We build Community.
Community Ownership and Capacity Building
What really makes Human Needs Project's Town Centers unique is in the community ownership – the individuals in the local community and staff who collaborate with us and make the Town Centers their own. It is the community members that know what works for them and what doesn’t, and it is our job to listen. It is also our job to provide capacity building, so the community feels confident and competent to take on the management.
First Step: Engagement with the Community
In Kenya, HNP has spent three years engaging with all levels of political leadership—from the Prime Minister, to permanent secretaries, to traditional leadership and the Elder’s Council. The team also met with multilateral institutions, embassies, and NGOs, as well as corporate and academic collaborators. This engagement has facilitated much of the work of HNP, from granting of site permits to creating our training programs. This engagement with the community became formalized in the Community Coordinating Committee.
Community Coordinating Committee (3Cs)
After HNP’s first two public barazas (baraza means 'a public meeting' in Swahili), the Chief of the Lang'ata district created a Community Coordinating Committee for HNP and bade the community-based organizations (CBOs) send us their representatives. Thus, HNP’s Community Coordinating Committee (3Cs) consists of 34 elected representatives of the CBOs based in the area surrounding the Town Center. Consultation with these representatives in monthly meetings has been invaluable. Now HNP is working with the 3Cs to ensure equal participation in the Town Center Co-op by all ethnic groups and to avoid discrimination of any kind, and has formulated HNP’s “Core Values” as a guide for all.
Owners and Users: The Town Center Co-op
The Town Center Co-op is the heart of community ownership, for this organization owns the Town Center and provides governance. Members pay a monthly fee that provides them with water, toilet, and shower services and provides recurring revenue to the Town Center. These subscriptions pay for the Town Center management and maintenance, as well as capital investment and dividends. To ensure fair opportunity, members are chosen by lottery from the 3C’s pool of CBOs. The co-op ownership model is empowering for the community, because after HNP’s capital donation and initial capacity building, all services are owned and paid for by the stakeholders.
HNP’s management trainees have gone through more than a year of cross-disciplinary training so that they are prepared to become management technicians. Management trainees were carefully selected to represent the “face of Kenya”, women and men from Kibera who represent diversity of tribes, religious belief, gender and age. Through a flat, rotating-management system, the Management Technicians manage all aspects of the center. As people who live in the community, they have a high stake in the success of the Town Center.
HNP’s Savings and Credit Cooperative Society, Sacco, was formed to create a sustainable micro-finance organization in Kibera as well as create a broad base of support within community for HNP. It has been recruiting members and collecting savings, and will provide small loans and insurance. Sacco is completely owned and operated by the community.
Another method HNP used to ensure community ownership was to rotate groups of labor in the construction of the Town Center. Every two weeks, a different group of 50 laborers would work on the construction. Though this plan may have slowed construction because it meant more training, in the long run this plan has paid off. Now more than 1000 Kiberans have put sweat equity into the building and feel a sense of ownership. The proof? In an area rife with crime, only one bag of nails has been stolen from the construction site. Moreover, this labor force has now had training in high quality construction.
To help children of vulnerable families/orphans, HNP’s Road To Freedom Scholarships is sponsoring 17 Kiberan children aged 6-17. Most of these students are lodging at a boarding school near Nairobi, with two children in a day school and one youth a junior in college. This student received a full four-year scholarship from Dominican University in San Rafael, CA and he has earned a Presidential Award for Academic Excellence both his first two years.