45179_towardssaferschoolconstruction_0 2015 - Page 45

Outreach and visibility for stakeholder support Keywords: government, coordination, corruption, miscommunication, grassroots, Kenya, small NGO In Kibera, an urban slum of Nairobi in Kenya, 250,000 people are packed into just 3.2 square kms. They live in a maze of shanties and open sewage ditches. Almost all public infrastructure is lacking. Schools are mostly informal, hygiene is extremely difficult to maintain, disease is everywhere and toilets are scarce. In 2008, Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI) constructed the first playground in the slum and built a fourclassroom primary school. They used a grassroots approach to community engagement. Through community forums and an open application process, they determined what public infrastructure would help the community most. Applications asked the community to identify their needs and capacities, to pose solutions, and to propose a financial plan to sustain their solutions. KDI then conducted widereaching interviews. They determined whether the community could follow through and established a site. When the community first identified a potential site for the primary school and playground, it was a marsh of trash, debris and raw sewage. By diverting the water flow and adding soil, the team reclaimed the area and built classroom structures and a playground. Heavy rains still brought some floodwater, but the majority of the site had become an open green space for children and the public. KDI’s philosophy was that the community was the project owner, so they never placed their name on the site. Six years later, community members and KDI reunited to construct toilets on the school grounds but stopped just after laying the footing. Rumours emerged that a government-sanctioned ‘chief camp’ was planned for the same site as the new toilets. In Kibera, chiefs liaise between the formal government offices and Kibera residents, holding their meetings in these offices or camps. The importance of visibility KDI came to realise the importance of high-profile visibility and broad outreach. KDI had believed that the immediate neighbourhood was the sole owner of the project and had never locally broadcast their name. High-level government offices did not necessarily know or respect their work, and when the Member of Parliament learnt of the project it was too late. KDI did not have visibility and clout inside or outside the slum to stop government plans. They changed course. They posted information boards outside each potentially threatened construction site showing before and after pictures, a list of the people working on the project, the duration of their work, a description of the site boundaries and the community’s vision for the site. The NGO also worked to appear in local media, newspapers and magazines. They started tweeting in the local dialect, and they spoke at public events. SECTION III: MOBILISATION IN CONTEXT The next morning, KDI and community members watched as hired, machete-armed youths built a fence to delineate the new government project. The land they had taken included the existing playground and the footing excavations for the sanitation block. The team was able to salvage their unused materials, but they had to restart the design process on a neighbouring site. One week later, the old playground was razed. By increasing their visibility and communicating their work and its benefits, KDI increased the political sustainability of their projects while maintaining their community-owned model. Key takeaways • Increased project visibility can create future partners. • Even though community ownership is paramount, the wider community must know and respect the work of implementing agencies to maintain effective relationships. KDI held meetings up the chain of command, starting with the local Chief and elders, the regional planning office, the government development fund, and finally the representing Member of Parliament. After learning of KDI’s work and the history of the project, the Member of Parliament asked everyone to stop work. KDI recommended that the chief camp and the toilets be built in parallel rather than opposition. The Member of Parliament agreed to work with KDI. Yet it soon became clear that the original plan was moving forward without KDI collaboration. KDI worked with residents of a slum neighbourhood outside Nairobi to build a playground and school. Photo: Charles Mwendo Newman/KDI. 36