From Nairobi and Back Again

Global ideas, local impact.

I was first introduced to this motif at my public high school library in Kenya. I was amid a culture shock dealing with the consequence of my first ‘adult’ decision. I had chosen to go to a public school in the hopes that this path would lead me to a top grade at the end of my high school education. That was the goal! The everyday reality, however, was less inspiring. It led me to confront for the first time not only what a privileged upbringing I had had but also what little I knew of the world around me. As a teenager, I was unsure of my future and all the potential paths between the local and global chasm. How am I supposed to change the world for good? How can one person truly understand the world? How can change transcend borders, cultures and histories? Throughout the next decade, the words global ideas and local impact followed me: on the international student section of university brochures, on conference invites, during speeches, books and even podcasts. All highlighting the divides between the west and the rest, developed countries and those less developed, public and private sector, academic theory and practice, luddite and technophile, and the list continues. As I studied international development, I recognized that facing the complexities of these questions requires us to cross these chasms. We cannot always be the experts, and partnerships and teams are the key to our collective success.

When the opportunity arose to support on the development of a formal partnership between DevGlobal and DevAfrique, I was elated. I had been in meetings with DevAfrique consultants before and experienced an unexplained comfort. A glimpse at interactions that I may have in the future. Knowing that in a couple of months, I will be back living in Kenya, the opportunity to begin laying the foundation of that transition quelled an anxiety I often silenced. I had seen how much our work had been enriched through collaborative efforts. From developing communities of practice to foster continued use of geodata for health and continued innovation, to supporting country-level testing of guidance notes, working with DevAfrique showcased how interconnected our work and goals are. Our shared commitment to impact, respect and teamwork has become our brand.

Still, this is just the beginning. Analysis of transnational development has proven that it is not enough to just create those partnerships but also nurture them. So new questions arise. How do we create a partnership that is not performative or exploitative? What does true collaboration look like between the organizations? How do we tackle the global power dynamics at play? Sometimes the answers seem close other times impossible, however, what is paramount is developing a space for dialogue so we can find them.

In the future, I’m excited to write more about this partnership and how we collaborate across oceans to think globally and act locally.