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There’s a new Youth and Participatory Governance initiative that I’m going to be supporting from the social media and ICT side, and I’m really excited about.

My colleague Jess in our UK Office gives an overview:

Plan UK is working with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) to produce a Special Issue of the journal Participatory Learning Action (PLA) focusing on Youth and Participatory Governance in Africa. The Special Issue will capture and share experiences of the different ways young people in African countries are engaging with government to participate in public policy, planning and budgeting processes at local, national, regional, and international levels.

Key details about the Special Issue:

  • What is the theme? Contributions should capture practical experiences of governance work involving youth. Contributions should include: the processes young people have been engaged in; innovations, achievements and challenges; lessons and ways forward. Each article should be around 2,500 words. (Note: this includes innovative ways that youth are engaging with support of ICTs.)
  • Who can contribute? We are seeking submissions from adults and young people working in the field of youth and governance who would like to contribute an article to this Special Issue. You might be a youth activist, a practitioner from an NGO or international agency, or a member of government, for example.
  • How will contributors be supported? Support will be provided to contributors throughout the drafting process, including a writing workshop (a ‘writeshop’) in Nairobi in March next year during which contributors will receive one-to-one support and meet with others working on participatory governance to discuss and share their experiences
  • When do articles need to be written? Anybody interested in contributing needs to submit a 500 word summary by December 5th. Articles will be selected in December. Authors will submit a first draft of their article in February 2011 and, after further drafting, a final draft in June/July 2011.

Download further information on the Special Issue and the PLA journal here. Download the Call for Proposals here if you think you’d like to submit something or to support youth you are working with to submit.

Why I’m excited about being involved…

I had the chance to talk with Jess (the project coordinator) at Plan UK about my role last week. I’ll be supporting with dissemination (starting here with this post) to help get as many good submissions as possible. I’ll also be reviewing submissions that have ICT components to them; supporting participating youth with writing drafts and at the writeshop in Nairobi this March; and looking at how we can use social media to support the initiative throughout.

I’m really happy to be involved because this is something I want to dig into into and the process will offer a chance to learn about methodological innovations in this area that can be replicated and shared within some of the other programs I’m supporting. I also love that young people are encouraged to submit ideas for the journal and that they will be involved in writing and documenting their experiences. Sometimes their voices are really missing in these debates because they are not in the habit or don’t have time to write and document their work, or because of other factors like language or access. (And we all know that if it’s not on the Internet, to many of us it ‘doesn’t exist’).

To be honest, I’m also excited because it will give me a ton of new stuff to share here, and maybe during the process we’ll be successful in getting some more young people and practitioners blogging.

Another reason I’m keen to participate was this bit in the concept note: Youth and governance efforts have been ‘largely unsystematic and often constrained by the vague and paternalistic parameters of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (McGee, forthcoming 2010). However this is changing and there are calls for new models, tools and approaches that enable young people to take a more meaningful role in decision-making.’ Looking forward to the discussions around that.

Submit a concept!

If you are working on programs around youth and governance, youth and transparency, youth and accountability and related areas or know of young people or young people’s organizations who are, please check out this link on how to submit a concept or contact me (lindaraftree at gmail) or Jess (Jessica.Greenhalf at Plan-International dot org). If the youth you’re working with are more comfortable in a language other than English or French, please let us know so that we could see how to support them to engage.

Please share this call for submissions through your own networks – we are hoping for a real variety of contributions to what should be a great Special Issue!

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Plan just released a new report called ICT Enabled Development: Using ICT strategically to support Plan’s work. The report is part of an on-going process by Plan Finland (kudos to Mika Valitalo for leading the process) in collaboration with Plan USA to support Plan’s country offices in Africa to use ICTs strategically and effectively in their development work. It was written by Hannah Beardon and builds on the Mobiles for Development Guide that Plan Finland produced (also written by Hannah) in 2009.

