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Get Lively! Clean energy internship for Kenyan youth in informal settlements

A three-month entrepreneurship and energy internship for unemployed youth in Kenyan slums, culminating in a guaranteed employment offer.

Photo of Tania Laden - LivelyHoods
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We will provide a unique springboard to employment and entrepreneurship for unemployed youth across Kenyan slums, with a three-month, no-cost internship in sales and marketing. This experience will enable them to gain life-skills in leadership, entrepreneurship and personal finance, while also earning an income. They will also learn soft skills that are critical to employers, but are not addressed in the current education system and are therefore lacking in many unemployed youth, including punctuality, clear communication, teamwork and customer service. At the end of the internship, all trainees will graduate with a formal ceremony, a certificate, and an offer of a full-time job with LivelyHoods, or an opportunity to transition into a partner company in a number of sectors, including retail, security or finance. In Kenya’s slums, 70% of youth are sitting idle and unemployed (latest Kenyan census), with little support and few opportunities to bridge the gap between school and the professional world. The program will also empower interns to make an impact on their communities. LivelyHoods works with manufacturers of clean energy products, such as clean cookstoves and solar lamps, and interns will promote and sell such products to low-income households in and around their communities, reducing the negative environmental impact of traditional cooking and lighting technologies. This experience with clean energy will also give LivelyHoods graduates an edge in the job market.


We aim to provide the tools and experiences that allow young Kenyan men and women (18-35) from disadvantaged urban areas of Kenya to become aware of their ambitions and potential, and acquire the skills and opportunities to fulfill them. Those who stand most to gain from a professional experience and coaching program have a household income of less than $300 a month, have not completed secondary school, or finished in the past one to three years and are struggling to find suitable opportunities.


LivelyHoods was founded in 2011 by two young women, Tania and Maria, in search of ways to boost learning and economic opportunities for disadvantaged youth in Nairobi slums, and to overcome distribution bottlenecks. Today LivelyHoods is led by a team of Kenyans from the 10 communities we work in.


  • Kenya


  • Yes, for more than one year.


  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year


We gathered feedback from a group of unemployed youth in the informal settlement of Pipeline, Nairobi, who had never heard of an opportunity like this and were enthusiastic about it. However, they suggested we use a term other than ‘apprenticeship,’ which isn’t common in Kenya. Together, we decided on ‘internship’, which is more familiar and indicates career advancement and experience. We also learned that the products we sell are as important, if not more so, than the details of the job. Kenyans are familiar with sales as a profession, but our unique products are aspirational, modern and appealing to youth. This will, therefore, be a core focus of our communication with potential interns, and our training. The jobs we will transition youth into will be heavily sales-focused, as we received feedback on wanting to work in sales for major retail companies, or pursuing sales or management jobs with LivelyHoods. Other industries such as beauty, construction and security were not cited by our potential beneficiaries. The mentorship aspect of the training was also key, and we will extend the involvement of youth who graduate from the program as mentors for future interns.


Programs exist in Kenya to train youth, or transition them into jobs, but few allow them to earn an income during training, which prohibits low-income youth from participating. They also usually last only a few days, with very little follow-up once the program has come to an end. We not only equip youth with the knowledge and experience necessary to understand and express their own strengths and weaknesses, we also provide income generation that can equip them with crucial capital to start a business, pursue studies and improve their quality of life. We will continue our engagement with each intern through a six-month check-in after graduation, and invite them to mentor incoming interns. Our clean energy focus provides interns with an advantage over other school leavers and entry-level professionals. Environmental awareness and technical knowledge of clean energy products go well beyond the current curriculum, and taps into the growing alternative energy market. Clean cookstove and solar lamp companies have sold hundreds of thousands of products, but the addressable market is in the millions so there is still a huge opportunity for last mile distribution in the region.


Many youth programs are dependent on project-specific grants, which are not always available. Large-scale funding often goes to international NGOs with unrealistic requirements for the number of beneficiaries, and low cost per beneficiary, leading to shallow interventions. Instead, we focus on depth of impact, addressing the root causes of the problem. The mindset of unemployed youth is often geared towards survival and short-term rewards, rather than earning a sustainable income and fulfilling their potential. This is a mindset that has been shaped by years of uncertainty and poverty that can only be changed through consistency, daily contact, and self agency can this mindset shift.


