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Changing Faces Competition (CFC)

Changing Faces Competition (CFC) is a fun mobilizing tool to engage citizens from the entire Nairobi in upgrading of public spaces.

Photo of Robinson Esialimba
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Nairobi faces the challenge of public spaces that are dirty, neglected, unhealthy and unsafe. This mostly arises from public authorities that often lack sufficient resources to create and maintain public spaces and citizens that do not make strong demands on the authorities. This creates a vicious cycle where public spaces are continuously getting neglected and abused which overwhelms the city authorities into paralysis and in turn, citizens who are disillusioned and believe the problem is unsolvable. The goal of this project is to break this cycle, starting with the residents by giving them agency. The execution is quite simple - residents are challenged to compete with their peers to see who can create the cleanest, greenest and safest public space through a fun competition. At the beginning of a challenge, photos must be taken of the state of the space BEFORE the intervention. There is then a two month period during which the intervention happens. When the competition closes, the participants must submit the AFTER photos. A team of independent judges then conduct evaluations comprising review of photos and site visits to select the winning team(s) who then receive a variety of prizes. Turning what would be otherwise a tedious and thankless chore into a fun competition with youth competing against each other has had a tremendous impact in mobilizing residents to take ownership of spaces around them. This is an award winning approach and recipient of The Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment 2017. It was tested over three last years in Dandora neighbourhood of Nairobi, where it has grown from 5 participating teams in the first edition to 120 in the second. Over 120 disused spaces were transformed into productive spaces. CFC has engaged over 3,000 youths and resulted in improved public health, safety and overall quality of life in the neighbourhood. In 2018, we are scaling up the competition to the rest of Nairobi.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The beneficiaries of the Changing Faces Competition are all Nairobians that live, work around or commute through the transformed spaces. Transformations of spaces create not only a cleaner, greener and healthier but also safer living environment. We expect women and children to be the biggest beneficiaries since these groups tend to be the most vulnerable when using badly designer unsafe public spaces. Furthermore, the participating teams are expected to be mostly youths. The participants will benefit from developing their leadership and civic engagement skills. Last but not least, they will identify income-generating activities to cover maintenance costs of the space, that would also provide a small income for them.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

The uniqueness in our approach is two fold. Firstly, it lies in transforming a tough and tedious chore into a fun competition. Secondly, youth get involved to challenge their peers, however, after seeing the impact of the transformations on improving the quality of life and new income-generating opportunities, the majority of teams keep maintaining and further improving the space over long-term. We are uniquely positioned to deliver because of our networks and traction. The success of this intervention is dependent on having contacts with grassroots leaders who lead the transformations. Secondly, over the past three years, we have demonstrated significant impact and traction which has been the subject of wide media coverage. Because of this, we enjoy the credibility and social capital necessary to run such a grassroots campaign. Additionally, we exist as an association of members who all bring different professional and community skills that are critical to success of the project

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

PSN is an association bringing together private individuals and organizations with varied skills and mandates who have a shared interest in improving quality of life for all Nairobians through better public spaces.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

I am Kenyan but I have lived and worked in Europe with my wife and kids. A few years ago, we moved back to Nairobi. Unfortunately, my family did not stay long and moved back to Europe mostly because of the poor, neglected and abused state of public spaces in Nairobi that made it impossible to enjoy the outdoor life that we were accustomed to in Europe. Nairobi enjoys one of the best temperate climates in the world suited for outdoor life, we just need to fix the public spaces-that is my mission!

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Some parts of Nairobi suffer from high criminality as result of youth unemployment. In Dandora, where the CFC was piloted, young unemployed men were often engaged in criminal activities and even those who were not, used to be labeled as criminals by police and the rest of the community. After young men started to get involved in meaningful activities of transforming public spaces that benefit the whole community and provided them with a small income, they turned away from crime. Community cohesion has strengthened, with less conflicts between the youths and the rest of residents. Peace and prosperity are therefore very related in these areas, with crime being often affected by unemployment. Planet has been impacted by pollution - air, water and soil, often resulting from lack of waste management, waste being discharged on open spaces, into the river or burnt. The initiative copes with this by introducing an organized waste collection, cleaning up spaces, and planting trees.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

We work with civil society initiatives and community leaders who are well established in their communities. They mobilize people in their areas to register their teams for the competition and to become community champions (CCs). CCs are local community leaders that act as ambassadors of CFC on ground - raising awareness about the competition, engaging discussion with local government, recruiting teams and mentoring them throughout the competition. CCs are trained in leadership, civic engagement and placemaking and share this knowledge further. We will recruit thirty of them, each being responsible for a specific area of Nairobi. They are key to ensure sustainability and to expand the scope of the citizens engagement. Moreover, we collaborate with urban professionals - UN-Habitat, Architectural Association of Kenya and Nairobi City County Government, who contribute with their expertise to the training of CCs and are part of the jury assessing the final transformations of spaces.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Nairobi has rather a young population ready to invest their time to work together with their friends on improving living environment in their community - whether they are university students or unemployed youths. Moreover, Nairobians are known for their entrepreneurial spirit: from our experience, young people in Nairobi do not lack innovative and creative ideas, that can be used during the transformation of spaces to maximize the social impact of the transformation and ensure its sustainability

Geographic Focus

At this phase, we target Nairobi - capital of Kenya.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

We need 12 months to implement the project idea - seven months of preparation phase, three months of implementation phase when the competition actually runs, and two months of the monitoring and evaluation.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Irene Márquez

Hi Robinson i liked your idea.

I think that the only way to protect and preserve the public spaces is making the comunity to embrace this kind of proyects.

Your main challenge, as i see it, is to make enauhg people to participate. Congrats.

Photo of Robinson Esialimba

Hello Thinkernauta Pomar ,

Thanks a lot for your comment and we are happy you like the idea! Indeed, it is very important for the community to "own" their public spaces and take responsibility for their management. This is even more crucial in rapidly growing cities in developping countries, where public authorities often lack resources and/or capacity to ensure quality management of public spaces in the entire city.