Engaging with Kenyans to Improve Development
The USAID Kenya and East Africa Mission holds a critical position in a region experiencing growing public and private foreign investment and U.S. government initiatives, with a portfolio of more than $646 million.
During the four-year Development Outreach and Communications Support project from 2018 to 2022, MSI, a Tetra Tech company, helped drive strategic alignment between public outreach and organizational and programmatic objectives.
MSI leveraged our deep experience in East Africa and understanding of the bridge between international development and strategic communications, to help USAID modernize the communications function within one of the most high-profile missions in Africa.
Working on an on-demand basis, we acted as a "mini creative agency" from strategy to product development to implementation for USAID/Kenya and East Africa. In a 2022 survey, staff expressed that "strategic engagement" and "quality guidance and support" were core strengths of the Mission's communications efforts.
MSI significantly contributed to seminal mission efforts, including attracting new, non-traditional partners; facilitating consultations across Kenya to integrate local voice into the 2020 – 2025 Kenya Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS); and developing the complementary multi-year communications component.
Throughout the project, MSI led 188 photo and video projects that captured positive and authentic stories of Kenyans and presented them in a compelling way. These assets are now a part of the Mission's creative suite and can be used to support future communications products and campaigns. Most importantly, the project was deeply engaged in the Mission's diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility initiatives and championed discussions about how to make the Mission's storytelling process more inclusive and sensitive to the intrinsic power dynamics.
Social media was an important part of our work to engage with local voices in Kenya, where there are 11.75 million active social media users (21% of the population). Through MSI’s end-to-end management of the Mission's social media handles, followership has grown by 72% on Twitter and 13% on Facebook. USAID Kenya remains one of the most active and followed USAID mission pages globally.
MSI's campaign focus and utilization of Kenyan "influencers" have elevated and increased conversations around development issues. As a result, these discussions have involved audiences that USAID would not have been able to reach otherwise. As a result, the project developed a rigorous selection and "value-add" analysis that the Mission can use to assess the benefits and risks of working with potential influencers.
After the onset of COVID-19, we pivoted in a matter of days to support the Ministry of Health in developing national risk communication and community engagement strategy. Alongside other development partners, MSI supported critical gaps in providing credible public information. Through these efforts, USAID boosted its reach to youth and rural communities through new local partners and utilized fresh approaches, including short messaging service (SMS), advanced social media research, and comic books.
As vaccines became more available through U.S. Government donations, MSI worked with the Nairobi County government to design a vaccine demand campaign to increase uptake in urban communities most affected by the virus. MSI helped define the county government's needs and proposed a method and scope of engagement between USAID and the county, ultimately reaching 2.6 million people through behavior change communications activities and community engagement.
With results and outcome-focused management, the team exhibited high productivity and responsiveness to mission needs while assembling a body of research and data illustrating the potential and value of communications that has clear implications on the DOC function for USAID missions worldwide.