Given recent developments across Africa citizen-driven reform is now a primary mode of addressing a lot of the inadequacies of various institutions. With that in mind, Shaping African Conversations sought to understand the model of Tatua Kenya that seeks to shape the future of Kenya by empowering communities to take charge of their own development.
Why do you believe social accountability and community-led change plays a significant role in development with a specific focus on Kenya?
There is a rising need across the continent and globe for citizens to be heard and engaged in making decisions with governments. Citizens are beginning to ask for partnerships with the government to collaborate at every level in creating value now and for future generations. Kenya needs to critically examine and quickly shift its practice of leadership to a bottom-up approach which provides for actual citizen engagement. This approach grows the culture of accountability and allows for people to grow their democracy and freedom of expression. Leaders cease to act and react out of fear of losing power to the people as you might see often with our current leadership. In my opinion, development is the thriving of any citizen as a result of choosing to honour common values and commitments – as the popular Ubuntu says, "I am because you are".
How did you come up with the idea of Tatua Kenya? What is the administrative structure of your organization?
In 2009, 11 young adults came together and started a campaign against child poverty in partnership with several orphanages. The team set out to engage local communities around the orphanages to begin supporting the efforts of the child care centres, most of which were heavily reliant on donor funding at the time. The team was not opposed to donor funding, but there never seemed to be enough resources for the institutions. They discovered that there was a huge gap with regard to local support for these institutions and the communities would shun these efforts. This argument still largely exists even today. Sadly, we now have more orphaned kids on the streets of Nairobi every day from every part of the country/East Africa. This inspired the formation of Tatua Kenya.
In the last 4 years, Tatua’s work has been to enable communities to build their capacity to address systemic social challenges. Tatua Kenya models accountability and inclusion through its administrative structure. It has a board of management that seeks to keep the team accountable for their roles and responsibilities. Tatua has a working staff of 7 young adults that run the daily activities of the organization
What is the gap that you seek to fill? How do you intend to achieve that?
Tatua’s work is addressing the need for local communities to build organizations that help people to work together to solve problems around them. We are achieving this mission through training and coaching of community leaders, civil and human rights workers on the practices of community organizing. This focuses on building leadership from the grass root constituency hence the bottom-up approach.
What vision do you have for Tatua Kenya?
Tatua Kenya’s vision is to influence communities all across Africa to lead social change. We believe that if people are triggered to access those points of inner self power, then they are able to do incredible things. However, for people living in poverty, the feeling of isolation keeps them stuck. Tatua’s vision is to bridge the gap in Africa by empowering communities towards collective action.
Tatua currently runs a fellowship with community leaders from various neighbourhoods in Nairobi. We seek to reach out to more counties as we expand and also work through partnerships that help us to reach out to more interested fellows in the counties. Tatua is also an affiliate of the leading change network, with 6 other organizations promoting community organizing in different parts of the world.
What impact do you hope Tatua will have 10 years after inception?
This year alone, our objective was to engage over 3000 people in action campaigns with just 8 fellows. We are optimistic that in 10 years, we will have built teams through the county level strategy that can work with teams to the ward level with a very lean structure. As mentioned earlier, the community organizing practice provides a clear structure to build grass root leadership. This then carries on the work on the principles of mutual trust, mutual benefit. I look forward to seeing the movement that will have grown in 10 years but certainly a real realization for Kenya’s turning point if not for East Africa.
Note: Special thanks to Kenneth Chomba, Executive Director Tatua Kenya. All the intellectual property in this article belongs to him and his team.