Mikel’s reflections on 10 years of Map Kibera

by: August 16th, 2019 comments: 1

4388702007_b8e0a942fe_o10 years ago Erica Hagen and I were getting ready to start Map Kibera. I read Planet of Slums, was buying laptops on the way to the airport after Crisis Mappers, getting excellent guidance and connections from Ushahidi, and feeling completely overwhelmed. Before we even started, the project was being celebrated in the global media. Heading to Nairobi’s largest slum to make a map. What had we signed up for? I’m looking back on the experience myself now 10 years on, after 6 weeks in a much changed Nairobi.

It’s way way more than I ever imagined. We intended to stay for a month. Through muddy days and very spotty internet, the map took beautiful shape. Zach Muindre and Lucy Fondo and 11 more young people from the 13 villages of Kibera got excited about mapping. That was never going to be enough. That map by itself did not do enough for the people of Kibera, and we felt a deep responsibility to see this work through. We wanted to make the connection to change, for the order and chaos, invention and despair, that city within a city, Kibera. To keep putting the people of the Kibera community in the driving seat on what data was important to them and how it should be used. That impulse quickly inspired citizen reporting and data journalism, with Kibera News Network, still led by Joshua Ogure, and Voice of Kibera

I wrote this in 2013:

In all honesty, the work Map Kibera has set for itself is extremely difficult, steps beyond what is normally attempted, and we have had our share of bumps and scrapes. But anything worth doing takes patience and perseverance, adaptation and learning. We carry on, and we’re ready for what’s next.

Building a team. Mapping and mapping again. Telling stories. Bringing together people to think about data and place. Training and riding the wave of new technologies. Putting maps on walls. Taking the world’s biggest and smallest stages. Fundraising and reporting. Strategic plan after plan. Building several versions of organizations. Advocating to government. Argument. Stress. Triumph. Sometimes all in the course of one day.

After 10 years, has Map Kibera changed Kibera? Yes there’s been significant contribution over the decade in Kibera. And around the world. We’re certainly not done, 10 more years for sure. It’s certainly hard to assess the impact of 10 years. Here’s a few ways I look at it.

Personally, I’ve carted recovered organization documents in a wheelbarrow across Kibera, fended off local youth looking for payment for “security”, waited for ages for a government official to sign a letter, met with ambassadors, and a thousand other unique experiences I never would have had otherwise. I got to know a unique place well.

There’s the data. I’m not going to try to quantify it, but it’s both wide in location and deep in the detail collected. Kibera was mapped and mapped again. Almost all of the slums in Nairobi — Mathare, Mukuru, Kangemi, and others — mapped. Outside of Nairobi, cities and rural areas across Kenya, from Kwale to Baringo, have been mapped. Not just mapped, but mapped by and for community members in each of those places. And the places in between, by the OSM community, inspired and connected by Map Kibera’s pioneering work. All of this data within the infrastructure and community of the global OpenStreetMap project, the foundation of all this work.

It took 3 years for me to feel at last satisfied that Map Kibera had an impact in Kibera itself. It takes at least that time to build trust, to show that an effort is not a flash in the pan, and figure out exactly how something as abstract as data and maps can make a contribution. The 2013 election saw mapping for peaceful elections, building strong networks, distribution of maps within the community and to security services and government, debates and interviews with candidates, monitoring and reporting through all phases of the election — from registration, primaries, campaigning, elections, results, and follow up — after the national and international media left. It made a difference. Voice of Kibera and Kibera News Network really found their stride, reporting from polling stations, and doing video interviews with candidates. OpenSchoolsKenya brought visibility to all kinds of schools in Kibera (and Mathare and Kangemi), that parents, teachers, administrators, and government lacked. Kibera is currently mourning the loss of MP Ken Okoth, who championed the work of Map Kibera and put schools data to work to successfully advocate for more educational resources. There were many other projects that had an influence on water and sanitation, health, food security — their impact less visible, behind the scenes. This data has been used by organizations large and small to orient, track and ground work in all these places. We know of some of them, but so many more we have no idea about because the maps are open to all.

