Tags: Kitui, Kenya, WFP, launch, training
There is so much to catch up on it’s hard to know where to start! Last week saw our field-teams celebrating the first 14 launches of local economies with Kenyan communities. Grassroots Economics has reached an enormous milestone achievement during the past days and weeks by extending our capabilities for supporting community issuance of Community Inclusion Currencies (CICs), specific to the local context. We can now enable communities to design and issue their very own vouchers. This is a major advancement of financial inclusion and economic empowerment.
How did we get there? What happened? What have we done? What have we achieved?
Since January 2020 the software development team has been rewriting our open source software, and we finally launched it! This enables us to create individual vouchers on our own entirely independent humanitarian blockchain (Kitabu) without needing the internet or users to pay gas fees.
Operations and Legal brief
For even longer we’ve been working on our training and community engagement methods, learning from mistakes and sound advice. We created a Commons legal structure, encompassing novel Kenyan legislation for data protection and privacy rights,relevant for our beneficiaries. We also developed new and improved existing training materials.
(above) Wendo-wa-Makaya group along with Emmanuel Mbui from Grassroots Economics marching through the marketplace announcing the launch of their CIC. They are holding placards on which they display their unique CIC name and account number for people to trade with them using feature phones.
1st Public Launches in Kenya
In the last week we used the new software and methods to help 14 communities in Kitu Kenya publicly launch their OWN Community Inclusion Currencies (CICs).
These communities were trained in resource mapping, experiential games and visualization exercises that help them develop a commons of their collective service offerings and use our instruments (their own CIC) to help them exchange these sustainably with each other.
The communities (starting with an issuing group of ~20 local businesses, farmers, teachers, service providers) decide on a unique name and symbol for their CIC as well as a unit of account. We have seen water, transport, onions, tomatoes and eggs used as units of accounts - generally with a market value such that one CIC = approximately 10 Kenyan Shillings of those goods and services. Then each member in the issuing group commits to redeeming the CIC for a specific amount of their goods or services. Their ability to do so is audited by the community, authorities and Grassroots Economics and CICs are created (on the Kitabu blockchain) and distributed to the issuing members by Grassroots Economics. These CIC are essentially vouchers (credit obligations) redeemable as payment for their goods and services. They are then spent into circulation and can begin to act as a medium of exchange (currency).
So far the groups have already made hundreds of transactions of goods and services among each other and their greater community, with the support of local elders and chiefs. Often this is unlocking stagnate debts and helping people re-form stable reciprocal relationships. Each community’s CICs also gradually expire minute by minute accruing to 2% a month, like a holding tax, in order to stimulate circulation and avoid hoarding / accumulation. These expired CICs automatically get moved into a community fund that is controlled by an elected body in the community for local projects. This way they have their own form of taxation which supports market making, mediation and generally helps the network to continue.
Note that Sarafu is also still in usage and acts as a form of network and training voucher. Sarafu is also redeemed by Grassroots Economics for our services, training, mediation, auditing analytics and Voucher creation.
Stats so far:
Sarafu (SRF) and the 14 other CICs issued so far have already started on strong footing on the Kitabu Blockchain.
Note stats above include migrations from the older system as well as the creation of and distribution of new CICs
From 2020-2022 until a few weeks ago - Sarafu was the only voucher people had. Trade volume during this time reached a total of roughly 3 million USD.
We were able to create multiple vouchers but were depending on proprietary technologies at affordable cost and exposed to the influence and limitations of such generic service providers. During this time we started programming our own blockchain and voucher issuance software in preparation to launch Sarafu, tailor made for support of communities in developing and crisis-prone economies.
We used security printed paper vouchers. New technology helped us reduce the cost of voucher creation via digital vouchers, towards which we worked as of 2017.
1st Programs Building Outside Kenya
We are working with teams in South Africa and Cameroon to implement programs there and hope to have the 1st few CICs launched there in a few months. There is still a lot to do on the software to make it so anyone in the world can easily make their own Community Inclusion Currencies (CICs). If you are interested in helping please get in touch!
Top regards to the Grassroots Economics team working on Kitui and the software team! Major thanks to the World Food Program for supporting a Randomized Control Trial, Innovation Norway and UNICEF for supporting software development and pilots, Danish, Kenyan and Norwegian Red Cross Societies for helping us with financial innovation and leading field teams.