Credit: Photo: © HiiL
Innovations that have scaled up and achieved financial sustainability can provide insight on what defines a ‘good’ innovation. HiiL Accelerator has recognised that innovations have potential to grow and reach sustainability when they have a strong team, a business model that enables them to become financially sustainable, are realistically scalable beyond their current market, and have an evidence-based impact model. For the innovators, innovation means hard work and long-term commitment. An enabling public sector and support from the government can make a big difference to the ecosystem, especially on innovations that operate on inherently public sectors such as criminal justice. The government and its judicial bodies can also support innovation by creating time and space, allowing out-of-the-box thinking, and welcoming innovators to the field with an open mind.
In recent years, Kenya’s innovation ecosystem – including actors from the public and private sectors – has started to explore how justice innovation can support access to justice in Kenya. Justice innovation has not yet taken the legal system by the storm. Still relatively unknown, justice innovations have struggled to define their ideas, business models, obtain funding, and provide services at scale. Despite the challenges, there are bright spots to consider: there are examples of justice innovations that have reached stability and keep delivering daily access to justice. Many of these existing innovations stem from community-based approaches, taking a proactive, holistic, and local approach to prevention and resolution. Others are more targeted in that they are designed to address specific types of crime. Both types of innovations have the potential to support Kenya’s Alternative Justice Systems (AJS) policy.
Below we discuss some examples of Kenyan innovations which keep supporting the realisation of good criminal justice. The examples present well-known innovations which have gained attention not only locally, but also in international research literature. To collect the examples, we made use of academic research articles, online articles, and our own database of Kenyan innovations.
Some crime innovations are part of a broader government shift towards more peaceful and participatory ways of preventing and resolving crime. “This move came in the wake of widespread intercommunity violence, rising crime rates, and the al-Shabaab terrorist attacks in Kenya” and has resulted in the creation of so-called “hybrid” institutions at the community level over the past two decades. These hybrid institutions are modeled on traditional modes of conflict resolution and prevention but developed and rolled out by the state. Community policing initiatives like Nyumba Kumi are intended to create “synergies between state and non-state actors, institutions, and organisations in conflict management and crime prevention” and “allow the different systems to draw strength from one another.”
Kenya’s shift towards hybrid approaches to crime and access to justice can most recently be seen in the Alternative Justice Policy (AJS) launched by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, which aims to “promote robust cooperation and harmony between Alternative Justice Systems and the Court system, as well as enhance access to and expeditious delivery of justice.”
Many innovations in Kenya also make use of internet communication and mobile technology. In recent years, the capital city of Nairobi “has experienced rapid advancement in the use of mobile technology and is today considered a leading hub for ICT innovation in Africa. Open source software such as Ushahidi…have put Nairobi on the global map as a place where tech savvy youth from across Kenya, and around the world, come together to develop innovative solutions to a wide range of social, economic and security challenges.” Increasingly, internet communication and mobile technology is being used to also prevent and resolve crime.
This approach to crime innovation has considerable potential to improve access to justice for all. Mobile phones in Kenya are increasingly internet-enabled, and mobile phone ownership in Nairobi – including the wider slum population – is “virtually universal” with “stable network coverage throughout the city.” Even in rural areas, mobile technology has proven useful and effective for improving home security, preventing livestock theft, and strengthening neighbourhood cohesion.
Below we highlight eight creative innovations that have made an impact preventing or resolving crime problems in Kenya. These examples range from community justice innovations addressing petty crime and theft to those tackling more serious and intractable crime problems such as sexual violence, bribery and extrajudicial killings.
Nyumba Kumi – or “ten households” in Swahili – is a crime prevention initiative that anchors community policing at the household level.
Dandora Transformation League is a non-profit organisation that aims to bring about social change by transforming public spaces and empowering youth.
The Kituo Cha Sheria Legal Advice Centre (“KITUO") is the oldest, most experienced legal aid provider and human rights NGO in Kenya. It aims to empower the poor and marginalised and increase equity and access to justice for all.
160 Girls Project is a long-term initiative that aims to hold perpetrators accountable for the epidemic sexual violence experienced by girls in Kenya by working with the law, the police, and local communities.
Mulika Kenya is a community-based crime monitoring and reporting system aimed at promoting and facilitating citizen participation in national security. It does this through Mulika Hongo, a technology platform that allows citizens to anonymously report crime, bribery and corruption by any government official.
Ushahidi, which means “testimony” in Swahili, is a crowdsourcing online mapping system created to document incidents of violence and help improve the bottom-up flow of information in civil society.
Sisi Ni Amani Kenya (SNA-K) – which means “We Are Peace” in Kiswahili – is an NGO that uses a combination of traditional and innovative approaches to communication and dialogue to provide civic education and prevent violence in Kenyan communities.
Missing Voices is a group of organisations whose mission is to end enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions in Kenya. An extrajudicial execution is a violation of international law and can be defined as a killing by governmental authorities without the authorisation of any judicial proceeding or legal process.
The examples above provide outlooks to what innovation can do at its best. Justice innovation does not come only in one type of a package, but stems from an out-of-the-box idea, enthusiastic entrepreneurial mindset, and willingness to improve people’s lives. As we can see from the baseline, the justice innovation market is far from being saturated. However, recognising a viable opportunity is not always easy. Next, we will discuss where the current opportunities for innovations lie, as recognised by the justice providers from informal and formal justice systems.