We need to closely track the turnover rate of interns who may not be able to stick with the program through its entirety due to urgent financial needs, family or poor performance. We will work to minimize the risk of ‘drop-off,’ which can often go unexplained and would affect our impact, and call for an adjustment in the program length. We also want to define which elements of the program would be replicated at scale, either by us or by implementing partners across the continent. We will monitor the training feedback, internship performance with product consignment, and mentoring relationships, to determine which pieces of our model have the most impact and can be effectively scaled.


LivelyHoods has worked with youth in slums for almost six years, and trained over 2,200 individuals in sales and marketing. However, we have never offered a time-bound internship program with a graduation and pre-defined ‘next step’. This is a new idea, in order to provide a much-needed opportunity to young people who have never been employed and lack the skills, education and confidence necessary to enter the world of work without coaching and a support system. Our programs have focused on retaining youth as sales agents to earn a living until they decide to move on. We have little insight in to their future professional trajectories, though we have measured a substantial decrease in their household poverty level. This program will allow us to not only follow their progress, but link them directly to opportunities. We have been exploring partnership possibilities with major companies and institutions who are looking for ways to engage underprivileged youth in their workforce, but lack the resources and expertise to do so. We will engage with each partner organization to get feedback on individual performance and tenure once we begin placing our trainees in their jobs.


Of a 21-strong Kenyan team managing local branches, training and operations, 19 are former trainees who joined LivelyHoods looking for a way out of poverty and idleness, and were promoted, to take ownership of the program. We will continue to promote from within. Our Programs Manager has coordinated the training of 2,000 youth as part of a USAID-funded program, and our Operations Managers have been with LivelyHoods for five years, similarly overseeing training of over 2,000 LivelyHoods youth.

The objective of the ‘Get Lively!’ internship is to increase access to opportunities for disadvantaged youth who are often seen as ‘unemployable’ because of a lack of experience and soft skills. Our aim is to provide the skills and opportunities that mean that every young person who comes through the program will get ‘lively’, and contribute to their economy, provide for themselves and their families, and even go on to create and nurture opportunities for other young people. This can either be through the businesses they go on to work for or create, or by becoming mentors to incoming youth within the ‘Get Lively’ program.

Kenya faces an unemployment crisis that is exacerbated by stark gender and age-related inequalities. The youth unemployment rate in informal settlements has been estimated to be 70% based on the latest Kenyan census. Youth and women are most affected by unemployment and a lack of opportunities to secure a sustainable livelihood, as they often face significant barriers to employment and make up the greatest proportion of the low-income population in the country. These barriers include a limited number of formal jobs available, which create gaps in their employment history that are difficult to explain. This challenge is even greater for those who have not completed their formal education, or do not have practical skills demanded by the market. Women face additional hurdles as they often have lower levels of education, and many of their activities are restricted to the home.

LivelyHoods is a social enterprise that seeks to create opportunities for youth and women in urban informal settlements (slums) to earn a sustainable income and realize their employment potential. Since 2011 we have trained and employed youth and women to sell life improving, environmentally and socially beneficial products in their communities. In the five years since its launch, LivelyHoods has trained over 2,000 youth and women and created 920 jobs, ultimately creating more stable and prosperous socioeconomic conditions for Kenya’s slum communities.

We are now looking at how to springboard youth into the varied jobs they want, through an internship program that will equip them with employable skills that are not found in the school curriculum. Our three-month internship will be a unique, vocational and practical program, available free of charge, to youth aged 18-35. We will prioritize those who have not completed secondary school and who have no professional experience. Trainings will be conducted in the heart of Kenya’s informal settlements, from Nairobi, to Mombasa, Kisumu and Kericho, focusing on areas of high population density and high unemployment. They will take place in our dedicated training and product distribution centers, which will serve as the training hub for all interns, as well as a reference point for members of the community to access information about the internship at any time, and to purchase our sustainable energy products.

The Kenyan education system does not currently put an emphasis on promoting healthy communication, decision-making, work-readiness and confident presentation skills. We will therefore prioritise these skills in the ‘Get Lively’ curriculum. Youth gain business and social skills, as well as environmental awareness, and generate income during the internship.

