On January 19th we hosted a pitch session for the recently-graduated accountapreneurs of our 2020 virtual Accountability Incubator for young civil society leaders in Kenya and Uganda. 

This session was the culmination of a process we started six months earlier when, with the support of the Ford Foundation, we partnered with Evidence and Methods Lab and Siasa Place to adapt our Accountability Incubator for Kenya and Uganda in the time of COVID-19. 

We redesigned our flagship incubator program to support the next generation of accountability entrepreneurs with flexible, hands on knowledge-building, mentorship and support to develop ground-breaking ideas related to the accountability of the COVID-19 response. 

Starting in July 2020, the incubator supported 10 amazing accountapreneurs to do everything from opening up budgets and monitoring decision-making to ensuring vulnerable communities are receiving the support they need. These are just some of the transformative projects our accountapreneurs have been working on. 

The first accountapreneur to pitch her project was Anne Rose Osamba, a trained journalist and certified digital consultant based in Mombasa, Kenya, who is passionate about supporting changemakers to improve their advocacy skills. Osamba founded Uzalendo Afrika, an initiative that seeks to strengthen the role of local communities in promoting civilian oversight. 

“Imagine a country where citizens get legendary services and actually contributed happily to paying tax,” she began her presentation. Anne believes that this scenario is achievable but only if citizens are meaningfully involved in the decisions that affect them directly.

She intends to achieve this through a  few key steps. Firstly, her team will conduct a baseline survey looking into the transparency of the Kenyan government’s COVID-19 funds and supplementary budget. They will then train “accountability cells” – active citizens drawn from local communities – on the role of civilian oversight.

“We will follow up on the social audit process through community score cards and online conversation centred on demanding accountability and inclusion in public participation,” explains Osamba. “The end result will be an improvement in active citizenry which will also improve access to information and public participation.” 

Next up was Damaris Aswa, based in Kenya, whose incubator project is Uadilifu Jangani meaning “Integrity in Pandemics”. The aim of this project is to empower grassroots communities to act and demand integrity through specially-formed Integrity Watch Groups and advocacy campaigns.

”The World Health Organization warns that this won’t be the last pandemic so there’s a need for sustainable health preparedness to deal with the next one,” explains Damaris. “In order to achieve this we need a proactive and robust, community-led initiative that enhances community ownership.” 

Damaris is creating a database with a web-based and a mobile-based user interface providing an inclusive platform for community members to give feedback on service delivery in real time in Kilifi county where she is piloting the project. The data collected is then used to hold those responsible accountable and is also published on the website for public engagement, consultation and looking for the way forward. 

Damaris went on to win both Best Pitch and Best Idea as voted on by the audience in attendance.

The third pitch came from Derrick Mpagi, a Ugandan lawyer and civil society leader whose incubator initiative is called Twegatte Youth Health Project (Twegatte means “Let’s come together”). 

“Our project will address the lack of youth participation in health matters, especially during pandemics like COVID-19,” says Derrick. “It will impact at least 25,000 Ugandans and at least 50,000 people indirectly through our civic participation platforms.” 

The project will be implemented in partnership with District youth health networks in Uganda which will help Derrick’s team establish health social audits and peace-building dialogues on COVID-19. 

“The youth health network will encourage registered young people to network and share opportunities among each other,” he explains. “The health social audits and dialogues will be used by health leaders to inform and call to action communities. In turn, communities will use these to hold their health leaders to account.”

Next up was Harriet Karen Maukajambo. Based in Uganda, she is the founder and Executive Director of Global Learning for Sustainability (GLS), a woman and youth-led organization that works on challenges related to SDGs 4, 5 and 13 through integrating inclusive strategies to promote diversity & inclusion. 

“The outbreak of COVID-19 exposed weaknesses in leadership’s ability to secure the livelihoods and health of the urban poor while also enabling children to have consistent access to learning opportunities,” explains Harriet.

“My project – Inclusion for the Marginalized – seeks to design solutions that will empower target communities and grassroots leadership councils to voice their needs and hold the leadership to be promise keepers starting in 2021 – the year of new leadership in Uganda.”

The project will support the formation of Community CIVIC Clubs to increase civic engagement among target groups; enable joint learning among community representatives to share challenges and act collectively; and finally engage in media advocacy to attract the attention of duty-bearers and other relevant stakeholders. 

