Empowering Inclusive Civic Engagements through Tech-Enabled Approaches and Tools in Kenya

01.31.2018 | Articles | Maiko Nakagaki

Article at a Glance:

  • Tech-enabled monitoring and evaluation strategies and tools can help civic organizations more effectively represent local voices and participate effectively in the governance process.
  • For any organization working on civic engagement, digital security should be one of the top priorities to preserve the privacy of the organization and its constituencies.
  • Kenya’s devolution has created an opportunity for citizens to engage strategically with local governments across the country, especially using technology to collect voices from more individuals.


The enactment of the new Constitution in Kenya in 2010 was a historic moment for the country’s democratic development. At the heart of the new Constitution was devolution, creating 47 county governments so that authorities can enhance the efficiency of public services, improve transparency and accountability of the government by being closer to citizens, and increase citizen participation in the governance process. As a direct result of the decentralized government system, citizens now have more incentives to be involved in the county budgetary oversight to ensure that resources are transparently and responsibly allocated.

Empowering citizens to participate in local governance is an important step for Kenyans to hold elected officials accountable and to ensure that public services are delivered. For this reason, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) is partnering with local civil society organizations (CSOs) throughout Kenya to take an active role in regional budget creation and monitoring processes. For example, in Elgeyo Marakwet, one of the newly established counties in the former Rift Valley Province, CIPE has been supporting the Health Rights Advocacy Forum to bring together local government officials with farmers and other constituencies traditionally marginalized in the budget-making process.

CIPE quickly realized that it was fundamental to help these organizations improve how they monitor and evaluate their work to engage effectively and efficiently with decision-makers. To this end, CIPE and Panoply Digital — an information and communication technology (ICT) for development consulting firm — led a training workshop to teach strategies and introduce tech tools to build the capacity of partners to better capture the impact of their efforts and improve their approaches and activities moving forward.

How civil society organizations use technology and the challenges they face
CIPE first conducted a baseline survey of partner CSOs from different regions of Kenya to understand their ICT capacity needs, as well as their monitoring and evaluation (M&E) experiences. Eleven individuals from nine organizations completed the survey, and the data revealed that partner organizations:

  • access the internet for work through a computer (46%) or a combination of computer and mobile phones (36%);
  • have low bandwidth and often face connectivity issues (63%);\
  • use mainly email and text messages (SMS and messaging apps like WhatsAppor Viber) to communicate with staff within the organization (73%) and with people outside the organization (86%);
  • use social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to post content or share organizational information (100%);
  • believe digital security is very important for their organization (72%) and worry about being hacked or someone tracking them online (91%); and
  • have only basic or elementary understanding of M&E processes and tools (81%).

Kenyans are one of the leading ICT users on the continent: over 32 million people or 67% of the population use the internet, and 39 million or 82% of the population have mobile phone subscriptions. Thus, the baseline survey findings on high usage of ICTs were on par with what CIPE expected. What was surprising, on the other hand, was that while the national social media users are low (only 13% of the population), all the surveyed organizations noted that they actively use social media or messaging apps for communication purposes.

Strategies and solutions
CIPE and Panoply Digital delivered a workshop based on the insights gathered from the initial survey, as well as the CIPE-supported program objectives to increase civic engagement in the budgetary processes. The aim was to teach several key points: how to integrate M&E into a program, to effectively communicate with communities-at-large to increase civic engagement, and to understand what digital security is and why it matters for civic organizations. The tools and strategies introduced in the workshop were chosen because of their ease of use and accessibility, with free and low-cost solutions being preferable.

In April 2017, 17 participants from 10 organizations attended the training workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. CIPE and Panoply Digital taught various strategies and tech solutions to address needs:

M&E and Communications Strategies and Tools

Given that the majority of the baseline survey respondents said they only have a basic understanding of an M&E process, one of the topics of the workshop was on how to conduct M&E, including which tool and how to use technology for data collection, and how to communicate more strategically to produce the most impact. Specifically the module reviewed the five-step approach in M&E:

  • Identifying a problem using a problem tree;
  • Analyzing a problem using a solution tree;
  • Designing a project to address the problem using a logic model ,as well as the importance of setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) indicators, outcomes, etc.;
  • Monitoring a project by collecting data through mobile or online-based polling and/or surveying, as well as social media metrics;
  • Evaluating a project by measuring outputs and outcomes against SMART evaluation points.

Regarding data collection, participants were taught how to use TextIt, a fee-based SMS polling app, and Google Forms, a free online surveying tool.

CIPE and Panoply also discussed the importance of developing a communications strategy during the design phase of a project to identify target audiences and the course of action on how to convey the message throughout a project lifecycle. To adjust how their messages are reaching target audiences, participants looked at their own social media accounts and examined their Twitter Analytics and Facebook Insights to understand which content received the most attention. Based on the metrics, the participants developed their own communication plans with objectives, key messages, selected platforms to use, and measurable targets. They also explored CoSchedule and Buffer — both tools used to schedule and manage social media posts — to think about when the best dates and times are to post content for their target audiences.

Digital Security Strategies and Tools

Digital security was another major topic of the workshop. Most of the participants expressed that they were worried about their organization’s online security and privacy of program beneficiaries, but lacked knowledge of good practices to keep themselves and their constituencies safe online. CIPE and Panoply defined the difference between data protection and privacy, and highlighted different ways to engage safely with staff or program beneficiaries. The participants tested Signal, a highly secure encrypted messaging app; Ghostery, a browser extension that detects and blocks tracking technologies; and Virtru, an encrypted email system. In addition, the participants discussed good practices for organizational digital security, such as how to create strong passwords that change every few months and how to back up data. They also discussed possible challenges they may face with implementing tech-related changes and processes at organizational levels.

What value has CIPE added for the Kenyan partners?

CIPE followed up with the participant organizations three months after the workshop to assess how they were using the strategies or tools they learned from the workshop. The results revealed that 100% of the respondents are using at least one of the tools and one of the M&E strategies introduced during the workshop. Moreover, 80% of the respondents said they were using one of the digital security tools taught at the workshop, indicating that participants are now taking proactive and concerted efforts towards cyber security.

One respondent said they started using the problem and solution tree methods to drill into an issue to identify the various causes, which has been very helpful to design new activities. Another respondent noted: “Collecting voices and opinions of citizens is so easy now because we use Google Forms, which automatically aggregates and analyzes the information!”

As the follow-up survey data suggests, CIPE’s assistance overall benefited the partners as they are now using approaches and tools to help collect information from citizens to inform and improve public service delivery. CIPE will continue to support these organizations to help collect voices of citizens and engage in local governance, in hopes of building a more open and inclusive society in Kenya.

This project is part of CIPE’s initiative to enhance CIPE partners’ capacity to integrate ICT tools in order to improve their operations and programs. You can also access an online, self-paced course which covers most of the topics discussed in this article at CIPE’s Tech for Democracy Online Course.

About the Author

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE, where she oversees cross-regional projects involving digital economy and development, internet freedom, and women’s economic empowerment. She has authored multiple case studies and spoken at public events on the subject of digital development and economic growth, democratic governance, and women’s economic empowerment. Prior to joining CIPE, she consulted for the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in Cairo to evaluate gender-inclusive private sector development projects in the Middle East region, as well as consulted on several economic development projects through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). She holds a Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a Bachelor’s from Mount Holyoke College.