INCLUDE Platform

CBOs within the official development aid system in Kenya

Towards inclusive partnerships: the political role of community based organizations and the official development aid system

CBOs are organized by, and thus represent and provide support to, marginalized and sometimes criminalized groups in society. Their local embeddedness, connectedness and legitimacy allows them to address community objectives in targeted and specific ways. The ODA system increasingly funds CBOs, because it is believed that CBOs have the capacity to change the power relationships in local institutions, thereby contributing to inclusive and sustainable development.

This study will investigate the daily practices of two CBOs in Nairobi, Kenya that have significantly contrasting positions in the ODA system: one is fully integrated into this system, whereas the other receives small amounts of funding intermittently from local funders. The study seeks to identify the factors that enable and constrain the political roles and potential of CBOs. It explores the operational realities in which the CBOs operate and analyses the ‘chaos of urgencies’ they face, including donor demands, economic emergencies and the social emergencies of members. By focusing on the everyday dynamics and practices of CBOs, this research embeds answers to vital policy questions concerning:

  • the type of support CBOs need
  • the criteria for establishing eligibility for support
  • the relationship between local contexts and CBOs’ political roles

The research will use qualitative methods to compare the different positions of the two CBOs in relation to the ODA system. A literature review will be combined with empirical research in cooperation with two CBOs in Kenya: HOYMAS and the Ghetto Foundation. HOYMAS is a CBO that advocates for sex workers’ rights and helps young gay male sex workers who live with AIDS/HIV to adhere to their medication, take care of their health generally and engage in economic empowerment activities. HOYMAS has a long-standing funding relationship with AIDSFONDS, a strategic partner of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, hence it has a solid position within the ODA system. Ghetto Foundation is a CBO based in one of Nairobi’s most volatile and crime-ridden urban settlements. It is a member of the Coalition of Grassroots Human Rights Defenders, a national social movement. Ghetto Foundation helps young men and women from urban settlements develop livelihoods outside crime and terrorism. Ghetto Foundation relies heavily on contributions from friends, income generating activities (such as consulting) and volunteer work – their position is outside the ODA system. Both cases will provide rich descriptions through which to analyse and portray the processes, relationships, obstacles, and enabling factors in their political roles. The research is structured as a collaboration between academics, community researchers, and CBOs and their members. As a result, the research outcomes are expected to provide knowledge that supports policymakers working in the ODA system, while simultaneously strengthening the capacity of participating CBOs.


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  • British Institute in Eastern Africa
  • Ghetto Foundation
  • Health Options for Young Men on HIV/AIDS/STI (HOYMAS)
  • Radboud University Nijmegen
  • VU University Amsterdam

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