate and recycle widely. Note that the project is still in prototype phase but going into implementation mode as of 2012. So we’ll have to wait and see how the project fares and what the initial impact looks like.

In the meantime, PeaceTXT is partnering with Sisi ni Amani (We are Peace) to launch its first international pilot project. Rachel Brown, who spearheads the initiative, first got in touch with me back in the Fall of 2009 whilst finishing her undergraduate studies at Tufts. Rachel was interested in crowdsourcing a peace map of Kenya, which I blogged about here shortly after our first conversation. Since then, Rachel and her team have set up the Kenyan NGO Sisi ni Amani Kenya (SnA-K) to leverage mobile technology for awareness raising and civic engagement with the aim of preventing possible violence during next year’s Presidential Elections.

SnA-K currently manages a ~10,000 member SMS subscriber list in Baba Dogo and Korogocho, Kamukunji and Narok. SnA-K’s SMS campaigns focus on voter education, community cohesion and rumor prevention. What SnA-K needs, how-ever, is the scalable SMS broadcasting technology, the type of focus that PeaceTXT brought to CeaseFire Chicago and the unique response methodology developed by the CeaseFire team. So I reached out to Rachel early on during the work in Chicago to let her know about PeaceTXT and to gain insights from her projects in Kenya. We set up regular conference calls throughout the year to keep each other informed of our respective progress and findings.

Soon enough, PopTech’s delightful Leetha Filderman asked me to put together a pitch for international applications of PeaceTXT’s work, an initiative I have “code-named” PeaceTXT International. I was absolutely thrilled when she shared the good news at PopTech 2011 that our donor, the Rita Allen Foundation, had provided us with additional funding, some of which could go towards an international pilot project. Naturally, Sisi ni Amani was a perfect fit.

So we organized a half-day brainstorming session at the iHub last week to chart the way forward on PeaceTXT Kenya. For example, what is the key behavioral change variable (like friendship in the PeaceTXT Chicago project) that is most likely to succeed in Kenya? As for interrupting violence, how can the CeaseFire methodology be customized for the SnA-K context? Finally, what kind of SMS broadcasting technology do we need to have in place to provide maximum flexibility and scalability earlier rather than later? Answering these questions and implementing scalable solutions essentially forms the basis of the partnership between SnA-K and PeaceTXT (which also includes Revolution Messaging). We have some exciting leads on next steps and will be sure to blog about them as we move forward to get feedback from the wider community.

Conflicts are often grounded in the stories and narratives that people tell themselves and the emotions that these stories generate. Narratives shape identity and the social construct of reality—we interpret our lives through stories. These have the power to transform relationships and communities. We believe the PeaceTXT model can be applied to catalyze behavior  change vis-a-vis peace and conflict issues at the community level by amplifying new narratives via SMS. There is considerable potential here and still much to learn, which is why I’m thrilled to be working with SnA, PopTech & partners on launching our first international pilot project: PeaceTXT Kenya.

Posted in CrisisMobileNairobiPartnershipsPeace effortsUshahidielections.Tagged with ,.

By patrick

December 12, 2011