Our second Global Learning Exchange with UC Berkeley
By Jackie Waithaka, Communications intern, SDI Kenya
A healthy, equitable community is one that offers complete social, physical and mental well-being to all its residents at all stages of life and has the following themes embedded across all the components: accessibility, affordability, stability, diversity, safety, equity (gethealthysmc.org).
Many communities, regions, and states are integrating smart growth, environmental justice, and equitable development approaches, in order to not only design but also to realize the dream of sustainable and inclusive neighbourhoods. The long-established partnership between University of California Berkeley and SDI-Kenya (the professional support NGO of Muungano wa Wananvijiji, the Kenyan SDI federation) highlights some of the pragmatic partnership approaches that can help towards actualizing this dream.
Learning exchanges between communities have for long been SDI's primary learning strategy. Learning platforms are created and, in this way, communities begin to see that they themselves can often hold the solutions to their own problems rather than solely looking externally for professional help. Learning exchanges between communities, the professionals who support them, and other stakeholders, can also be valuable. The four-day Global Learning Exchange workshop which took place in Nairobi in March 2018 was one of these – stemming from the long-standing partnership based on learning and collaboration between Berkeley and SDI-Kenya, and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
The workshop sought to create a platform where the participants, who included four key stakeholders– Government Officials (City Of Richmond, MCA Mathare Mlango Kubwa), Academic Institutions (UC Berkeley, Institute Of Urban And Regional Development), Community Residents (Muungano Federation Members), Support NGOs (SDI-Kenya, Pogo Park, Youth Uprising, RYSE Center)- could tap their associates' knowledge, and learn different techniques of handling the existing challenges within their contexts and address the barriers to achieving healthy and equitable communities.
This was the second Global Learning Exchange workshop after the first exchange in California. The overall focus was on planning and developing practical pro-poor urban solutions to support processes which build a culture of health among communities, creating equal opportunities for everyone to live the healthiest lives they possibly can. This year, participants from SDI Kenya, and Berkeley got the ball rolling by agreeing the themes for the exchange, laying out their expectations, and devising a plan for how the current exchange would be conducted. The main themes were: (1) youth as future citizens; (2) ownership of public spaces by communities; and (3) savings as a tool for community engagement.
We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we can direct their power toward good ends. (Activist Mary Mcleod Bethune, Florida)
Without doubt, today’s youth have become the greatest force for positive change in the world. The need to strengthen and support groups of energetic and vibrant youth has been recognised around the world. The Global Learning Exchange workshop brought to the table discussions geared towards bolstering up youth – in local and global contexts- by creating spaces for them to find their strengths and voices within their communities.
Public space is for living, doing business, interacting, and playing. Its value can’t be measured with economics or mathematics; it must be felt with the soul. (Enrique Penalosa, Colombian politician)
How can we to acquire and sustain safe spaces for communities to thrive? Public spaces play a vital role in the social life of communities, and this was one theme that informed a basis of learning during the exchange, as participants learned from practical examples on the ground.
Through a field visit to Mathare, participants were able to learn more about community public spaces and reclaiming public land for communities to flourish. Muungano painted a vivid picture of its journey towards preventing forced evictions and gaining control of public spaces.
“This is a building block for community mobilization and engagement, after this, all other components simply fall into place” (Jackie Wanyonyi SDI-Kenya)
Savings is a fundamental tool within Muungano. Participants learnt about the federation's savings tool and how it can be used to address fundamental principles of scale and impact through leveraging resources. The tool brings closer the realization of a much desired dream of attaining healthy and equitable communities for all through maximizing on community savings.