A Decade of Community Inclusion Currency Programs with the Red Cross

Tags: Red Cross, CIC, programming, refugees, CAV

For the past ten years, the Red Cross, in partnership with Grassroots Economics (GE), has been at the forefront of a transformative and ancient model for community empowerment. At the heart of the Community Inclusion Currency (CIC) program are Community Asset Vouchers (CAVs), a humble approach where community members pledge an amount of their goods or services (subject to auditing by local elders) and create vouchers. These vouchers are digitally published via Celo Blockchain as instruments of Economic Commons on the Sarafu.Network (and operable without the Internet on feature phones. CAVs circulate within the community for rotational aid, as a general medium of exchange, and are sold by community members for capital raising. A unique feature of these vouchers is gradual expiration (demurrage), prompting their return to the issuing group’s community fund over time. Here, they contribute to redistribution strategies, often celebrated at end-year Jubilees.

The Red Cross’s CIC programs have reached across five distinct areas in Kenya – Dadaab and Kalobeyei (refugee camps), Mukuru and Kisauni (informal settlements), and Kinango (rural villages). Each location unravels a unique narrative of community strength, resilience, and transformation.

Kalobeyei: Embracing Mutual Aid through Jubilee Celebrations

image Kalobeyei Community Asset Voucher Launch in May

At the heart of Kalobeyei refugee camp, five groups have embraced the CIC program, supported by dedicated field officers and champions. The concept of rotational labor thrives here, with each group partaking in two mutual aid activities weekly. A Jubilee celebration at the end of each cycle provides a time of reflection and preparation for the journey ahead, acknowledging their dedication and achievements and clearing debts. (See La-Paix group data to dashboard) This is bringing together generations of people across several cultures to support each other.

Dadaab: Strengthening Community Ties through Goob

image Training session at Dadaab

Mirroring Kalobeyei, our efforts have revolved around engaging with five community groups. Through CIC training and a visioning process, we have fortified their resilience. This empowering approach enables each group to define action steps towards their specific goals, leveraging the age-old Somali practice of rotational labor known as Goob. Since February, they have been employing vouchers for exchanging goods and services, further solidifying the community bonds that characterize these communities. (See Khairat group to dashboard)

Mukuru: Empowering Livelihoods through CIC

image Tree planting activity at Mukuru school

In Mukuru Kayaba, Nairobi, the CIC program is progressively transforming lives across three groups. Two of these groups have incorporated rotational labor activities, including cleanups, community health awareness initiatives, and household chores. These activities foster unity while also equipping group members with skills, thereby generating livelihood opportunities.

The Mukuru CIC program began right before COVID 19 hit and was pushed by health care workers and people with disabilities to create support for that tough period. (see Crescent unit to dashboard)

Kisauni: Anticipating the Jubilee with Vibrant Enthusiasm

image Market Day With Ache group in Kisauni

Our work in Kisauni involves a dynamic community group buzzing with activity, largely revolving around rotational labor. Diligent in their use of vouchers, this group eagerly anticipates a grand Jubilee celebration, a tribute to their achievements in mutual aid.

Kinango: Fostering Resilience amidst Challenges

image Celebrating an jubilee in Kinango

The CIC journey in Kinango, initiated on the tail end of a Red Cross intervention in 2012, now thrives across 23 villages surrounding Kinango location, reviving the practice of Mwerya (the Duruma and Mijikenda term for rotational aid) for communal agroforestry work. Former Red Cross field staff and volunteers have sustained and spread this concept for ten years, demonstrating unwavering dedication to the cause. As part of their Mwerya practice using CAVs several groups are doing water harvesting, zaipits, sunken beds thus seeing some increase on food security. Others are working on environment restoration through establishment of tree nursery with an aim of planting them on their farms's and homestead. Others are working on water catchment technology such as water pans thus increasing the availability of water for both domestic and livestock use. Others do collective poultry farming thus having a healthy community through eating of eggs and proteins for the meat.

image CIC network visualization shows each dot as a household and each line being a recent exchange of CAVs and each color being a different CAV. Clusters are groups that trade often with each other. This Celo blockchain transparent data enables communities to issue their own CAVs and measure progress.

With the invaluable contribution of the Danish Red Cross in co-developing a CIC program quality toolkit, strategic management by the Norwegian Red Cross, and the diligent implementation by Kenya Red Cross' innovation team, we have steered a transformative course with these communities - catalyzing millions of dollars worth of mutual support that continues to circulate. We take enormous pride in our decade-long association with the Red Cross, which has incited significant changes in these regions while successfully reviving resilient traditional practices.

CIC programs go beyond development or financial empowerment initiatives; they are a testament to the strength of community, unity, and resilience. By helping each other, we foster a world where everyone thrives. Here's to the continuation of this inspiring journey of community empowerment!