The idea for the report came out of our work with staff and communities, and the sense that we needed to better understand and document the ICT4D context in the different countries where we are working. Country offices wanted to strengthen their capacities to strategically incorporate ICTs into their work and to ensure that any fund-raising efforts for ICTs were stemming from real needs and interest from the ground. Plan offices were also in the process of updating their long-term strategic plans and wanted to think through how and where they could incorporate ICTs in their work internally and with communities.

The process for creating the report included 2-day workshops with staff in 5 countries, using a methodology that Mika, Hannah and I put together. We created a set of ICT training materials and discussion questions and used a ‘distance-learning’ process, working with a point person in each office who planned and carried out the workshop. Mika and I supported via Skype and email.

Hannah researched existing reports and initiatives by participating offices to find evidence and examples of ICT use. She also held phone or skype conversations with key staff at the country and regional levels around their ICT use, needs and challenges, and pulled together information on the national ICT context for each country.

The first section of the report explains the concept of ‘ICT enabled development’ and why it is important for Plan and other development organizations to take on board. “With so many ICT tools and applications now available, the job of a development organization is no longer to compensate for lack of access but to find innovative and effective ways of putting the tools to development ends. This means not only developing separate projects to install ICTs in under-served communities, but looking at key development challenges and needs with an ICT eye, asking ‘how could ICTs help to overcome this problem’?

Drawing on the research, conversations, workshop input and feedback from staff, and documented experience using ICTs in Plan’s work, Hannah created a checklist with 10 key areas to think about when planning ICT-enabled development efforts.

  1. Context Analysis: what is happening with ICT (for development) in the country or region?
  2. Defining the need: what problems can ICT help overcome? what opportunities can it create?
  3. Choosing a strategy: what kind of ICT4D is needed? direct? internal? strategic?
  4. Undertaking a participatory communications assessment: who will benefit from this use of ICT and how?
  5. Choosing the technology: what ICTs/applications are available to meet this need or goal?
  6. Adjusting the content: can people understand and use the information provided for and by the ICTs?
  7. Building and using capacity: what kind of support will people need to use and benefit from the ICT, and to innovate around it?
  8. Monitoring progress: how do you know if the ICT is helping meet the development goal or need?
  9. Keeping it going: how can you manage risks and keep up with changes?
  10. Learning from each other: what has been done before, and what have you learned that others could use?

The checklist helps to ensure that ICT use is linked to real development needs and priorities and appropriate for those who are participating in an initiative or a project. The report elaborates on the 10 key areas with detailed observations, learning and examples to illustrate them and to help orient others who are working on similar initiatives. It places the checklist into a 4-stage process for ICT integration.

  1. Understanding the context for ICT work: includes external context and internal experience and capacity
  2. Finding a match between priorities and possibilities: rooting the system in local needs and priorities and finding good uses for tools and applications
  3. Planning and implementing concrete initiatives: carrying out participatory assessments, linking to other development processes and addressing technical issues and concerns
  4. Building a culture of systematic, sustained and strategic use of ICTs: linking ICTs with program work, transforming the role of ‘the ICT guy’, and building expertise on the cultural and social aspects of ICT use

Additional material and case studies, ICT country briefings, and an overview of Plan’s current work with ICT4D in Africa are offered at the end of the report.

The report includes input from Plan staff in Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal and Uganda who participated in the ICT4D workshops. It also draws heavily on some of the work that Mika has been doing in Finland and Kenya, and work that I’ve been involved in and have written about in Mali, Cameroon, Mozambique, Ghana, Benin and Kenya involving staff, community members and community youth. You can contact Mika to get the workshop methodology in French or English or to comment on the report (ict4d [at] plan [dot] fi).

There’s so much rich material in the report that I almost want to summarize the whole thing here on my blog, section by section, so that people will take the time to read it…  I think this is a really important and useful piece of work and we’re very excited that it’s now available! Download it here.

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Meeting in the middle

I and C, then T (US)

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mGESA mobile mapping application

I wrote about a mobile mapping tool called mGEOS a few months ago, mentioning that I’d probably get a chance to try it myself in late July. Well that is just what happened.

I was at a workshop on ICT4D, including digital mapping, in Kwale, Kenya, and Peter Njuguna from Plan Kilifi’s District office came to share mGESA (aka Mobile Geographical Services for Africa) with us.

