April 22, 2020

Announcing Shiriki, an open marketplace for ideas, innovations & initiatives fighting COVID-19

As part of our efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are excited to announce the Shiriki initiative. Shiriki (Kiswahili for Partnership) is a platform that is designed to serve as an open “marketplace” for ideas, solutions, innovations and initiatives that are tackling various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why we built Shiriki

The ambition for the platform is to provide a unified catalogue of the numerous initiatives that are being undertaken by different stakeholders and highlight ways in which those who are interested in supporting these efforts can contribute.    

We also hope that this will also be a place where partnerships can be formed e.g. where techies with a particular idea of a solution can plug into a community of expertise that can inform the design of the solution.  Or an organisation with donated good can find a partner for distribution.

COVID-19 has caused a global crisis of a greater scale than any other disease since the great plague.  The pandemic has brought the world to reconsider its systems and its preparedness for such shocks now and in the future.

To combat both the spread of the virus and the devastating impact it is having on the economy, many initiatives are emerging around the country by the government,  civil society and the private sector to address COVID-19 in a way that takes to account our local context. 

These initiatives range from organized charity activities to help the poor weather the socio-economic impacts of the virus, to citizen-driven efforts to organize campaigns to educate and share information about the virus and measures to take. In the private sector, particularly in the SMME space, we have seen many small businesses create interesting unique innovations that may help in fighting the virus. – from handwashing stations to using  3-D printing for medical equipment, to cottage-made soap and sanitizers, to locally designed face masks.

The challenge is that all of these commendable initiatives are being undertaken in silos and there is little awareness of what other initiatives are doing.  This is leading to missed opportunities for partnership and synergy and therefore wasted resources and time, as well as the inability for many of these solutions to scale.

Finally, by taking a local solutions lens we hope that this effort contributes towards the opportunity to boost local production, to keep SMMEs open and to get people back to work.

It is already being used

As released in its test phase, Shiriki is already being used by different people to list their challenges and others, especially professionals, are offering help to innovators and initiatives that need her.

Miss Diana Ashley, a storyteller, content creator and digital strategist, has offered to help small businesses that are trying to get into the social media space during this difficult time, and they are stuck. She has also offered to help tell stories, for those who need it.

Lawyers like Joe Ndirangu have offered their professional services to help small businesses mitigate any shocks arising from the pandemic and to ensure sustainability of their contractual relationships (rights & obligations).

Businesses like TungaTunga Handcrafts have offered some limited free high-quality cotton masks for volunteers/ organisations involved in supporting o vulnerable members of the society who are likely affected by COVID19 measures.

These powerful ways in which Kenyans are coming together to fight the Novel COVID-19 virus are inspiring and emblematic of the Kenyan spirit. Shiriki is a platform that seeks to catalogue these great partnerships.

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