10 Days In.

Some really good progress in the past few days. Firstly, we have partnered with a local Kenyan NGO called the Centre for Conflict Resolution Kenya (CCR). They are one of the most active and well respected NGOs in the area working extensively with youth to build peace. We are especially excited to be partnering with them because the focus of their attention is shifting slightly and it ties perfectly into our work. For a number of years they have focused their resources on preaching and teaching peace. However, they are now coming to believe that as well as this you also need to offer youth an alternative and something productive to engage in. So our programme for economic empowerment focused on jobless youths is very attractive to them.

Secondly, we have a meeting tomorrow at Egerton University with the Dean of Students who is a lovely man called Absalom. Egerton is the biggest university in the region with 15,000 students. We’re really keen to get our programme accredited and we think they could be the perfect institution to do this. We’d also like to do a few short sessions with some of their students. Egerton specialises in business, agriculture and technology so we’re excited to see what ideas their students might have.

Thirdly, we have been thinking lots about how to incentivise our programme.  In Kenyan it seems that there is a tendency for youth to expect some reward for their participation in events – for example lunch and some payment for transport costs. This is because NGOs tend to offer this when they run sessions. To us this seems a very bad way of doing things for a couple of reasons. Firstly, many youth turn up just for the free lunch and some money. Secondly, it makes it very expensive to run sessions.

On the other hand there is a balance to be reached because if people are with you all day for a session then that is a day when they cannot earn money. So by not offering any subsidise for the programme we are worried about excluding those poor youth who cannot afford to give up a number of days to work with us. Thus, one of our biggest challenges is to find the youth who really want to do our programme and incentivise them correctly to carry out the entire programme while avoiding freeloaders.

We’ve been thinking about overcoming this by structuring the course differently. For the first couple of weeks we will work around the youth and run short 2 hour sessions when they are free. If after a couple of weeks the group is progressing well and has shown commitment we will switch to longer 4 hour sessions where we can cover the costs of their participation. Then as the programme draws to a close we will run 1 or 2 all day sessions where we will reimburse the participants for wages lost. We’ve also been discussing providing a £100 seed/pilot fund to groups who show great commitment. We can use this as an incentive to work hard and this small amount of money can also be used to test their idea on a small scale and help build evidence to take to funders.

As a final thought, I have never seen a country so focused on entrepreneurship. There are literally 2 or 3 programme a day on TV about it. From awards for organisations doing economic empowerment to business plan competitions. The Government also introduced their Youth Enterprise Fund last year to fund youth start-ups. And everyone you talk seems to mention entrepreneurship and economic empowerment for the youth. After all, 80% of Kenya’s population is under the age of 35….  So it feels like our timing is pretty spot on and we’re riding a wave that is starting to gather moment.