Editor’s Note: The engine room partners with advocacy initiatives to connect them with strategies, technologies, peers and other existing resources. We piloted our partnership methodology with Sisi Ni Amani (SNA) in Kenya in 2012. Here, SNA director Rachel Brown describes the impact of the partnership on her organization. We matched Rachel with Matt Moore, who is skilled in strategic communications and has a long-standing interest in conflict resolution and technology.
Three years ago, I worked with a team of Kenyan community peace leaders to found an organization based in Kenya called Sisi ni Amani (“We are Peace” in Swahili). We use a combination of traditional and innovative communication mediums to prevent violence and increase civic engagement. Our work includes a pioneering text messaging based approach to behavior change around violence and civic participation. As a small organization, we struggled to put sufficient time and resources into external communication to get the word out about our work, build our credibility, and share our approach with a broader audience. We often had interns excited to work with us, and would have them add blog posts documenting programs, but were unable to use their time strategically based on an overall communications strategy.
In 2012, we partnered with the engine room to bring pro-bono expertise into our organization. They matched us with a communications professional who created a strategic framework for us. It included things like templates of emails to send to members of the media, suggestions for how to frame our story when speaking to the media, and lists of reporters to contact, and additional activities that we could take on if we had the human resources to do so. Having this framework was useful because, even though limited resources meant we couldn’t implement every part of it, using the overall framework meant that the pieces we did implement were strategic.
In particular, the new communications framework made it much easier for us to use our intern’s time in a productive way. Our intern was able to reach out to individuals working in media in Kenya and to follow up according to the strategic plan. He was was able to get a press interview with a major local newspaper and raise awareness about the initiative in local media. Sisi ni Amani was also featured in several international news articles, through our own outreach as well as connections from collaborative partners.
Having a customized plan written for us by a communications strategy expert was (and continues to be) very valuable as a guide for our organizational communications. While limited resources to devote to our communications strategy continues to be a challenge, we will continue to use the strategic communications framework so that the time that we do have – through interns, volunteers, and sometimes staff – can be used more effectively towards our communications goals.