All of this progress requires money and an organization. From JumpStart International’s small bet on us at the beginning, to Unicef, US Institute of Peace, Hivos, Omidyar, Plan, Indigo Trust, World Bank, Map Kibera has had the attention and resources of international development. We are deeply appreciative. And deeply challenged. Matching a project rooted in grassroots community to global development has not been easy. The project cycles and organizational expectations don’t fit long term community development. Looking back now on countless proposals, work plans, reports, strategic planning sessions, organizational charts. And we did not come to this experienced in building organizations, and made our biggest mistakes in misapplying parts of models of a worker’s cooperative,  community organization, traditional NGO, and company, lately finding stride in a combination of those. For the past 5 years, Erica has focused so much effort to pull this work together, as have Joshua and Zack, who have devoted themselves on a day to day basis well beyond the call of duty to keep the vision alive. Map Kibera remains deeply focused on Kibera, while being the leading organization for developing community mapping across Kenya, as well as globally networked and linked. It’s not easy to connect a grassroots community effort to a global perspective and industries. I think they’ve finally found an operational groove 10 years on.

Around the world, Map Kibera became an inspiration for a new kind of community mapping, one that was simultaneously rooted in community development, and also integrated into the global data infrastructure of OpenStreetMap. Map Kibera has served as a template and model for countless other projects. As Erica and I began our return trip to Kenya in January 2010 to work with Map Kibera for another year, Haiti was struck by an earthquake, and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team’s first effective activation began. After many stolen early morning moments during our “vacation” coordinating the Haiti response, I helped plan post-emergency activities of HOT on the ground in Haiti, modeled directly on Map Kibera. The Map Kibera team also started the OSM mapping effort in Dar es Salaam, in Tandale, which has now covered the whole city of Dar for flood risk mapping. It was our mapper Lucy, still a key Map Kibera team member, who traveled to Dar to train communities in OSM back in 2011. Regularly, even just last month, I hear from people starting mapping projects inspired by Map Kibera.

This influence flowed from an incredibly strong story — young people putting this large and famous and yet “invisible” settlement on the map. Map Kibera has been profiled by CNN, PBS, New Scientist, National Geographic, Wired, Al Jazeera, Le Monde, and The Guardian. It’s taught in schools, every geography undergrad seems to watch The Geospatial Revolution — it’s even a part of on-boarding for some teams at Mapbox. Map Kibera has been featured in the Smithsonian and other museum exhibits, in popular science books and coffee table books of critical cartography. It’s been referenced in hundreds of research publications. Though I happen to believe the best research on Map Kibera has been done by its practitioner, with Erica authoring good pieces early on for MIT, and more recent learning retrospective for Making All Voices Count. Erica has told the Map Kibera story on the TED Stage. I’ve shared in Seoul, Zach has presented in Hyderabad, and Josh everywhere from New York to Azerbaijan.

But ultimately, the best way I know to track the influence is in the people we’ve gotten to work with. Impossible to name them all. Some have come and gone, and some have stayed all the way through — Zach and Lucy are still mapping, training government officials, and leading the roll out of projects. Josh is the general manager and has brought KNN to a level on par with professional news agencies, along with Steve Banner and Jacob Ouma, who also have been with us from the early days. They are now as old as I was when this all started. Erica — who dropped everything to come to Kenya with me, then married me, and who has put everything into continuing the effort even after my attention has gone elsewhere. Unbelievable to think back to the 13 young kids who took a chance on this crazy project. 

So we’re going to celebrate and I hope to see everyone. Map Kibera is throwing a party tonight, August 16 to celebrate the first 10 years, and 15 years of OpenStreetMap. Find the details here and let is know if you’ll join us to raise a glass to 10 years of Map Kibera.

Kibera News Network trains youth from Kibera on citizen journalism

by: August 15th, 2019 comments: 0

Kibera News Network has been training youth from Kibera on citizen journalism and videomaking since March. The group of trainees is composed of 9 youth between 18 and 22 years old, and it’s well gender-balanced (5 females and 4 males). The training has already touched both theoretical and practical topics, such as citizen journalism and reporting, journalism ethics, scriptwriting and creation of news stories, camerawork, video making, editing, and sound.

