Building common ground for collaboration in Kenya’s urban slums

DIGNITY’s leadership programme in Kenya leads to higher levels of respect and understanding between police and civil sector, study finds.

“Without collaboration, the fight against violence cannot be won”. That’s how one participant from the Kenyan municipality Naivasha describes the insights he has reached at DIGNITY’s leadership programme.

Results from the programme have now been analyzed and published in the International Journal of Public Health.

In March last year, he and 42 other leaders from both police and civil society attended two-day leadership workshops held by DIGNITY and local partner MidRift Human Rights Network (MHRN) in the municipalities Nakuru and Naivasha.

The workshops are part of a bigger, three-year programme in leadership-development created by DIGNITY, MHRN, and the University of Sunderland in the United Kingdom/Institute of Administration, Ireland.

The goal of the programme is to give the leaders the confidence, shared understanding, capability and enhanced capacity to work together and build commitment to the common goal of violence prevention in their respective communities.

And there is a need for violence prevention in Kenya.

More than half of Kenyans are expected to live in urban areas by 2030. Though urbanization is linked to growth in productivity and therefore a growth in GDP, it is also linked to less positive developments. According to the World Bank, growing urbanization in developing countries comes with increased levels of violence.

In Kenya, the homicide rate has increased from 3.5 in 2007 to 6.5 in 2013. The increased violence is caused by urbanization and the following high pressure on limited infrastructure, land and public services, along with high levels of distrust between the public and the police.

- Creating and heightening the trust between the leaders of the two sectors is therefore crucial, if violence is to be prevented, says program manager at DIGNITY, Finn Kjærulf.

The leadership programme is based on a specific leadership development-framework called Place-Based Leadership Development, developed by PhD. Rob Worrall of the University of Sunderland, now at the Institute of Public Administration in Ireland. P-BLD. The framework emerged from an in-depth exploratory study of the lived experiences of intersectoral leaders who participated in P-BLD initiatives in three English counties, and enables leaders to work through and transcend inherent tensions between self and others, across organisations and wider places.

You can read more about the study here.

At the workshop, the participants were encouraged to ask each other questions and explore their own and other’s assumptions. Role-playing in safe spaces at the workshops provided the leaders with the lived experience of understanding other sector leader’s perspectives, situations and mandates.

The sessions were focused on providing tools and mechanisms to promote reflective practice and self-development.

20 participants from the city of Nakuru and 23 participants from Naivasha (from both police and civil society) answered questionnaires before and after the sessions. The answers were then analyzed. Looking at the answers given before the workshop, tensions between police and civil society was evident.

Participants talked of the fear of the police, bureaucracy, corruption, and general distrust between police and human rights activists.

But after the sessions, the participants seem to have been encouraged to adopt a less simplistic view of how they see the other sector:

“Though we approach the issues differently, the intent/objective is similar and hence the need for collaboration”, says one participant.

“now my fear of the police has declined since it has helped me to interact with police officers who are focused on good”, says another.

- Our analysis shows that there is evidence to suggest that the programme is having a positive impact, explicitly addressing the tensions and enabling leaders to share their concerns and challenges in working towards violence prevention, says Finn Kjærulf.

Simultaneously with the leadership-programme, DIGNITY and MidRift will be facilitating various violence prevention-projects in the municipalities, in close collaboration with police and civil society. The hope is that the leadership-programme and the participants intent to collaborate will strengthen these violence prevention projects.