“This experience will dramatically influence my work as a philanthropist
and an investor”
Greenwood Place Community Member
Earlier this month, a group of 16 Greenwood Place community members came together in Kenya to explore this question : What does it take to make real, positive change?
Over 5 days we visited local leaders from all walks of life. Our partners Leaders Quest worked with us to put together a schedule that meant we spent time in slick offices, on nature reserves, in Nairobi traffic, in prisons and in slums. We met farmers, students, entrepreneurs and activists.
We put together this special edition briefing to share a little of what we learned.
OUR PLANE READING
What kept us busy on the flight
Unbowed by Wangari Maathai: Wangari Maathai started Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her work.
We began our week in Kenya sitting under trees in a forest that Maathai saved with her daughter Wanjira - another extraordinary woman with an unwavering belief in Kenya’s young people.
“I get disillusioned all the time. Change is slow But there are glimmers of hope - I am finding good people who know what’s right and what’s important. Working with these people makes a difference.”
Find me Unafraid : Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner: Kenedy Odede grew up in the Kibera slum in Nairobi. With his American wife, Jessica Posner, he created Shining Hope for Communities, or Shofco there.
One of the most powerful and important aspects of SHOFCO is that it is fully owned by the community in Kibera and is therefore able to listen and understand the issues that need to be addressed.
“You can’t force people to change, they have to own it. Together we are a powerful force. SHOFCO is a movement. Its a community saying enough is enough. SHOFCO is not me. Its the community.”
A SECOND CHANCE
Jeanne sat with Teresa Njoroge in a group of 10 young girls - aged 10-16 - in Dagoretti Rehabilitation Centre. Teresa's inspirational team of coaches are creating something very special in that setting.
Gladys, 12, who is intelligent and quietly confident told us "I can't change what happens to me but I can choose how I behave. I have a choice, I have responsibility and I am in control of myself."
As Teresa said, "what imprisonment does is take away everything from you, but what it can't do is take away what is inside."
Watch Teresa's amazing Ted Talk here
SEEING BEYOND THE HORIZON
We visited a solar powered drip irrigation system with Amar Inamdar from Kawi Safi, who is investing in disruptive companies in the energy space.
Amar is on fire. Right now, he told us, one US family uses as much energy as 99 Ethiopian families. If these new energy users get their energy in a carbon intensive way, its an extraordinary problem. So we need to innovate fast.
Watch Amar's TED talk here.
Disrupting entertainment and education
Tonee from Kytabu is on a mission to disrupt education. “You go into a classroom in Kenya and there is nothing on the walls. That is because the teacher knows everything and I know nothing. What I do as a student doesn’t matter, so why would it go on a wall.”
Read more here
Rob at Well Told Story told us about the young people he entertains and what he learns from his audiences. 80% of Kenya is now under 35 and this generation will determine the future success of the country.
Of 1.3M Kenyan young people entering the workforce every year, only 300,000 will go into employment. Well Told Story’s Shujaaz platform uses comic books, radio shows, SMS and social media to engage young people in a conversation about issues that affect them. Primarily, Shujaaz encourages its audience to stay single and make a living from hustling…. Well Told Story’s teenage audience (which is LARGE) is 2.7x less likely to be married at 19 than its peers and has 5x more agency, meaning that they are in school or running a small business.
EMPOWERING COMMUNITIES AT SCALE
Charles from Root Capital’s East Africa team lends to small agricultural enterprises that have the potential to build livelihoods of thousands of farmers. One of the farmers he introduced us to told us “The middlemen would come and look at all our problems and then buy at a price based on our problems not on the value of the crop.”
We visited the extraordinary Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and the Northern Rangelands Trust in Northern Kenya. The Lewa team works tirelessly on multiple community and conservation projects and are achieving impact at scale. NRT covers an area the size of Denmark, comprising 18 ethnic groups. It is a remarkable thing - a membership body comprising 35 wildlife conservancies, built around a governance structure led by councils of elders and supported with practical strategies to improve livelihoods, defuse tension and promote conservation.
This week we saw first hand how effective the power of strong communities can be and we learned over and over again that there is nothing inevitable about injustice and inequality
WHAT OUR COMMUNITY MEMBERS SAID.....
“This journey has made me more thoughtful, more inquisitive and more determined to do something.”
“I came back with many thoughts about how to improve the work we are doing, and many new ideas”
“Each host has left an indelible impression in my mind. From how they each approached leadership, to their entrepreneurial spirits and their resilience to keep fighting for social justice.”
"This was a first quality programme addressing exactly the objective. Perfect execution in a complicated environment. The leaders knew how to stimulate the group to become a team and get the best of it.”