KNN Training

KNN trainees during a theoretical session on citizen journalism

KNN on the field

KNN trainees on a field training session

KNN on the field

KNN trainees on a field training session

videoediting training

KNN trainees on a video editing session

Through a mixed approach of theoretical training and practical fieldwork, group and individual assignments, and working closely with the trainers, the trainees are now able to develop simple news stories from crafting the idea to the publishing part. From January, KNN has published in total 21 stories, 10 of which were produced entirely by the trainees alone. Out of the total, 3 are the investigative stories that have been published.

youtube videos

With the aim of aligning our mapping work with the reporting work by focusing on the same topics, a group of trainees has incorporated a hard copy of the security map developed by Map Kibera in 2017 in a video on security issues in the slum: “Is it security or insecurity in Kibera?”. The inclusion of geographic information and maps will therefore continue with the experimentation of new embedding techniques in the videos.

insecurity video with map

As part of the training, the trainees have been encouraged to participate in external free workshops on photography organized in Nairobi by CANON East Africa. Knowing also the importance of mentorship and inspiration in the education process, they have also received a one-day motivational talk at Map Kibera’s office from Jacob Otieno Omollo, head of photography and senior editor at Standard Media Group, and Stafford Ondego, sports photographer and founder of SportPicha. Mentorship has then continued with insight on investigative journalism with John-Allan Namu, investigative reporter and co-founder of the independent media house Africa Uncensored.

Jacob Otieno Omollo

Jacob Otieno Omollo on his mentorship session

KNN trainees and trainers with the two mentors: Jacob Otieno Omollo and Stafford Ondego.

KNN trainees and trainers with the two mentors: Jacob Otieno Omollo and Stafford Ondego.

DSC_0459copy

KNN trainees and a trainer with John-Allan Namu.

Moreover, at Map Kibera and KNN, we recognize the value of continuous and periodical assessment of both trainees and trainers. On one hand, the trainers are evaluating both soft skills (teamworking, commitment, general behavior, etc.) and technical competences acquired during the training, through individual assessments and feedback sessions, periodical group reviews of the videos produced by them, and a written exam paired with a field assignment in couples in July. The trainees have been given also a handbook with training material developed by the trainers themselves.

KNN Trainees

KNN trainees and two trainers with the handbook

KNN trainees during review

KNN trainees during a review session

KNN trainees during exams

KNN trainees during their theoretical exam

On the other hand, feedback from the trainees have been collected, both in individual and in group sessions, in order to evaluate the trainers, the training approach and methodology.

 

I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.
Tom Stoppard

Outcomes and Learnings from Open Schools Kenya mapping in Kangemi

by: June 5th, 2019 comments: 0

Mapping distribution

The schools mapping of the Kangemi slum and associated surroundings was a very successful exercise, and provided much-needed information for everyone from Kangemi’s residents and parents to policy advisers and education experts to governmental education officials. The project brought together youth residents of Kangemi with Map Kibera mappers, who, working closely with local school leaders and advocates for informal schools, mapped nearly 300 schools. These now appear on Map Kibera’s Open Schools Kenya school database. The mapping exercise, possible thanks to the support of Indigo Trust, has brought visibility to these schools, and increased both information and knowledge about the number and kind of schools in Kangemi. It has also equipped schools and activists with a key resource in advocating for improvements to and recognition of these schools.

Kangemi Schools Mapping

Just like in Kibera, before the project began, Map Kibera conducted a survey with parents, teachers and government officials to try and understand the information gap in regards to education. Parents, for example, were interested in the distance of a school from their home, how much a school charges, and the ratio of teachers to students before selection a school for their children. Other data points that were collected included the number of students, availability of toilet, school building materials, electricity availability, number of teachers, and many more.