As far as I can tell, the difference between mGEOS and mGESA is that mGESA is a tailored application of mGEOS, designed together with Plan’s community based front-line staff for their specific information collecting and geo-visualization needs in Kenya.

Update: mGESA was the name for the pilot project. The final application is called PoiMapper (see www.pajatman.com). You can give it a try by downloading it and installing it on your mobile!

According to Njuguna, “the application is designed to run on simple mobile phones that have GPS capability and on which you can run applications.” It’s installed on the phone in the picture (update: the phone is a Nokia 6700 classic).

Njuguna explained “In Kilifi, we diverted from the route of going for applications that are there on the shelf or buying an application over the counter. We went the route of developing an application from scratch. We are working with various partners. We have Plan in Finland, we have Plan in Kenya, we have the University of Nairobi and we have the company Pajat in Finland. Plan Kilifi is the implementing office. So that is where we are coming from.”

The project has been on-going for 7 months. The first thing to define, according to Njuguna, was “Why do we need mapping? Why do we need GIS in the first place? Well, we need GIS to enhance the work we are doing and to try to answer some of the questions we are asking on a day to day basis. So that’s why we wanted to incorporate GIS into our work. Everything we’ve developed is towards helping us answer questions and make decisions in our program and sponsorship work. We wanted to build something that would suit our needs.”

The end users of mGESA are front-line staff in Plan Kilifi District office, and eventually in all of Plan Kenya’s district offices. “Kilifi front-line staff have all been involved in developing the application. The first step was developing a list of points of interest, for example, schools, hospitals and health centers, interest groups, water sources, trading centers, and the like; and outlining the kind of information that staff regularly collect about the points of interest for use in their work.

mGESA points of interest

“Developing the points of interest was a challenge,” said Njuguna. “It might look like we just sat down and listed them. But it has been a process. We had to go over and over it. We had to be sure the questions made sense, that the questions that we were asking were the right ones and made sense to people in the field.”

mGESA was tested in the field for the first time in mid-July. Njuguna and the team are hoping to kick off in another 3-4 weeks and start collecting the actual data. When the points are mapped out using the mobile application, then they are uploaded to a server that links with Google (or other) maps. The team is exploring the possibility of getting Kenya maps with administrative boundaries to use as the mapping platform. The data collected in mGESA can be exported into excel and .pdf files.

Peter let me try out mGESA while we were doing some GPS mapping in Kinango. He was using the opportunity to test accuracy, and whether mGESA was pulling in the same coordinates as the Garmin GPS units that we were using (it was). I found the data collection process to be quite simple. You basically arrive to your point of interest, take the point on the phone, and scroll through a menu to select pre-existing information (such as name of the district, type of point, etc.) or fill it in yourself. You can take a photo of the POI if your phone has photo capabilities (which most GPS enabled phones should have). I didn’t get a chance to upload data to the server or the web to see how easy that process is.

Peter Njuguna, ICT coordinator at Plan's Kilifi District Office

The group at the workshop had just been trained on several ICT different tools, so they had a lot of questions about mGESA for Njuguna:

What phones does it work on?
Any phone with GPS and capability to download an application will work.

Does it use up your airtime?

mGESA will work on the phone even without any airtime, but during testing, it seemed to work faster with about 10 shillings of credit (equivalent to about $.13).

Is mGESA free?

No. The application is in development and will eventually end up on the commercial market, via Pajat Management in Finland.

Can the application produce a base map or only points?

It can map points of interest only.  Later on it should be able to map out lines (roads) and areas.

mGESA data points on the web interface

Where do the points of interest go?

The points of interest that are collected on the phone are downloaded via a USB cable onto a computer, in the same way that you would download photographs from a camera. Then the points are uploaded to the on-line platform, and also then they will be visible on top of a Google map or other kind of map.

Is mGESA compatible with Open Street Maps?

Now that we know about OSM, this is something we shall look into, as it could be quite useful.

Will the information that you collect be public or private?

