Following the Stakeholder consultative meeting at which Youth Unemployment was identified as a the country most urgent complex development issue that the Accelerator Lab in Kenya should help tackle, the team has been busy engaging different actors in the country in an effort to ensure that a solid foundation is laid for identifying ideas and potential solutions to this challenge.
Several reports estimate that 75% of Kenya’s population is below 35 years – this youth segment of the population is not just a great source of a vibrant and dynamic workforce, but of creativity as well. Conversely, climate vulnerabilities, poverty and exclusion coupled with a growing sense of marginalization within this population group has potential to expose these youths to narratives that halt or reverse the gains made over time is as far as national unity and inclusive economic development is concerned. For communities in Arid and Semi-arid Lands (ASAL), this is even more important as they still lag in many human development indicators.
Leveraging Kenya’s digital infrastructure
For the first learning cycle, we decided to explore how to leverage the increased digital connectivity coupled with the global rise of digital platforms as levers for addressing the youth unemployment challenge. This direction was based on ideas emerging from the Consultative forum highlighting the gaps in accessibility that exist between where the opportunities are (jobs, scholarships, fellowships, funding etc.) and the young people in marginalised or hard-to-reach areas.
We looked into this idea further and dug deeper into the phenomenon that has been observed previously where when the plight of a young person in Kenya is amplified on mainstream or social media, the person ends up receiving multiple offers of employment and other opportunities. This provided potential evidence to support our theory of the accessibility gap when it comes to opportunities and young people.
Significant gains have been made in Kenya regarding internet connectivity and digital access. Dubbed the “Silicon Savannah”, Kenya has witnessed growth in its Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector by an average of 10.8% annually since 2016, which has significantly impacted economic development and stimulated the creation of new jobs. The Communications Authority of Kenya and International Telecommunication Union estimate that close to 90% of Kenya’s population was using the internet as of 2019 - with expansion in mobile broadband as a key driver.
Taking advantage of the favourable IT environment, digital journalists have a critical role to play in bringing to the fore local solutions that would otherwise remain unnoticed and consequently miss out on the opportunities for scaling and possible investment.
Wajir as the test case
The Lab partnered with Aga Khan University (AKU) Graduate School of Media and Communications, the Strategic Initiatives Unit of the Office of the President (OP) and the Out of School Youth Science Technology and Innovation (OSYSTEI) programme on a pilot 3-day training workshop in Wajir town for 25 young local journalists. The journalists were all based in Wajir and working in different media forms, including TV, radio and online blogs.
The aim of the training was to strengthen the skills of local journalists in digital journalism, ethics and investigative reporting as a tool for promoting innovation and social cohesion. This training presented an opportunity for us to explore the hypothesis that combining solutions mapping with digital journalism would better equip young people at the community level to identify and highlight ideas and innovations in their own community – especially for problems they encounter on a daily basis.
The training in Wajir gave us a chance to test out the suite of tools in the Accelerator Lab toolbox. We did an issue mapping exercise to delve deeper and find out what were the key challenges that were preventing the journalists from doing their job of sensitising, educating and informing their community.
Through the issue mapping, key challenges around harassment, intimidation and victimisation of journalists emerged. Taking advantage of the journalists’ unique eye for storytelling, we tasked the group to go on a Solutions Safari to identify existing solutions to challenges in their own backyard. The solutions safari succeeded in bringing out grassroot innovations; for example, the group found a local resident who was using single-use plastic water bottles as a construction material. On the final day, we took the journalists through the News of Tomorrow exercise, where we asked them to envision the future of Wajir using fictional news articles and based on the insights from the Issue Mapping and Solutions Safari.
Closing the loop on the 1st learning cycle
By the end of the training, we were convinced that our theory held water and we left Wajir excited to explore this further in the Growth stage of the learning cycle. The Lab is currently in discussions with the Strategic Initiatives Unit of the Office of the President (OP) and the Out of School Youth Science Technology and Innovation (OSYSTEI) programme to incorporate the Lab tools in the methodology for the training of local journalists across different counties and we are excited to grow the network of solutions mappers on the ground and surface more grassroots innovations from all over Kenya. We are also exploring potential partnerships with existing knowledge sharing platforms to set up an Atlas of Solutions to capture innovations at the county level.
Some of the journalism platforms that were present at the training: Alpha TV (twitter), NEP TV, Kulan Post and Wajir FM
Authored by Lillian Njoro/ Head of Experimentation - Accelerator Lab Kenya