Africa's Voices Foundation (AVF) is a nonprofit organization that puts citizens' voices at the heart of effective development and governance. Development, humanitarian, and governance actors come to the U.K.- and Kenya-based organization in search of innovative mean of engaging citizens and impactful and applied insights. These insights help to inform, adapt, monitor, and evaluate programs based on the needs of the citizens they serve.
To do this, AVF uses mixed-media engagement techniques to create actionable social evidence that is rooted in social science theories and draws on innovations in technology and data. By curating inclusive discussions though digital, interactive channels, AVF empowers citizens to share their voices, on their own terms and language, at scale. A special tool is interactive radio, in which radio debates are driven by citizen input via SMS.
Since 2014, AVF has given voice to more than 250,000 individuals in sub-Saharan Africa. Their work has focused on a wide range of topics, including public health emergencies, girls' education in refugee settlements, and public opinion on oil and gas developments. The robust insights that AVF provides help its partners to better understand the citizens they serve, which leads to bottom-up decision-making, programs, and policy. All of this combines to ultimately improve the well-being and power of communities in African countries.
AVF's incredible work has not gone unnoticed. The UN's 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Somalia (PDF) applauded AVF's interactive radio methodology as a best practice for consulting citizens. AVF's success can be credited to its understanding that citizen voices must be active in determining decisions that affect them. The organization is careful to spark dialogue in community members' native languages to ensure that authentic conversations take place and that real, meaningful change can occur.
Citizen consultations in the Upper Tana River basin in Kenya regarding soil health, the impact of climate change, and sustainable livelihoods among farmers
AVF first went through the equivalency determination (ED) process with NGOsource in April 2018. Receiving the ED certification enabled AVF to receive a general operating support grant from the Hewlett Foundation. Now that AVF is part of the NGOsource repository, U.S.-based funders that become NGOsource members can access AVF's certification — and certifications of all NGOs with valid EDs — immediately for as little as $250.
Beyond the ED
Members of the Africa's Voices team at a radio station in the Upper Tana River basin in Kenya preparing for an interactive radio show
In five short years, AVF has made a huge impact on the communities it works in, and it's not stopping anytime soon. AVF recently completed a pilot project in Dadaab and Kakuma in northern Kenya, two of the world's largest refugee settlements. The project implemented AVF's interactive radio methodology in order to untangle long-standing social norms that prevent girls from accessing education. Due to the success of the pilot, AVF is set to launch a three-year intervention.
At the end of 2018, AVF also completed a large-scale consultation in Mogadishu, Somalia. With one in six Somalis currently displaced and a third of the country's population having fled to Mogadishu, the focus of the project was to gather input from citizens regarding solutions connected to the city's displacement crisis. Through its innovative methods, AVF noticed as a trend the support for crowdfunding as a solution. This project allowed AVF to demonstrate the power of community in filling in `gaps when they exist and to shine a light on solidarity in a time of hardship.
AVF is empowering citizens to create change in their own communities by amplifying the voices of those who know exactly what they need, and there's no end to what they are capable of.
Top photo: Citizen consultations in the Upper Tana River basin in Kenya regarding soil health, the impact of climate change, and sustainable livelihoods among farmers
All images used with permission from Africa's Voices ©2019.