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Leadership Living Center (LLC): Investing in safe spaces to transform communities

We can make a portion of the Kibera slum a safer and more empowering place for the students at the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy by constructing a Leadership Living Center (LLC). A LLC will provide immediate benefits including: short to long-term safe housing, access to academic resources and support, effective school-to-work programs, space for social interaction, and additional nutritious meals. Over time, a center of this nature can impact the larger community through financial inclusion services, a health and counseling center, and programming such as MenCare and BoysCare, which promote men’s involvement as equitable, non-violent fathers, caregivers, and siblings to achieve family well-being, gender equality and the reduction of violence.

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Together, the KGSA Foundation, a US-based nonprofit organization, and the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy (KGSA) provide free secondary education, artistic and athletic opportunities, and microfinance and financial literacy programming to over 130 girls and families annually who live in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. In only seven years, we have taken the idea that girls living in Kibera deserve the right to a free, quality secondary education and have made that a reality. It is because of our history and proven success that we are confident in the feasibility of this initiative and its lasting impact within the community.

KGSA students and families have been advocating for a voluntary housing and community center that will provide a safe place to live, after-school tutoring, academic support, on-site counseling, and community programming. In 2012, we purchased land directly next to the existing school and brought a team of community designers from the University of Minnesota to the school for a week-long discussion with students, staff, and community members. Through these design charettes, the KGSA community was able to detail the layout of the building and the amenities that were important to them and their community. In November of last year we partnered with Design Source, a Kenyan architecture firm who has offered to administer construction documentation and services. We launched a capital campaign to construct this initiative, and if funding comes through are on track to begin construction by February 2015.

Explain your idea in one sentence.

Leadership Living Centers provide an opportunity for young women to invest in their own physical, educational, mental, and emotional well being while giving them the tools to transform their lives.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

The Kibera slum, located in Nairobi, Kenya is a densely populated space with limited options of expanding. The community lacks spaces to gather, spaces to learn, spaces to heal, and spaces to rest. As population density continues to rise, so do the health and sanitation risks, the safety risks, inadequate housing stock, and proper educational facilities. Due to gender norms within Kenyan culture, these realities tend to disproportionately affect women and girls. They are the ones who tend to collect water at night alone, whose education is put last, and whose health is overlooked because of more imminent problems. The LLC project will address the community’s need for an intentional, multi-purpose space for young women.

Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?

Immediately, the LLC will provide safe housing for the roughly 20% of KGSA students who have been identified as living in “vulnerable and abusive” homes. In addition to this group of young women, the remaining 50 rooms will provide students in their junior and senior years with an opportunity to live in a distraction-free environment. This space will provide 24-hour access to academic tools and resources, in preparation for their Kenyan Certificates of Secondary Education exams. The LLC will also immediately provide 130 students and families with vocational training and social entrepreneurship skill-building classes. (If you are interested in reading a personal account from a KGSA student about the significance of this building and how it will change her world, please visit our blog featuring Sally's words at The ground floor and first floor of this building have been dedicated to expanding community programming. The plans include a small women’s health clinic and counseling service area. We are working with the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work on how this idea can transfer knowledge within the university to this community and provide valuable learning experiences for young professionals in the USA. We are also in discussions with Promundo-US, a nonprofit organization that is a leader in engaging men and boys to promote gender equality and end violence against women. We plan on using the LLC to help create a safe environment to implement programming such as MenCare and BoysCare, which promote men’s involvement as equitable, non-violent fathers, caregivers, and siblings in order to achieve family well-being, gender equality and reduce violence against women. Once our students are provided safe and secure housing, enhanced academic support, and the space to nurture their physical, mental, and emotional needs,there will be a dramatic rise in their examination scores, post-secondary school enrollment, and post-graduation employment along with a decrease in dropout rates. With regards to monitoring and evaluation (M&E), we are tracking both our students academic progress, as well as monitoring their overall development. By capturing each grade levels performance pre-building, we are able to assess the impact and change for each student after the building is constructed. We will also be able to compare the progress of those who live at the leadership center and those who do not. A baseline physical and mental health assessment will be conducted before the building and will be assessed every six months to identify the gaps that need to be addressed. In-depth qualitative surveys with the surrounding school community and with students who attend the school will be conducted along with quantitative surveys regarding the impact of the LLC for all users. This mixed-methods approach along with studying monthly user statistics will allow KGSA to tailor the LLC to the needs of the community as well. With regards to monitoring a MenCare or BoysCare program, it would be useful to collect data on the men and boys involved in the program and their thoughts and opinions on gender roles in Kibera, along with their daily activities and behavior patterns. After they have worked through the curriculum, we would administer an additional survey that tracks their changes in how they perceive the women in their world, their own behavior shifts, and how they engage with men and young boys differently.

Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?

This idea would best be implemented by a few partner organizations, utilizing a combination of strengths. The Kibera Girls Soccer Academy could provide the most important resource of all--community. The KGSA Foundation can help provide administrative support and fundraising potential. Design Source in Nairobi can provide high quality design services familiar with the local building economy and contractors. As a collective team the partnership seeks to utilize the unique talents each member brings to the table. In order to create an environment that is both accepted by the community, sound in its construction, and effective in its goals, we believe that multiple sources of expertise need to be involved in every aspect of the process.

Where should this idea be implemented?

The LLC should be implemented within the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya in collaboration with the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy at a site that has already been purchased and cleared for construction by local and federal authorities.

How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?

The existing school is a living prototype of the impact that effective programming and a structure of inclusion can provide within the Kibera community. This idea has been piloted in similar ways for the past five years within the existing school. The next phase of development will build off of the existing school’s impact and relationship within the respective community.
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Team (1)

Ellie's profile
Ellie Roscher

Role added on team:

"Ellie Roscher has been helping document the story of the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy for the past 2-1/2 years. She is a writer, educator, and community organizer."

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Attachments (4)


Marketing/Fundraising Packet for the Leadership Living Center


A sketch of the Leadership Living Center


Building Renderings from Design Source


The director of KGSA and the KGSA Foundation working with a designer


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Fantastic initiative, Ryan. Let's go for it.

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Unfortunately we were not chosen to advance. Thank you though, if you are interested in helping us raise the necessary funds (as all of the community work, engagement, and building renderings are complete) then please get in contact. Thank you again.

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