At this point the information will be closed, because the application is still in development.  Also for privacy reasons, some information will be shared and other information not shared. For example, if we are collecting personal information on individuals, or data that could put someone at risk, this will not be shared on the map.

What types of uses will the application be suitable for?

Plan can use mGESA when determining plans for phasing out of one area and moving into another area, for example. Instead of collecting data and indicators on paper, staff and managers can see this information on a map and the information that is collected can help us to know where to work.  Having the points of interest mapped out and linked with development information, and being able to select out different information layers on the map (on the internet) should make these decisions easier and more sound.

Will communities be involved and able to use mGESA for their own purposes?

Yes, communities will be able to use the information collected to make their own decisions. Communities can also purchase mGESA for their own use. We might also say to them, come and bring your phone and we will install this application so that you can use it for your own purposes.

Why are you developing a software from scratch and that costs money to the end user if there are existing tools available?

We know that GPS gadgets are expensive and so we thought – why not look into a mobile option. We also had very specific ideas and needs, and we had people willing to develop the idea from scratch. It’s a customized application based on our existing information needs and systems, and we can collect it by mobile rather than trying to find and purchase GPS units here in Kenya.

Update: see this post on Mobile Active for more information on the continued piloting of PoiMapper.

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Salim (left) with Solomon in Kinango community.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Plan’s Kwale District office in Kenya has been a role model for Plan on how to integrate ICTs into community-led programming to help reach development goals and improve access to children’s rights.

I talked with Salim Mvurya, the Area Manager in Kwale, last week and asked him for advice for the tech community (0.15), corporations (1.19) and development organizations (1.57) who want to build in ICTs for moving towards development goals. He also comments on the importance of realizing that development is changing (4.43). You can watch the video below or at this link. If you’re not patient enough to watch a 6 min video (often I’m not!) or don’t have a strong connection, see the transcript below.

You can also view Part 1 of the video, where Salim gives some background on how Plan Kwale has been using ICTs in their programs since 2003 (1.11), shares ideas about the potential of new ICTs (3.42) and talks about some key lessons learned (5.03). Or you can read the Part 1 transcript here.

Transcript Part 2

ICTs and Development Part 2: advice for tech community, corporations and development organizations

My name is Salim Mvurya, I’m the Area Manager for Plan in the Kwale Development Area.

What advice can you give to outside tech people who want to develop something for a place like Kenya?

I think that to get an idea externally is a good thing, but that idea has to be blended with grassroots. It has to be contextualized, because there are very many good ideas which may not be appropriate at the community level. So I think my advice, for people who have ideas, who have never been to Kenya or Africa or in the field, is to leave the process to be home grown, so that the ideas that are coming from outside are building on existing issues, so that the ideas are also looking at what kind of skills and what can be done on the ground, and looking also at issues of sustainability. So it’s very important for somebody from outside the country to be sensitive to local conditions, local context, local skills and also looking at putting ideas that can be self-sustaining.

What is your advice for corporations who want to support the use of ICTs in development?

Corporate organizations who are interested in making a contribution to ICT for development, I think it is important that they foster and have partnerships with grassroots organizations that can really give them the issues because, OK, most corporations are very innovative, but working with grassroots NGOs and civil society that can give them the practical sense of those ideas, I think would be a good thing to do.

What is your advice for colleagues trying to successfully integrate ICTs into their programs?

One thing for organizations that are thinking of utilizing ICT is that you need local capacity. Like, if you have a field office, for example, Plan has development areas, in development areas, particularly for Plan, the ICT technical people should also have an opportunity to lead the ICT for development. What I have seen in the few years that I have been trying this is that it requires also the ICT function to be more available to communities. It requires the ICT function to also work around the program issues that the team is thinking, so it’s not just about looking at systems, looking at computers, but looking at how can all these ICT skills be able to help to develop programs. How can the ICT function be able to support innovations that are also going to enhance problem solutions at the community level. How can we use ICT to strengthen our interventions in the community?