The fifth pitch came from Shamim Juma Ali, a Kenya-based activist who is committed to youth engagement and raising awareness around the SDGs. Shamim is a co-founder of the Center for Development and Peace (CDP) – a youth and women-led organization that is passionate about progressive development – championing healthcare, peace and security, good governance and youth engagement. 

“The aim of my project is to ensure government-led interventions respond to the needs of local communities, especially women,” explains Shamim.

Her incubator project seeks to improve access to information and consistent feedback from the government. She is focusing in particular on budget information related to public health issues. Shamim also wants to motivate the county government of Mombasa to provide simple, periodic reviews of its activities to ensure accessibility for all communities.

“To realise my long-term change to increase stakeholder engagement in budgetary processes and to see more women participating in decision-making, I have so far conducted a training of budget accountability champions in Mombasa County that will raise awareness to the women at large in order to influence their participation at the local level.”

Next up was Sheila Ayebare, a committed Uganda-based women’s rights activist and co-founder of Mwanamke Law Firm (‘Mwanamke’ means ‘Woman’ in Swahili), a non-profit law firm that offers free and affordable legal services to women. 

“There has been an increase in women’s rights abuse as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic including cases of gender-based violence and stakeholder policies that neglect women’s rights,” explains Sheila. “For instance, during the COVID-19 lockdown, authorities issued a travel ban in Uganda that forced pregnant women to walk to hospitals on foot. At least seven women died as they tried to walk to hospitals to give birth.”

Sheila’s incubator project is called the Mwanamke SMS System and will provide people with information about policies, rights and stakeholder services concerning women. The SMS system will also collect information and feedback from people about women-focused public service delivery, and the state of women’s rights in different communities. The information collected is used to advocate for women’s rights and hold leaders in charge of women’s services accountable.

“We have so far registered over 100 users and aim to have registered over a hundred users within the next two months.”

The seven pitch came from Innocent Turyahikayo, a Uganda-based social activist and co-founder of Inspire Africa Masindi – a youth-led community based organisation that works on increasing access to information among young people, particularly around human rights and social justice.

Innocent’s incubator project is the development of an online community radio station that will amplify community voices and help co-create solutions by providing timely communication and giving the most marginalized and vulnerable communities, particularly in the Ugandan town of Masindi, a platform on which to air their concerns.

“The major aim of Inspire Africa Online Radio is to inform citizens and communities, in particular Masindi, about their rights, the standards of service delivery they should expect, the actual performance of their respective service providers and seek to facilitate access to formal redress mechanisms to address service delivery failures.”

The final pitch of the session was from Winnie Nyandinga. Based in Kenya, she is the Regional Organizer for East Africa of the 100 Million campaign, a call to action for a world where all young people are free, safe, and educated.

Winnie’s incubator project, Justice for Every Child Kenya, is a youth-led campaign to demand that the government makes clear its commitments and delivers on them for the most marginalized and vulnerable young people across the country during the pandemic.

“Our project’s target group was young people, youth-led and youth-serving organizations and decision-makers,” explains Winnie. “Over 25-youth led organizations in Kenya came together under this campaign to demand that our leaders take action and prioritize the needs and concerns of the most vulnerable young people to prevent a child’s rights disaster caused by COVID-19.”

The campaign is prioritizing four key issues affecting young people: inequality in access to education as most learning moved online during the pandemic; lack of transparency in the use of COVID-19 funds by government; heightened cases of sexual and gender-based violence; and police brutality during the enforcement of COVID-19 regulations.

Unfortunately, two of our East African accountapreneurs were not able to attend the session.

Based in Kenya, Brian Keter’s incubator project is intended to mobilize citizens through the creation of Community Working Groups to encourage more responsive governance. In particular, the working groups will monitor and promote essential health and social rights and work towards the establishment of a more responsive budget process. 

Based in Uganda, Rehema Namukose’s incubator project, ”Youth Voices Against COVID-19”, is developing 10 case studies on COVID-19 response guidelines and measures to be used as learning tools for sensitive youth populations. Ten youth activists and artists will use these tools and discuss concepts of accountability and integrity on social media. The aim is to motivate other young people to work with creativity and innovation to demand better services for their communities beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch the full video of the session here.