Danida alumni on a shared journey towards realizing positive change in Kenya

Danida Fellowship Centre
The Kenyan course participants on their way to the People's Meeting in Bornholm.

By: Nina Vlemmings

In June this year 25 Kenyan SDG-pioneers travelled to Copenhagen to participate in the course “Strengthening Policy Dialogue to Accelerate SDG Implementation”, administered by Danida Fellowship Centre.

Although diverse in terms of experience and subject matter interests, the group is united in their common passion for driving sustainable change. Whilst in Denmark they not only connected with each other, but also gained new insights and tools to help them further the SDG agenda back home in Kenya.

Read: Give the Mic to Kenya here

In conjunction with classroom sessions and visits to sustainability actors across the Danish private, public and not-for-profit sectors, one of the highlights of this course was to participate in The People’s Meeting on the Danish island of Bornholm. As panelists and presenters alongside decision-makers, entrepreneurs and fellow change-makers, our Kenyan colleagues shared their experiences and insights on a range of issues related to sustainable development challenges in their home country, from access to education, to gender diversity, to water.

Watch the video from The People's meeting here

An alumni forum to highlight transferable learning from Denmark

This group of Danida alumni have recently returned home to Kenya and organized a virtual forum to share learnings from their time in Denmark and further discuss the relevance and applicability of these within the Kenyan and wider Sub-Saharan African context.

Read more about the event “Strengthening Policy Dialogue to Accelerate SDG-Implementation – Connecting Kenyan SDG-Pioneers for Sustainable Change” 

This event was held in the margins of the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and organized by the SDGs Kenya Forum with contributions from The Royal Danish Embassy in Kenya, Danida Fellowship Centre and 2030Beyond, one of the delivery partners for the course they completed in Denmark.

The event aimed to foster increased collaboration among different stakeholders at the local county, regional and global level in advancing the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. SDG coalitions from other African countries including South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Nigeria participated to draw learnings and share relevant insights with their Kenyan colleagues.

Although the broad and varied discussions of the forum indicated that the learnings from Denmark were vast, and had highlighted a need for change in different aspects of policy development processes and structures in Kenya, there were some re-occurring themes. Multi stakeholder collaboration, local action and the need for assessment were mentioned on several occasions, indicating that these areas may require further attention as part of ensuring effective and inclusive policy dialogue on the SDGs in Kenya.

Key learnings: Genuine collaboration, local action and thorough analysis

The essential role of partnerships and cross-sector collaboration for meeting the SDGs was a re-occurring message during the recent alumni-organized knowledge-sharing forum. Relevant learnings and insights from the alumni’s time in Denmark included the genuine collaboration that exists between civil society organizations (CSOs) and the Danish government when it comes to policy development and decision-making processes.

“There is an intentional and inclusive partnership between civil society in Denmark and its national government. Despite the CSOs’ oversight role, the government of Denmark was still accommodative to formally work with CSOs in addressing issues that are affecting their people. A good practice that we need to further adopt in Kenya,” stated Peter Kwame, co-founder and program director of Hatau Network Organization. The organization seeks to promote equal opportunity to low-income students with scholarships, mentoring, and career guidance with the purpose of preparing them for careers. Furthermore, the organization also functions as a link between their community and professional networks.

Linked to this, many Danida alumni raised the challenge and opportunities presented by the strong and complex interlinkages between all 17 sustainable development goals and how this calls for cross-sector collaboration. To this point, Antony Bulma, Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Young Parliamentarians Associations, said that it was important to think long-term when developing strategic plans and highlighted the crucial importance of integrating partnerships into the design of any intervention that aims to tackle the SDGs.

The importance of empowering local action and devolving further decision-making to the local level was clearly another SDG driver that participants agreed upon. A couple of the Danida alumni referred to the need for the County Governments to have a bigger role in relation to tackling the SDGs. According to Judy Oduma, CEO of The County Assemblies Forum, a lack of data in reporting SDGs and a non-existent lobbying strategy are, however, current issues that are holding the county assembly back in terms of its effectiveness in tackling SDG challenges.

In terms of the more procedural and structural aspects related to sustainable development programming, both Judy Oduma and Sylvester Makaka, from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers referred to the coursework being an important tool for assessing and analyzing how their organizations address the SDGs in their work and ambitions going forward.

“The coursework elements are essential for the business sector. Especially in relation to the appropriate structuring of models and mechanisms with people being at the center of it, by making sure every SDG makes sense in terms of business efficiency and that there are sufficient resources for all actors,” explained Sylvester Makaka of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers.

Danida alumni’s Joint Initiative to accelerate the SDGs in Kenya

One of the agreed ways forward for the group of Danida alumni was to operationalize a Joint Initiative to accelerate SDGs at both the national and county levels. This will seek to provide an alternative and complementary platform for conversation on jointly accelerating the implementation, monitoring, and review of the SDGs. The activities to be organized under this joint initiative include debates, exhibitions, workshops, art and culture, talks, technical working groups and a joint advisory council.

The group agreed that to attract collaboration and engage in productive dialogue with relevant stakeholders, there is a need for the activities to be aligned with existing spaces and events that aim to tackle the SDGs in Kenya. The Peoples Dialogue Festival is one of these and all 25 alumni are committed to working together to contribute to the festival in March 2022, which is taking place in Nairobi.

The Danida Fellowship Centre learning methodology

The DFC-administered course “Strengthening Policy Dialogue to Accelerate SDG Implementation” was designed around three broad themes: 1) Institutional analysis, 2) approaches and policy management tools and 3) organizing change and implementation.

The course work was a crucial element of this and aimed to equip learners and their institutions with analytical knowledge. As described by Danida Alumni Josephine Nyamai, the four models of learning that were used:

  1. Participatory learning and group discussions.
  2. Course mentorship sessions on various tools (Annexes and Action Planning) peer learning and experience sharing among the fellows;
  3. And lastly Field learning with a visit to Danish Parliament, Danish Industries (DI), Democrat Garage, attending Peoples' Festival in Bornholm, visit Global Focus and lastly a visit to DTU & Skylab- youth innovation for sustainable development.
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