And I must say from experience, that the ICT coordinator for Kwale has been more of a ‘program’ person, and I think that is why we are seeing all these gains.  I remember when we were designing the community-led birth registration one afternoon, we sat together and we were thinking, how can we put all these ideas together and include ICTs in it, so I think it’s about having an ICT function that is responsive to the program issues on the ground and not necessarily sitting somewhere and looking at softwares. You know, even designing a software that would be more responsive to what is happening on the ground, like looking at issues of child protection and seeing how can ICT help the response mechanism. Looking at issues of accountability and seeing how ICT can make a contribution to accountability processes in community.  So I think that is the kind of ICT that would be appropriate in the field, but also an ICT function that can learn. You know, learning from other people, but bringing the lessons closer home to see what can work, and what can’t work.

Any last advice for development organizations around integration of ICTs?

The message that I would want to give to stakeholders and development organizations is that a lot is happening in the world in terms of ICT.  Also recognizing that development is changing… ICT is providing opportunities for greater advocacy and accountability, and I think getting the interest for looking at all this and trying to say ‘what does this mean for development’ I think is very very critical. The youth constituency is emerging as very critical and they have interest in ICT. I know in Kenya youth have been trying different things, different groups, but I think ICT is providing an opportunity for them to strengthen accountability but also to be able to get skills that they can use as individuals that can also make a contribution in economic development.

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Salim Mvurya, Plan Kwale's District Area Manager

Plan’s Kwale District office in Kenya has been very successful in building innovative community-led programming that incorporates new ICTs.  I had the opportunity to interview Salim Mvurya, the Area Manager, last week, and was really struck by his insights on how to effectively incorporate ICTs into community-led processes to reach development goals and improve on child rights, child protection and governance.

In this video, Salim gives some background on how Plan Kwale has been using ICTs in their programs since 2003 (1:11). He shares ideas about the potential of new ICTs (3.42) and some key lessons learned since 2003 (5.03).

Watch the video to get the advice straight from Salim. Or if your internet connection is slow or you’re like me and you like to skim through an article rather sit still and watch a video, the transcript is below.

In a second video, Salim gives really astute advice to the tech community (0.15), corporations (1.19), and development organizations (1.57) on how to successfully integrate ICTs to enable good development processes. He also mentions the importance of moving with the times (4.43). Read the transcript here.

Transcript for Part 1:

ICTs and development Part 1: ICT tools for child rights, child protection and social accountability

My name is Salim Mvurya, I’m the Area Manager for Plan in the Kwale District. My core responsibility as an area manager is to provide leadersip to the Kwale team in both program issues and also operational issues within the organization. This week we have been here in a workshop where we’ve been focusing mostly on issues of ICT for development and particularly what we’ve been learning here is the issue of mapping. We’ve also learned Ushahidi. We’ve also learned from our colleagues in Kilifi on mGESA (a local application of mGEOS that Plan Kenya, Plan Finland, University of Nairobi and Pajat Mgmt are developing) and basically we have been looking at this workshop as providing opportunities for using ICTs for development, but more particularly for us in Kwale is the issue of child protection and youth governance.

How has Plan Kwale been using ICTs for issues of child rights, child protection and child participation?

ICT in Kwale has a bit of a long history and it’s because of the issues on child rights. Kwale has a number of issues. Child marriages, issues of violations of child rights through sexual exploitation, and child poverty. So the efforts to do media started in Kwale in 2003 when we rolled out our first video that was done by children at the time to profile some of the issues of child marriage. But more importantly in 2005, we began to think greatly how we can bring the voices of children to duty-bearers and at time we thought of having a children’s community radio.

Because of lack of experience, we were thinking maybe at the end of that year we could launch the radio station. But then it took longer than we envisioned because we needed to roll out a participatory process. Alongside the same time, we had ideas of community-led birth registration which was being done in one community based organization. But later we also thought about looking at how ICT can help us in moving that direction.

Then we also had this idea of inter-generational dialogue, where children and youth can sit with duty-bearers and discuss critical issues affecting them, so we began using youth and video there, children and video, and showing those videos in a community meeting where then people could discuss the issues.  Alongside the same time we were partnering with various media houses and also rolling out radio programs where people could listen and also foster some discussions on children.