Map Kibera also talked to teachers and school leaders, and met with a number of important figures in Kangemi education. Particularly supportive throughout the exercise was Kangemi’s Alternative Provision of Basic Education and Training (APBET) coordinator, Evans Onchiri. Evans is a tireless advocate and organizer on behalf of the schools, and he particularly welcomed the addition of detailed data and maps to better support APBET schools (APBET is what the schools are now called which were previously known as “informal” or “non-formal”). Map Kibera found that although there is a government policy to recognize these schools — which would allow them to access more resources, have some oversight in place, and be part of the provision of free basic education guaranteed by law to all children — the process of registering under the policy is not clear and has been stalled over several years. Having a better idea of the number of students served and locations of these schools is essential to pushing forward on this policy. The Sub-County Education Director, Phillip Chirchir, and the area Member of Parliament (MP), Tim Wanyonyi also indicated to Map Kibera that they needed a more comprehensive understanding of the schools in their area.

The schools mapping exercise covered both the schools already on local leaders’ lists, and also unknown schools found directly in the field. From the initial main focus areas of Kangemi, which included Kangemi ward and Mountain View ward, the schools mapping exercise was expanded to other slum areas, following the request of the Sub-County Education Director and the area Member of Parliament. The additional mapped areas are the following: Kibagare slum, Deep Sea slum, and Githogoro slum. All the mapped areas fall into the Westlands Sub-County. The total number of the mapped schools is 282, out of which only 19 are public schools, including pre-primary, primary and secondary levels. Therefore, the majority of schools (263) are APBET schools.

A few outcomes:

Seven youth have been trained in Kangemi on how to collect data using the OpenDataKit app, how to edit maps using JOSM software, and how to upload data onto OpenStreetMap. The youth reported a general satisfaction about the additional skills learned. After the completion of their work, the youth mappers reported raised awareness and general knowledge about their own community. Moreover, the new team of trained mappers in Kangemi could be further involved in updating schools’ information and in other related local developments.

The website Open Schools Kenya has been made mobile-friendly so that it can be easily viewed and used on a smartphone. Previously, due to the difficulty navigating a map on a small screen, the site was best viewed on a laptop. Thanks to feedback from users at schools, we prioritized making sure that they can also navigate the site using their phone’s mobile browser. This makes the data much easier to access. Additionally, we worked on the submission form for data corrections, making it more user-friendly and better suited to the needs of schools to submit changes.

The schools and teachers have been very happy about the project. In the first phase, they reported interest in knowing the location of their own school and of the other schools in the area, in particular, to better know the number of pupils, the facilities and the services provided by the other schools. After the mapping exercise was completed and the schools received the printed map, they reported surprise at being able to see the outcomes of the project. In fact, during past experiences, many researchers went in the area collecting data without going back afterward for community restitution and feedback. Moreover, they reported general excitement for being able to locate their own school on the map and to be able to display the printed map in their office for multiple purposes. The schools also highlighted the importance of the online school page. Having their own specific page on OSK, they are now able to easily update the information, advertise and fundraise for their school, and also help engage parents in the community in decision-making about where to send their sons and daughters to school and increase the quality of their education.

Key local education officials were particularly pleased with the outcomes of the mapping exercise. Both Ms. Esther Kimani, the Sub County Quality Assurance Officer, and Mr. Phillip Chirchir, the Sub County Director of Education, highlighted the importance of being able to locate the schools, especially APBET schools, and to have the head teacher’s contact for each school on the OSK website. They are now able to better reach out to the schools and advise the Ministry of Education about their needs.

Map Kibera is now collaborating with education specialists from local organizations Each Rights and African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) to include the data and findings of the mapping in their advocacy and policy advising. With their assistance, already Map Kibera has presented the schools’ map to the National Council for Nomadic Education (NACONEK), which oversees APBET country-wide, at a joint meeting discussing schools information and potential mapping of all the APBET schools in Nairobi. Map Kibera has also been working with the Kangemi Resource Centre, a local CBO, to establish a workspace for the Kangemi mappers and to develop joint plans for updating the schools’ data regularly. All three of these key partners also presented at the launch event, which allowed them to connect with the various Kangemi school leaders and share some of their advocacy work.

The schools mapping in Kangemi and beyond led to an increased awareness of existing schools and resources within the community itself. As a teacher from a school in Githogoro slum stated, the schools in these marginalized areas are usually left out from development in Westlands. Both the map and the website are therefore crucial to make visible and clear their presence in order to assure their inclusion into the public education system and the overall education policymaking and planning.