Sisi ni Amani
IN 2008 AND 2009, the sudden eruption of tribal violence during the elections in Kenya rocked the country, pitting neighbors against each other, killing more than 1,000 people, and displacing as many as 500,000 more. One year later, in 2010, Rachel Brown graduated from Tufts University with a bachelor of arts degree in international relations and founded an organization called Sisi ni Amani in Nairobi. She had been to Kenya the year before as part of a studies abroad program. She went back because she thought there was a chance she could help prevent a repetition of that election violence in the next national election, scheduled for 2013. She hoped to increase Kenyan citizens’ engagement with the way their country is run and help them understand it better. “Sisi ni amani” means “we are peace” in Kiswahili. Like Josh Treuhaft, Rachel Brown was compelled by a passion she could not ignore to fix a problem far beyond the scope of anything she had ever contemplated. And Brown, like Treuhaft, carved her own path without a formal plan in place, by using real-time learning from communities in Kenya. By enlisting their participation and scaling up one step at a time, she was able to create a calibrated, relevant, and ultimately successful program. With help from thousands of new collaborators, through a ripple effect that spread like a peace virus from friend to friend and village to village, she succeeded, despite her youth and relative inexperience, relying on insights from people on the ground and large-scale community organizing.