So it’s been a long journey but I think what we are seeing is that we need now to consolidate the gains, the experiences and efforts so that we can have a more strategic approach to ICT for Development and this workshop basically provides us with an opportunity and a platform to think much more.

What potential do you see for some of the newer ICT tools for your work in Kwale?

I see great potential in some of the tools that have been learned here this week, more particularly to get information at the click of a button from the ground. We could use the tools to map out resources out in the community, to map zones where there are a lot of issues on child protection, areas where we have issues like low birth registration… There is great potential for the tools that we’ve learned here to assist us not only in planning for projects, but in issues of social accountability. For example if you map out the areas where we have projects for Constituency Development Fund you can easily see where we have projects that have been done well but where we also have projects where maybe communities will need to discuss much more with duty-bearers to be able to, you know, foster issues of social accountability.

What are your biggest challenges? What mistakes have you made?

One thing that we’ve been learning in the process… well, you know sometimes we have ideas that we think can work in the next week, like for example the children’s community radio when we were thinking about it we were thinking that it could take off in about 2 months. But what we learned is that there are processes to be involved. Communities have to be prepared well for sustainability. Children have to be trained, there needs to be capacity building. You have also to conform to government procedures and processes.

The same also with birth registration. We thought in 6 months we could send an SMS and get your birth notification, but what we have also learned is that it takes a process. It takes awhile. You have to get the government buy in.  You also have to work on software, where the government is having a critical input. Because, although it is a pilot, we also think that if it works well then it has to be replicated, so it has to conform with the thinking in government. Also, with the issues of youth and media, one thing that has to be very clear is that you have to get youth who are committed, so you start with a bigger group, and you end up with those who are passionate

So I think it’s very critical when somebody is thinking about ICT for Development that, one, you look at the context: is it relevant to that area? What kind of skills are needed? What kind of processes for sustainability? but also getting the passion. Getting people who are passionate to lead the process is also a very critical lesson.

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At last week’s workshop in Kwale, we had the good fortune to have 4 folks from Map Kibera with us to train us on GSP and Open Street Map so that we could support youth in 3 districts where we’re working on the south coast of Kenya (Kwale, Kinango, Msambweni) to map their own communities. Jamie Lundine and Primoz Kovacic are Map Kibera staff, and Kevin Otieno and Millicent Achieng are youth who are trained on mapping. See the video above where Kevin and Millicent talk about the experience or watch it at the link here.

Kevin Otieno from Map Kibera

Both Kevin and Milli have been working with the Map Kibera staff since October, mapping out different areas in Kibera. For our introduction to Map Kibera, they started us off with a general overview of Voice of Kibera.

Kibera was a blank spot on the map (just like Kinango). (Jamie Lundine)

Jamie continued on with an overview of GPS and the Map Kibera project.

How GPS works. (Primoz Kovacic)

Primoz gave us the details on using the GPS devices and Open Street Map.

Hotel Kaskazi LTI Diani is now officially on the map

We practiced by mapping out our hotel, and adding it to Open Street Maps.

Then we went to Kinango District to start making the community map there. We met with the District Official and George, the District Youth Officer, explained why we were there. The DO said he’d heard good things about Map Kibera, and he ‘wanted to meet some of those youth mappers’. He welcomed us to move around the community.

The 4 teams did the first piece of the map, and will continue on with it in the future in Kinango but also in Msambweni and Kwale. The maps can then be used for different purposes, such as looking at existing resources and missing resources, or resource allocation, social auditing (eg., the government said that they built something here but it doesn’t seem to exist), tracking and responding to child protection issues, etc.

In addition to that, the arts and media content that youth produce as part of the project will have a much nicer digital map to sit on than what we currently have available… practically no information exists on digital maps about these 3 areas.

Here’s a video about the community mapping. If you can’t access, try the link here.

I had the pleasure of attending a Nairobi party on my last night in town and meeting up with Mikel Maron and Erica Hagen, who make up the rest of the Map Kibera team. I also ate some really bright pink rice…. yum….

If cotton candy were rice....

