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Miss Koch Kenya: Building trust with Kenya's youth 

This year the Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF) celebrated its 20th birthday. As Africa’s oldest community foundation, its journey is an important example of how new ways of sustaining locally driven development initiatives are possible. While it has grown its own endowment of almost USD $8 million, it has also been liberated from the constant cycle of pursuing donor tenders and writing project proposals aligned to donor driven priorities that most non-profits must do. Instead, since its humble beginnings, the foundation has dispersed more than USD $20 million to over 2,000 local partners across the country, linked to a broad array of issues and themes. While the funding has been important, grantees have also benefited from technical support, advice, and skills that have helped them to grow and sustain their own organizations.

To highlight this different way of doing development, and to coincide with KCDF's 20th year, the GFCF is pleased to profile local organizations that have benefited from KCDF’s support, in order to better understand the critical role these organizations have played in community owned transformation. 


Miss Koch Kenya

Gender based violence is a global problem. But in the densely populated informal settlement of Korogocho - Nairobi’s fourth largest slum - impunity, insecurity, high rates of unemployment and poverty mean girls are at an even greater risk of rape and abuse. The settlement, created initially as a dumping ground for squatters from around Nairobi, is now an ethnically diverse community of around 200,000 people, the large majority under the age of 24 years old.

In December 2000, when the rape and violence incidences were at an all-time high, community members decided to take their anger and fear and turn it into positive action.  Initially, efforts were disjointed, but soon community members joined together to start a community based organization dedicated to confronting gender discrimination, empowering girls and improving the opportunities for young people residing in the area.

Miss Koch, which derives its name from the slang name of Korogocho, was formally started in 2001 and registered as a community based organization (or CBO). Working through community leaders, it has since helped to forge a strong network of volunteers who engage in youth activities, provide education scholarships, and do mentoring and awareness campaigns for young people, especially vulnerable girls.

Emmie Erondanga, Miss Koch’s Chief Executive Officer, has been involved in the organization since 2005. Having grown up in Korogocho, she became involved when her aunt, who she stayed with, passed away. She believes that the organization’s ties to the local community, as well as the trust it has built over the years, have continued to sustain the organization in the last 16 years.

Emmie proudly displays some of Miss Koch's core values

“The community know we are working for them. That trust gives us a mandate, with or without funding, to engage with community leaders to address different development challenges that affect the constituents we serve. We maintain both informal and formal channels for dialogue that allow us to sustain our youth engagement efforts. Our volunteers are often poor themselves and have bills to pay, so when we can, we provide stipends for their time spent mentoring and coaching young people. But they understand that we share what we have and no one is profiting at their expense”, said Emmie.

While Miss Koch received international funding from the Dutch Government and other funding partners in 2008 and 2009 for their work to promote youth leadership after the election violence that rocked Kenya, since then it has been harder to get funds to initiative new activities. In 2010, Miss Koch changed its status from a CBO to an NGO, allowing it to apply for additional funding from other partners. While the shift in status requires more paperwork, and regular audits, Emmie believes it has helped the organization become more professional and has forced it to develop better internal structures.

KCDF has been Miss Koch’s partner since 2016. KCDF has provided valuable guidance and support to build their institutional capacity. During the last few years, they have been able to expand their fundraising efforts to engage with local business to support their education leadership scholarships. They also host an annual dinner to help raise funds from individuals in Kenya. However, Emmie acknowledges that it is still very difficult to get funds to support the institutional growth and development of the organization.

“KCDF’s support has been so valuable. They use a different model for evaluating our work. It is not about just looking at specific projects (and whether they align to their criteria) or having to respond to calls for donor proposals. KCDF is willing to come to us and help us see how we can work together to address our challenges,” adds Emmie.

From her experience, the larger international NGOS are often too far removed from the communities they want to assist. “Big projects tend to be viewed suspiciously by locals and people often feel they are being exploited. The perception is that the “big people” come in for the short-term and with their own agenda,” she explains.  

While they sometimes struggle to sustain the organization, Emmie is confident that Miss Koch will remain active and trusted in the community for the long-term. Recently, they ran another youth campaign during the recently held Kenyan elections promoting youth peace and leadership. The limited post-election violence incidences, especially in Korogocho, demonstrates the success of their engagement. “Our awareness campaign, working with young people, focused on peaceful co-existence. Young people did not want to be used by politicians to cause violence but instead be ambassadors for peace,” concluded Emmie. 

« Our development is difficulty driven: thoughts from Zimbabwe’s Uluntu Community Foundation | Main | When scarcity drives innovation, people becomes a community foundation’s biggest asset: a view from Brazil »

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