The Grassroots nest for Innovation and Change is a locally-led organisation promoting community based learning and sustainable development for vulnerable communities. This article was originally a speech delivered by GRIC’s Executive Director, Wangui Nyaga, at the RELI Kenya convening held in July 2022.
GRIC is a young organization that was formed to fill a big gap of strengthening the capacity of grassroots organizations to allow them to grow, thrive and take their rightful space of delivering quality education and overall social development services to their communities.
With this in mind, we are a hub that incubates innovations from the grassroots. Key program areas: Education for children and youth with a focus on foundational literacy and numeracy skills and life skills for older children, youth leadership through a comprehensive six-month training, women, and girl’s empowerment.
Our work is attained through working with and partnering with carefully selected grassroots organizations. Eighty percent of our partner organizations are either founded or led and managed by the youth.
Across Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, we are partnering with 27 community-based organizations, over 50 women groups reaching over 80,000 learners, in 150 schools and 16 community learning centers in the East Africa region.
Where we work: In Kenya: In the pastoralist regions of Kajiado, and in Dol Dol in Laikipia North, and in the informal settlements of Nairobi. We also work in the pastoralist regions in and surrounding the Arusha region of Tanzania. We also work in Northern Uganda, that witnessed the ravages of war in the previous regimes.
Our journey with RELI
Being a young organization, you can imagine how beneficial RELI has been to us. We have tapped into every opportunity, every connection, every piece of information accessible to us from the RELI membership to build GRIC.
Some key areas of we have benefited from RELI membership include:
1. Building systems at GRIC
As expected, when we started off GRIC, we had to put systems and structures in place. We are lucky, we did not have to start from nowhere. We got in touch with RELI members, and they willingly shared their constitutions, HR, Finance, and procurement policies. Any policy documents we asked for, we got them. We used these tools as a reference point to develop ours. Anytime we needed clarification, any time we needed to bounce ideas and to share our thinking, our challenges, the RELI members were there for us.
2. Technical support
One of our flagship programs entails strengthening students’ foundational literacy and numeracy skills. We apply the level—based learning methodology that borrows heavily from Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL). We have benefited immensely from trainings and materials developed by our friends at RELI. This made us start this work at a higher level, something that could not have happened without support from RELI members.
3. Networking and information sharing
Through the RELI network, we have made friends, we have built a pool of thought partners. In Uganda and Tanzania, we are partnering with FICH, PWC, two RELI members. We met them through the network, we clicked, and here we are working together in the two countries. We met some of our potential funders through referrals by RELI members.
We are members of different clusters at the network, and we have continued, and we continue to tap into the members wisdom, good practices, the dos and the don’ts.
4. Training, mentoring, and coaching
We have attended every single training offered by Wellspring Philanthropic Fund through RELI – ranging from MEL, fund raising, leadership, training of boards, among others. I remember at one point, I almost quit my job because of a being overwhelmed, frustrated, tired and a feeling that things are not coming together. The leadership training and coaching offered by WPF came at the right time – I learned how to work on my inside, the container inside me and ones I am well in the inside, I can think clearly and help others in my team to grow and thrive. I have regained my life back; I am so energized and enjoying every bit of my work.
I thank each one of you at RELI for being part of GRIC’s journey and indeed we resonate with the saying “we are stronger together”. The power of the collective, not walking alone is so fulfilling. Let us continue to work together, to support each other. There is space for each one of us in this work we are involved with – supporting children and youth to go to school, succeed and acquire skills to allow them to thrive in this ever-changing world. This work is about transforming lives of millions of children, it is not about us.