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.

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

Kamukunji Programming

July 14, 2011

Kamukunji is a constituency in Nairobi that is a central to politics within the city. It is a focal point of jua kali work (“hot sun” work, or casual outdoor labor) within the city, and has a very diverse population.

SNA-K’s Project: SNA-K received a short-term grant from USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) to conduct programming in Kamukunji in the lead-up to a disputed by-election [sic] for the area’s Member of Parliament, which was scheduled for the end of May 2011. SNA-K began work in Kamukunji in April 2011.

SNA-K recruited 18 volunteers from Kamukunji community organizations who conducted outreach for the local phone number throughout Kamukunji. Approximately 7,000 individuals signed up in the volunteers’ two weeks of outreach. Subscribers were varied, with jobs ranging from civil servants, elders, and religious leaders, to matatu touts (workers on a form of public transportation), unemployed, housewives, and jua kali labor.

Confirmed subscribers received civic education messages sensitizing them to good leadership under the new Constitution, which were created through an expert-led workshop with SNA-K’s Kamukunji volunteers. Over 5,000 subscribers were given the opportunity to participate in an SMS-based survey of community needs, which was used to craft questions at a local debate between political aspirants (results to be available on this website soon). The most common community concern was unemployment.

One business day before the by-election was scheduled to take place, Kenya’s High Court postponed the election because of a pending election-related case. SNA-K sent a message to its subscribers asking them to wait peacefully and patiently for more information and to accept the High Court’s ruling. The community response was overwhelmingly positive, and community members called SNA-K’s volunteers to thank them for the message and let them know that it provided accurate information and helped to maintain peace and patience in Kamukunji.

Throughout the process, SNA-K used its Kamukunji network to monitor tensions and signs of tensions, and engaged in collaboration with the NSC (National Steering Committee, a government body appointed with coordinating Early Warning and Response). SNA-K reported signs of tension to the NSC for action.

Looking Forward: SNA-K is continuing to develop civic education messaging to educate Kamukunji subscribers about the new Constitution, and following closely as the High Court case proceeds with its case and decision with regards to the continuation of the by-election.

Why Sisi ni Amani – Personal story from Megan Turner (April, 2011)

July 14, 2011

When post election violence occurred, I was fifteen back in my home in southern California concerned with AP tests and the upcoming school dances.  I understand very little of the implications of the ethnic tensions that underlie the violence or the effect that the violence would have and continue to have on the social fabric of Kenyan society.  I knew enough to get into contact with my friend who lived in Nairobi but after learning that he was safe, I was at a loss as to what else I could do.  Flash forward three years and I was moving away from home studying International Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University in Washington D.C. studying ethno political conflict and genocide, focusing on Africa, and learning Kiswahili.

Last semester I took the opportunity to study abroad in Kenya through my university and was recommended Sisi ni Amani Kenya (SNA-K) as an organization to consider interning with.  From the very beginning, I recognized SNA-K as an organization straight out of my development class discussions.  It was an organization that had involvement from the Western world but relied on the ideas and leadership potential of local Kenyans who knew the language, culture, people and what would work and not work.

The concept of SMS technology appealed to me as a teenager who has grown up in the cell phone era- what better way to reach a wide array of people poorly connected but through texting- and for such a good cause as peace and civic education?  From what I saw from my time in Kenya, the usage of SMS technology is an integral part of society and more effective than posters or fliers and can be accessed at any time on little notice, day or night, unlike soccer games or theatre productions.

One of the most admirable qualities of SNA-K is their emphasis on local leadership- not regional and not national.  Each community is different- with its own culture and way of life and SNAK respects and empowers these communities to reach their full potential and take ownership of the well being of their community.  I found from my time in Kasarani and Narok that each leadership team preferred to approach their work with different styles and chose to rely on different aspects of peace and civic education as their respective community necessitated.

I highly value the time that I spent interning with Sisi ni Amani- Kenya and even though I have returned to the states, I am hoping to stay active with the work of SNA-K and help in whatever way I can.