This year we asked Millennium Fellowship alumni to share what SDG 17 (Partnership for the Goals) means to them. Over the coming weeks, Alumni will unpack what partnerships they leveraged to make their Social Impact work successful. They'll explore partnerships with their schools, peers, and communities, then share recommendations on how young people can create and navigate meaningful partnerships to power social change in their communities.
"It is noteworthy to mention that when we started this, most of us had little to no experience in running social impact projects, but here we were, drafting concept notes and proposals, pitching our ideas to leaders and titans of industries."
Partnership with Peers: The Dunia Bora Initiative, which began as a collective project of the Millennium Fellows at Moi University has been a journey and story inspired by the desire for transformation, a collective desire that weighs heavily on our generation.
Dunia Bora is a Swahili phrase, loosely translated to 'a better world for all'. When we embarked on the journey to creating social impact, we all had different and unique project ideas. We committed to do our best to leverage the platform, knowledge and mentorship that the Millennium Fellowship was offering. We also merged our project ideas to collectively create Dunia Bora.
By harnessing our collective synergies and unique passions, we managed to create an initiative we were all excited to get behind.
Our cohort was united by the same challenges and strengthened by the desire to find meaningful solutions. We noted that one of the greatest challenges in our was in the education sector.
Partnership with donors and supporters: We tried our hand in community partnerships by reaching out to different public and private sector stakeholders. Even as we made requests to institutions and potential donors, we ensured to offer value by suggesting to tackle specific challenges they faced internally. At Chepkoiyo Secondary School and Mkombozi Secondary School in Kenya's Uasin Gishu County, there was an acute shortage of learning materials, textbooks and toothpastes. The schools are both located along the Rift Valley region, where most water is saline with high salt levels concentration, so students' teeth were consistently browning. Anohter challenge was related to insecurity. Within local communities, residents informed us that during the electioneering period, politicians would often offer hand-outs to young high-school students to propagate violence.
We partnered with the local Unilever branch to help provide toothpaste and freshwater tanks, and Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to donate civic and electoral learning materials, and offer training on the electoral process. The university also worked with us to ensure Millennium Fellows were offered consistent meeting spaces to facilitate our training sessions. The above-mentioned are just but a few of the partnerships that we leveraged in our project building.
Reflections: In the spirit of honesty and truthfulness, when we started Dunia Bora, we had less wins than losses. We reached out to 20 potential partners, only 6 were eventually willing to work with us. Most potential leads turned us down with some promising to support us during their next financial year, while others didn't respond to our persistent outreach. We never expected a yes from everybody, but the rejections hit us harder than we expected.
Sometimes we had to make difficult decisions because great potential partners would ask for more than we could give. An organization was willing to donate urgently needed school supplies, but only under the condition that they could take pictures of the kids we supported to use on their websites. Our values and principles couldn't let us accept these conditions, so we turned down their offer.
In establishing our partnership with Unilever, we were directed to partner with their Heroes for Change group which was running a hand-wash and "brush brush" campaign. Heroes for Change donated over 30,000 pieces of toothpaste, valued at up to 2 Million Kenya Shillings. This small win was one of our greatest highlights in the course of this journey. We then held conversations with several officers of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission( IEBC), eventually meeting with Jane Kingori who was the County Elections Manager, Uasin Gishu County. Jane was amazing in helping power our partnership. As a University student, she had dreamt of running social impact initiatives but said she didn't have a platform like the Millennium Fellowship which could nurture her dreams. She was therefore extremely eager to support us. Because of her endorsement, the commission donated a huge load of books and tree seedlings which we planted at local schools.
It is noteworthy to mention that when we started this, most of us had little to no experience in running social impact projects, but here we were drafting concept notes and proposals, pitching our ideas to leaders and titans of industries.
At first, all rejections hit us hard, and all our losses felt like failure. However the more we grew the more we began to appreciate the ups and downs of this process, understanding that in the world of social leadership there's no such thing as losing. Sometimes you win, other times you learn.
As we continue scaling our initiative, we wish to extend special thanks to the students we served, they made us understand the world and our role in it much better. Thanks to all institutions that came on board to work with us, and special thanks to those that didn't - they taught us important lessons in tenacity and perseverance. Lastly, very special thanks to the Millennium Fellowship team, the lessons we received as Fellows made us better leaders.