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Chama beta

Building on the existing informal cooperative society (Chama) model to create and explore different pathways to youth employment.

Photo of Wambui Kabue
21 16

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I went to visit a farm recently not far from my home last month and as we were walking down with the owner we saw a child about 5years old run off. The owner went over to the tea pickers and asked them what the child was doing in the farm. They have to be very careful not allow children on the farm because of strict child labour laws that incur heavy fines. I asked why the child wasn't in school and the farm owner explained that despite the tea pickers getting fairly good wages they invested most of it into the Chama, leaving little money for school fees. 

The Chama is a popular form of an informal cooperative society in Kenya. People form these groups mainly for to generate extra income during the course of the year. The groups can chose to invest the money usually in buying land or distribute it in a merry go round manner. The group members set the rules, vet new members and agree on the overall agenda for direction for the group.

This got me thinking. What if some of the contributions for the chama were set aside for an education fund for all the members children. If this was possible could the chama model be used to address other problems like youth unemployment? By pooling resources and knowledge can the chama be a conduit, incubator, maker space, built by the youth and supported by the local community from parents, guardians, well wishers to small business owners looking for interns and big industry leaders who are interested in corporate responsibility.

What are the next steps for implementing this idea?

I will put together a tool kit on how to start a chama beta outlining possible uses for the group as well as possible out comes. Then I will approach youth in my community, friends who I know personally to start two prototype groups. The first group will consist of people who are already in a chama and the second group will consist of people who have no priorexperience in a chama. The prototype groups will run on a monthly basis and each group will have set tasks that they need to accomplish before the next meeting. I think a 5 month timeline should be enough time to get feedback as to where we need to make adjustments or the feasibility of Chama beta.

Briefly describe a user scenario which illustrates the specific need that your idea is trying to solve.

Carol is from a rural part of the country but was able to come to the city and complete a business course at a small college. Life is very expensive in the city and her parents expect that now she has a good education she can fend for herself. The college requires that she gets an attachment in order for her to officially graduate. Carol recently saw an advertisement on a school notice board that emphasized the benefits of joining a local chama beta chapter for recent graduates and students looking for internships. Carol calls the number on the advert and is informed the the next meeting will be on the following Saturday and is welcome to sit in. During the chama beta meeting the group leaders have prepared a packet with information regarding how the groups work and in particular how this particular group works and how the vetting and membership process works should she wish to join. She also has the opportunity to interact with local youth and make new friends who could also help here in her job search.

Complete a User Experience Map. This will help you visualize how a potential end user will interact with your idea. Once you have completed it, upload it using the Upload File button at the end of this form. PDF files preferred.

  • Completed

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

This idea would be open to primary going children all the way through to university students. I think it's important to include children early on as the interaction will boost confidence and creativity. However membership would not be restricted to people in the informal sector as there are a lot of people for one reason or another who are unable to complete their education but have skills and knowledge and are willing to join groups or form their own and actively participate. So this idea would also address people who want to get back on track but don't know where to go to get information, support or encouragement. The local community will also benefit from a generation of youth that is pro-active and willing to engage on many other issues facing the community. Local businesses will also benefit because they can source staff through the group by offering incentives such as work placement or donations to the group.

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

If banks are beginning to take notice by offering products specifically targeted at people in informal co-ops then I think it's possible for this model to help address youth unemployment. By forming or building on existing youth groups to specifically address the challenges they meet while looking for employment will: 1)Act as a learning centre for youth to find solutions on things like how to write a resume, how to dress appropriately for an interview, a place to share first hand knowledge with their peers of what happens during an interview 2) The group can act as a 'job board' for both prospective employees and employers 3) The group can act as an incubator for members who wish to develop their own business 4) The group can be a springboard for people who want to make connections 5) the group can act as place to find encouragement and share ideas.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I would approach several people in my local youth church, that has a mix of people who have finished high school, are waiting to go to university are enrolled in a local college, just finished university and are looking for work or are already working. The group would be small and share a common goal. I would hope to learn what motivates unemployed youth to find employment, what they are looking for or expect from employers, what kind of group dynamics work and what don't work.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

I think there's a lot that can be learnt, however there are pitfalls that may be obvious but that I have missed or not explained well enough.

The idea emerged from:

  • An individual

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • Keen to prototype it, find partners and pursue implementation


Join the conversation:

Photo of Shane Zhao

Hi Wambui, my blog featuring your new experience map just went up. Check it out here!:

In addition to your experience map, I like how you've created a detailed flow chart describing the type of users and what they will gain from joining a Chama Beta. To echo Meena's comment, it would be great to hear more about how Chama Beta would work on a day to basis once a user joins. For example, who will be teaching young people how to write a resume? How will employers get in touch with young applicants through Chama Beta? What specific type of resources will young entrepreneurs find?

Perhaps another experience map detailing the end to end journey of a new Chama Beta member would help us understand that part of the story. It would also be great if you gain any additional feedback from real potential users in the local community!

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