Our Co-Leader Elizabeth recently returned from a visit to our Clusters in Kenya and Tanzania. Here she gives a summary of each Cluster and their work, and links this to some of the bigger picture developments going on at CHGN.
The Kericho Cluster (Kenya)
The Cluster here is led by Robins, Debby, Dan and other brilliant community leaders. They recently reasserted their commitment to work on disability awareness, drug and substance abuse awareness, and environmental health. They shared some recent stories of success with me, and we explored how the Cluster’s presence as an advocacy and connection platform can help them work towards their goals. In the Cluster’s own words:
We are a platform for advocacy around community collaboration, disability, environment and drug and substance abuse.
We are a platform to promote community achievements.
We are a group that establishes common ground for organisations to collaborate.
We create links between organisations and initiatives.
We facilitate community referrals.
We are storytellers
We spent time looking at the local Cluster network - the individuals and organisations that are part of the Kericho Cluster. We also heard some motivating intentions from the Kericho Cluster:
“We want to shine a light in the dark corners.”
“We want to be vulnerable and honest as a group.”
“We want to be known for our ripple effect of impact!”
“The core team is like a burning fire, and the passion spreads and sets others aflame.”
In their most recent meeting they noted the following (in their own words, but with especially encouraging ideas highlighted by us!):
The meeting created connections. There was a lot of sharing of information in the room.
Some organisations realised that they could benefit from what another organisation did e.g. Sarah from Sparkle Again Foundation (which deals with young mothers) is pursuing a future collaboration with Mibei who is an Entrepreneurship facilitator with the Digital Opportunities Trust.
Individual organisations who had gaps found answers and referral points in other organisations e.g. the Ministry of Health will refer people with disabilities to Live with Hope centre.
There was optimism that the Cluster network could grow beyond our region.
The Cluster is a good platform to know about different organisations and what they do and where they are based.
There is enough resources to empower the communities if these organisations worked together, because there will be maximum utilisation of the scarce resources available. For example if an organisation wants to do a certain program and had to get funding to do so, it would be more cost effective if they got to collaborate with an established organisation that already does that program.
Some newer members said they have been longing for such an initiative by CHGN.
Each of the organisations represented were passionate about what they were doing and by collaborating we were not just helping the community, but helping ourselves as organisations.
There was need to document some of the great activities done by these organisations, and promote the power of storytelling.
The Mara Cluster in Musoma (Tanzania)
Musoma is home to one of our newest Clusters, led by the inspiring Dorothy Kawira, a palliative care expert. The group is made up of 18 organisations including the Legal Social Actions Centre (LSAC), who work on human rights and advocacy issues; ATFGM who work to tackle female genital mutilation; Lake Victoria Disability Centre (LVDC), and palliative care groups. We explored some of the strengths and challenges faced by Cluster members in their organisations.
Felt strengths by some Cluster members:
Relationships with community
Expertise in different areas
Vision is big / far reaching
We have skills we can market
Income generation skills
Felt challenges by some Cluster members:
Dependency on external donors
Access to market / income generation
Maintaining links with children / people with disabilities once they are back in communities
Some of the joint work and common bonds that connect the Cluster members include:
A desire to become the voice of the voiceless
Making use of members’ experience
A platform for groups to meet and share knowledge
Effective resource use and mobilisation
Helping organisations to grow and spread their influence
Maintaining a directory of members to link and share skills
Identifying shared opportunities
Creating strong advocacy strategies
The Cluster have recognised topics where they can share existing expertise, and the Cluster is prioritising a ‘Linking to Learn’ session on fundraising and business skills. These were identified as challenges for a number of members, and through the collaborative Cluster platform, and with support from CHGN, they will be able to address these.
Broader Learning for CHGN
It is always encouraging to hear direct from Clusters, and to creatively share in their goals, hopes and challenges. As well as specific follow up with each Cluster, there is always broader learning for how CHGN develops and improves our model of community-led health and wellbeing. Some of this recent learning includes:
1. We are developing how we invest in local leaders and social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs can generate impact in organisations, communities, and in bigger systems. Leadership is evolving. It’s not about hierarchical power structures, but about recognising that everyone has the innate capacity to create change, and therefore be a leader. We work to encourage and amplify local leaders, so that they can imagine and create the change they see is possible. We are lucky that our Clusters are led by incredible individuals, who are passionate about their communities. We are currently creating a leadership development programme that brings together elements of management, leadership, coaching, entrepreneurship, communication and more, and we are providing coaching support, connections and opportunities to amplify voices that need to be heard.
2. We will strengthen inter-Cluster connection. It was brilliant to visit the Mara Cluster with Debby from the Kericho Cluster. There was learning and connections that will be followed up on, and part of CHGN’s role is to strengthen these opportunities for shared learning and collaboration both within Clusters, and between Clusters.
3. Face to face connection is vitally important. We are working to evaluate what we do, and share stories and impact with our supporters, donors, and other audiences. Within this, we are holding space for diverse preferred ways of working -- whether written word; face-to-face meetings; group forums and discussions; videos and photos; or other ways of communicating information and wisdom. The energy and momentum felt through face-to-face meetings is valuable, and so as well as producing documents, films and encouraging inter-Cluster connections, we are hosting our first regional gatherings this year -- in Zambia, for our African Clusters, and in Myanmar for our Asian Clusters. We are grateful for the chance to deepen relationships and learn from each other.
If you, or someone you know, is interested in working with CHGN, get in touch! Specifically, we are looking for donors, volunteers, and experts in different fields who can help us respond to Cluster requests and challenges.