We will foster a new type of entrepreneurship, combining guidance and coaching with the self-driven commissions-based payment for sales that encourages innovation.

All interns will be required to take ownership of their professional performance and advancement, and will receive one-on-one mentoring to discuss their ambitions, goals, areas of interest and next steps. Such one-on-one mentoring will be carried out on a weekly basis, in addition to daily group trainings and feedback sessions.

All of the trainers and managers leading LivelyHoods, who will be responsible for implementing this program, are former LivelyHoods trainees. In this way the original beneficiaries of the program become its leaders, inspiring future cohorts of young men and women to follow in their path of economic empowerment and self-determination.

During their time with LivelyHoods, the youth interns will provide access to modern conveniences that can save slum residents time and money that would otherwise be spent on fuel. The cookstoves we provide on consignment reduce indoor air pollution that causes respiratory problems, and drastically lower charcoal consumption. The solar lamps provide safer, brighter, and more reliable lighting than candles or kerosene, also saving households money. One clean cookstove can save a household over $115 a year, equivalent of up to two months household budget for a low-income household.

At the end of each internship period, we will reward all of that hard work, and celebrate the next steps that the interns will take! A graduation ceremony, open to family and friends, will also unite employers, corporate and SME partners, who will partner with LivelyHoods to absorb a number of LivelyHoods graduates into their companies. As LivelyHoods is providing professional skills to young unemployed individuals with potential, we will identify major employers who are looking for such youth to bring into their companies. Retail companies, security providers, beauty institutions, the hospitality sector, and construction companies will all be target sectors for this sort of partnership.


In five years, will we be offering this internship in 38 communities across Kenya, with 3,000 youth having graduated from the program, and working to create a world in which every young person in slums has opportunities to work in, and be a part of, a safe, healthy and prosperous community. How can a young person shift their mindset from having the objective of ‘getting by’ to aspiring to more? At what point does ‘getting by’ become insufficient, and ambition and initiative become key drivers?


  • Between $100,000 and $500,000


  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work


  • Less than 6 months


Our values include openness, optimism, initiative, and involving and appreciating every individual in the process of creating the impact we envisage in slum communities. This openness translates into the way we seek to collaborate and co-create, and eventually to replicate with like-minded innovators. Amplify embodies these values, and we intend to implement them together in a program that will truly improve the lives of the young people at the heart of LivelyHoods’ vision.

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Photo of Chelsea Takamine

Hi Tania and Team! Amplify and our experts have some comments and questions for you - we encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your idea.

This idea is desirable because it is aimed at young people in urban slums who are at real risk of being left behind, or falling into dangerous situations just to survive. It appears to be based on sound consultation with young people and grounded in an understanding of the current and future local labour market.

How does your aim to complete a 6 month follow up work in practice? How have built links with local businesses to provide a range of job opportunities? - How do users manage in the first month without receiving a payment?

We’re also interested to know how you intend to follow up with young people up and whether you are setting any targets for employment afterward.

In case you missed it, OpenIDEO and Amplify hosted a Storytelling Office Hour - Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and help make it come to life! Don't forget - December 18th is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

Looking forward to reading more!

Photo of Tania Laden - LivelyHoods

Hi @Chelsea , thanks for sharing these great questions with us, which really help to add some color to our idea, and elaborate on some key elements of how it will work in practice.

We already follow up with every young person we train, either over the phone or through in-person interviews. Maintaining contact is usually something that our trainees look for, to find out about further opportunities, share their progress and keep in touch with their trainers, colleagues and friends.

Our aim is for at least 80% to transition into employment after the program, with about 50% working directly with LivelyHoods. We have already established links with small businesses, large corporations and growing SMEs, which are all rapidly expanding their work force, and have trouble identifying young candidates with work-readiness skills and professional experience.

In the first month, interns will earn commissions, bonuses and a basic salary that they will receive at the end of the month, though they receive lunch and allowances for transport and mobile phone credit to allow them to carry out the internship activities in the first month. This is important preparation for the world of work, and a step away from the day-to-day cash in hand practices of casual labor and the infamous 'hustle' on the streets that many are used to.

We’ll be sure to incorporate these points in our explanations above! Thanks to you and the team, and all the experts involved, for the valuable feedback.

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