The Start of a New Season

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Apple Think Different ad campaign, 1997

In cased you missed it, here’s the announcement made earlier this week on my transition to a new season in my life and career.

Leaving my position at the Open Institute is a bittersweet experience. Although I will no longer be serving as Deputy Executive Director, I will continue to be available to the organisation in my new role as a member of the Board. In the last two years I have been blessed to work with a gifted and very dedicated team.  I have had the honour of developing close relationships with everyone in the Open Institute family, as well as our partners from across the globe. I have celebrated every success with the team, and we’ve worked to overcome challenges that came along when things did not go according to script.

I will be taking these experiences and lessons learned to my new role as Executive Director at the Local Development Research Institute (LDRI). LDRI seeks to support African governments and non-government stakeholders in participatory implementation of the continent’s development agenda. LDRI works with parliaments, political parties and the executive arm of governments in addition to academia and civil society. There are of course areas where LDRI’s work and that of Open Institute are congruent and I therefore look forward to continued collaboration in this respect.

During my time at Open Institute I was provided with the opportunity to continue work on an idea I began in 2012 as a fellow with Code4Kenya. The FindMySchool project became KCPE Trends which contains data on examination performance for Kenyan primary schools from 2006 to 2011. In 2014, we were in discussions with the Kenya National Examinations Council to take it to the next phase, talks which I hope will continue to a favourable conclusion for the benefit of Kenyans. It was great to see a similar initiative begin in Tanzania and I hope the lessons learned in both projects will be useful for those looking to continue work in this area.

The working environment at Open Institute also allowed me to be one of the “crazy ones”. In 2013 I developed the program that eventually became Open Institute’s devolution support program with the input of the team and the valuable insights and support of the Council of GovernorsOpen County has great promise for both the county governments and the people the government serves by providing them with information on how resources are invested in their locality. As the program enters its second phase and the online platform going live in March 2015, we will have demonstrated the willingness of county governments and national government agencies to support devolution, transparency and accountability. As a tool that supports public participation, my hope is that decision making at the county shall be more participatory as citizens find the information they need to understand the issues and contribute to resource allocation decisions.

I also greatly enjoyed working with other stakeholders on Kenya’s participation in the Open Government Partnership. The dedication of the team at the ICT Authority to supporting open government in line with the Jubilee government’s manifesto has been commendable and inspiring. I look forward to continuing my engagement in the space and learning from the growing community of stakeholders in Kenya and around Africa.

And who can forget our labor of love. Almost as old as the organisation has been in existence, Open Duka is by far the most ambitious effort to publish data on Kenyan entities and the relationships that connect them. Started in late 2012, Open Duka has been an invaluable source of wisdom on data curating, visualisation and partnerships. The support of the National Council for Law Reporting (KenyaLaw) and Hivos have allowed it to come this far. In the next few months the platform shall contain a small portion of land ownership data available from public sources which, although small in the larger scheme of things, will be the largest public source in Kenya. This past week Open Duka was awarded an Honesty Oscar by ONE.org and I look forward to hearing about many more accolades in the future as Open Institute continues to grow it.

Although I am leaving my current position, I will still be here, in the global community of practitioners working to make governments more user friendly and citizens better at contributing to their governance. I continue to echo the call the ANC made so long ago, a call that drives my work.

The people shall govern.

You can still find me in the usual places; wherever great coffee is sold in Nairobi, here at muchiri.com or on Twitter @muchiri.