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Nothing to do with the topic of this post, but the Kwale coast is gorgeous.

Last week I was in Kwale, at a Plan Kenya hosted workshop as part of the Youth Empowerment through Technology, Arts and Media program. The team at Plan Kwale has been pointedly using ICTs in their community development programs since 2003 (not counting email and Internet of course) when they began working with radio and video as tools for raising awareness about children’s rights.

It’s really impressive to see how they’ve moved forward with very strategic ideas for integrating ICTs to help reach programmatic and development goals, especially in the areas of youth and governance, universal birth registration, and child/youth-led advocacy around rights and protection issues.

Over the 6 day workshop, the main things we wanted to do were:

  • look at the development context in Kwale, Kinango and Msambweni Districts (South Coast areas where Plan operates via the Kwale Office)
  • better understand the perspective of youth in the 3 districts
  • remind ourselves of rights-based approaches to community development
  • discuss youth issues, governance, advocacy, violence against children and gender within the local context
  • look at the ICTs currently being used by youth, communities and Plan in the Kwale Development Area
  • share and discuss new social media and ICT tools and ways they can be used
  • practice using new social media and ICT tools and see if they can be useful and sustainable in the 3 districts
  • determine next steps for integrating social media and new ICTs in specific local initiatives and plan for how to build on them in Plan Kenya’s overall work

Some elements that made the week positively brilliant:

workshop participants

Engaged and committed stakeholders

We were a group about 20, including staff and university student interns from Plan’s Kwale and Kilifi District Offices and Plan’s Country Office in Nairobi; Government District Youth Officers (‘DYOs’) from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture; Youth Council members from Kwale, Kinango and Msambweni; 2 staff from Map Kibera and 2 youth mappers from Kibera.

This mix meant that we had a variety of perspectives and opinions, including those of youth from local communities, partner organizations, local government, frontline staff, protection and governance technical advisors, ICT managers, and senior level program managers. This helped to ensure that we were grounded in reality, technically and thematically sound, able to cross-pollinate and integrate new ideas with solid experience and practice, and take decisions immediately forward to a higher level.

Local partners and youth-youth networking

Peer-peer learning and exchange among all the participants was a big plus. Plan and Map Kibera have very similar visions and values, yet each has its own area of specialized technical expertise and experience.  The youth participants from local councils from the 3 South Coast districts and the youth mappers from Kibera brought different perspectives into the workshop which enriched the discussions.  We all learned a lot from each other. Combining expertise as partners brought the workshop to a whole new level, and will help to ensure that the efforts are sustainable and can be built on and expanded. The youth in Kwale can now extend their skills to more youth in their communities, the youth mappers from Kibera can take home new ideas to improve their work, the university-level interns gained practical experience, and the buy-in from the local government’s District Youth Officers (who manage government funds) in the 3 participating districts can help provide the necessary support to broaden the efforts.

Flexible workshop methodology

We had certain goals that we wanted to achieve and we were clear on that, but we let the agenda flow. We started by taking a deep look at the local context and resources. We heard from local experts in the areas that we wanted to focus on (youth and governance, child protection) as well as community youth and local authorities. We spent time getting to know some new tools and discussing the pros and cons of using them.

Hands-on with FrontlineSMS

Hands On Work

We had practical sessions and hands-on work on blogging, FrontlineSMS, Ushahidi, Map Kibera, and mGESA (a local application of the mGEOS mobile platform co-developed by Plan Kenya, Plan Finland, University of Nairobi and Pajat Management and being piloted in Kilifi).

This was important for helping participants feel confident about doing some of the work once the training team was gone. I imagine however that more practice will be needed during some follow up sessions, as most of the participants don’t have regular computer and Internet access for enhancing their skills on a daily basis with additional practice and exploration.

We spent one day mapping our Hotel on Open Street Maps, and another day in Kinango, mapping specific points in 4 teams.  Lessons learned during hands-on work included the importance of engaging and involving the community ahead of time, so that rumors about why people are mapping the community don’t fly. In my group, for example, we were moving around with George the District Youth Officer from Kinango. Someone that he ran into joked to him “Oh, now Kinango is going up for sale!”  A joke, but nonetheless if people don’t know why we were mapping, this or other rumours can quickly spread. (See the video about mapping in Kinango at this link and the background blog post here.)

