This is Part II of a two-part blog series on Imaginable Futures' partnership with Firelight Foundation. Read the first blog post
and learn more about our partnershiphere.
The social impact sector increasingly recognizes the importance of partnering with communities and youth to drive systems change. Leaning into the leadership and expertise of communities that are making the change is not only ethical, but powerful. It supports the agency of the most critical actors – the community itself. And it works for short and long-term systemic, sustainable change.
Community-driven systems change is an approach to development and social transformation that emphasizes local communities' insight, leadership, and ownership to create lasting change. Last year, Imaginable Futures (IF) partnered with Firelight Foundation (Firelight) to launch an initiative that supports community-based organizations (CBOs) and community-driven systems change to foster holistic development, a sense of belonging and youth resiliency in three counties in Kenya: Kajiado, Machakos and Makueni.
Seven organizations stood out because of their rich knowledge of youth, their genuine embeddedness within their communities and their commitment to supporting young people. We’re genuinely proud and excited to be working with the following organizations, many of which are youth-led.
Led by women and youth, the Malkia Initiative Foundation taps into young people's potential and agency. It aims to further quality education and gender equity for women and girls in pastoralist communities.
“I founded Malkia as a young girl in my early twenties. This is the hardest and most courageous thing I’ve done as a young Maasai girl in a community that didn’t value education. We’ve had to circumvent ageism and lack of funding from most donors. It has been an uphill task, but I’m glad we persisted.” – Jedidah Lemaron, founder, Malkia Initiative Foundation.
Nareto Latia Indigenous People’s Program (NLIPP)—meaning “neighbours helping each other”’— advocates for the fundamental rights of women, youth and children from indigenous communities, empowers them to address poverty and strengthens their communities.
“The partnership with Firelight encourages us to put our vision and ideas on paper without being prescriptive. We get to decide how to move forward. As a team, we were nervous initially but now feel excited and confident to begin executing our plans.”– Isaac Tobiko, program director, NLIPP.
Oldonyo Orok Youth Self-Help Group (OOYSHG) works with individuals and organizations to support youth in the community to realize their full potential and reduce poverty by increasing their earning power. They also work on gender justice for girls.
“Our journey with Firelight has demonstrated to us that donors can and should safeguard the dignity and knowledge of community members. Some donors wield so much power that meeting their requirements and acquiring funding becomes difficult.” – Parit Eli, secretary, OOYSHG
Jiwakilishe CBO has three youth-led self-help youth groups focusing on early pregnancy, drug and substance abuse, livelihoods and climate change to empower young people to live dignified lives.
“Firelight has encouraged us to constantly engage our community members before we share our final proposals. We are learning that communities can greatly enrich funders with vital knowledge and offer lasting solutions.” – Meshack Mallonza, project lead, Jiwakilishe CBO.
Youth for Sustainable Development (YSD) Machakos Chapter CBO's mission is to help young people gain leadership skills, acquire sustainable livelihoods and practice social accountability.
“We look forward to a time when most donors see youth as experts of their issues. We have great ideas for ending poverty and promoting employment. Working with Firelight shows confidence in our work and has encouraged us to forge forward.” Mary Mutula, executive director, YSD.
Jumuisha Initiative CBO partners with institutions and government agencies to empower and mentor youth. They spearhead community initiatives such as training student leaders in various institutions on dynamic leadership, motivational talks for youth to build self-esteem, creating awareness on drug and substance abuse and advocating for responsible social behavior.
“Getting funding is not easy. The support from Firelight has lifted the team's spirits and we are excited. It has given us the confidence to approach other like-minded donors who care about young people.”– Karen Munyae, executive chairperson, Jumuisha Initiative.
Kitise Rural Development (KRD) empowers youth to participate in community initiatives addressing water scarcity and emerging health, food, security, climate change, lobbying and advocacy.
“Firelight came to the community and approached CBOs like us already doing the work. This makes all the difference and takes away the focus from proposals that often never go through.” – Patrick Kioko, program officer, KRD.