Posted 10 January, 2013 by Susannah Vila

How Text Messages Could Change Peace Advocacy

A lot of the time when people are doing great work on the ground they don’t have time to tell their story. This seemed to be the case with one project that we came across last year: Sisi Ni Amani Kenya (SNA-K). A mobile peacebuilding initiative that uses text messages to mitigate conflict in Kenya, SNA-K is part of something called the PeaceTXT partnership. PeaceTXT is a collaborative initiative of partners working to learn crucial lessons about how communication can be used for violence prevention.

Mobile peacebuilding and conflict resolution in Kenya

From the Sisi Ni Amani Facebook Fan Page

The model is particularly fitting in Kenya. By using texts to detect and interrupt cases of political or ethnic violence, they are actually using the same technologies that spurred such violence during the months after the country’s 2008 presidential election. A good example of how SNA works comes from the town of Mulot, where two groups of men were poised to fight over a contentious land boundary and efforts by on-the-ground mediators had failed. SNA sent targeted SMS-messages to the two groups to encourage engagement with a mediator. In response, the men went out and found the SNA mediator who had been working to intervene. He helped them to resolve the conflict without violence.

We met Sisi ni Amani when we were in Kenya in July and we felt that because the programmatic work was so innovative it would be relatively easy to match them with someone who could help with storytelling. After speaking with CEO Rachel Brown, we offered to try and connect her to pro bono strategic communications expertise. We wrote a description of the available position, did some outreach around it and ended up finding the most appropriate expertise in Matt Moore, a San Francisco based communications professional with a background in conflict prevention and new media.

We’re happy to say that Matt has just completed the strategic communications action plan for SNA-K. The goal of this work was to provide the right amount of high-level, structured expertise for SNA-K to be able to expand and professionalize its communications work at whatever pace works best for the organization. With that in mind, it is quite modular – stringing together different activities that staff and interns can choose from depending on how much time they have. Between now and the March election in Kenya we will be in touch with the SNA-K team in order to learn more about how this plan has been helpful – so stay tuned!

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