End goals + new tools + back again

By starting with people’s expectations for the workshop, analysis of the local context, and an understanding of the goals that youth and staff wanted to achieve together, we could be sure that we stayed true to where we wanted to end up. At the same time, by learning about new tools, things that weren’t possible before became imaginable and people started to innovate and mix their existing knowledge and experience with some new ideas.

Combining the two, and having a good variety of perspectives in the room and a lot of space for discussion and practice means that next steps will be more achievable and sustainable, because people are clear and agree about where they want to go, and they feel capable of incorporating some new tools and ideas to get there.

The tools

We explored a number of new(ish) tools at the workshop. They had been identified over the past couple years due to their use by Plan or other organizations in areas such as: community development work, violence tracking, advocacy, governance and social auditing.  We talked about mobile phones, email, Internet, Facebook, Hi5, Google search and Google maps. We did a quick overview of Voice of Kibera, use of GPS, Open Street Maps, FrontlineSMS, Ushahidi, the YETAM project, the PlanYouth website, and a Plan pilot project in Benin using SMS to track violence against children.

The first day, the context analysis was very focused on youth and governance, transparency and social auditing, so we pulled out the 10 Tactics video by Tactical Technology Collective (which @hapeeg had given to me a couple days earlier). This video series talks about 10 tactics for turning information into action. It really sparked ideas among the participants for how they could use social media and ICTs in social accountability work and human rights/child rights work.  Map Kibera partners also shared a tool developed by SODNET (SMS for social auditing of the Constituency Development Fund).

We talked about the use of mapping and SMS in child protection work. One of the main child protection issues in the south coast area is the distance that a child, girl, family has to travel in order to report an abuse. Women’s lack of economic power, inability to own property and the importance of marriageability also mean that often women and girls feel unable to speak out or protest abuse when it’s happening. It’s still not certain what role ICTs can play in this context given the risks involved to those who report, but Plan’s child protection point person, Mohammad, is planning to host a series of meetings with local child protection authorities to discuss possible ways forward.

Digital mapping was immediately cataloged as an important tool for identifying resources, advocating for services and holding government accountable through social auditing. It was also recognized as a potential income generator once areas, shops and local businesses could be added to an on-line map, or if youth could purchase GPS units with funding from the District Youth Office and charge for their GPS services. George, the District Youth Officer for Kinango talks in this video about how mapping can be useful to the Kinango community, even if most members don’t have access to computers and broad band. (Click the link or watch below)

Information and communication gap analysis –> ICT integration plans

ICT integration for youth and governance program

Early on in the workshop, we worked in 2 groups to analyze the goals for the Youth and Governance and the Child Protection programs that Plan is supporting in Kwale. The groups discussed the information and communication gaps that needed to be filled in order to move towards the goals of the 2 initiatives. We looked at what ICT tools might best help reduce the gaps, from existing traditional tools (like meetings, face-to-face advocacy, drama, town criers, radio) to those new(ish) tools that we had discovered (see above paragraph) that might be useful to try out given the goals in the 2 key areas. The groups revisited this gap analysis on the last day after having had more hands-on use of the different tools and turned the gap analysis into an action plan.

ICT integration for child protection programs

Management buy-in and leadership

While the 2 groups worked on local action plans for integrating ICTs into their work, senior management from Plan’s Kenya office created their own action plan for how to build on the workshop experience, engage mid-level managers and other key staff in ICT integration, further develop partnerships and solidify cross-cutting incorporation of ICTs into Plan’s work in Kenya. The Kwale and Kilifi program units have been innovators within Plan for several years. Learning from, supporting and building on concrete work that they are doing on the ground allows for a solid and feasible country strategy based on reality. Having a strategy built from the ground up and with solid support and buy-in from national management means that there is less risk of donor led ICT funding, and more probability that new resources mobilized for ICT work go towards real needs and have better results.

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