Moving from Vision to Reality – The GoDown’s Her City Her Streets Project

A Partnership with Nairobi City County

As an emerging anchor institution in Nairobi City County, The GoDown is ready to forge a partnership with the City County Government for the coming five years, in areas that align with County needs and rising opportunities. While The GoDown has collaborated successfully with the County in the past, the two parties are yet to enter a substantive MOU. As the City formulates the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) for the period 2023 – 2027, this presents us with a solid opportunity to partner together.

At the end of September 2022, The GoDown with other partner organizations and residents’ associations held a first engagement with the County on the upcoming County Integrated Development Plan. Public participation in this process is most important as the CIDP is the Plan which steers the County’s activities over a medium term of 5 years. Its contents form the commitments of the County for the term, often with little room to work outside of the plan once adopted.

At a follow-on meeting with the Nairobi City County’s Director of Donor Coordination & Stakeholder Engagement, outputs from the September stakeholder meeting were presented, as well as activities planned by the Placemaking Nairobi Network for the annual Placemaking Week in the city.

Organizations, residents’ associations and the GoDown engage with Nairobi County officials on the next County Integrated Development Plan 2023-2027

The GoDown, present as a member of the Placemaking Nairobi Network, shared its calendar of Placemaking week activities, and invited the County Director, Dr. Kefa Omanga, to take part in one of the week’s activities – an urban dialogue coordinated by The GoDown. Under the topic, Working Together to Achieve Successful Urban Initiatives’, Dr. Omanga emphasized that the County was committed to a ‘new approach’, that of bettering Nairobi and making it work through partnerships with the private sector, civil society organizations and donor-partners.

From Left: Dr. Kefa Omanga MK Mbugua – GoDown Urban Division, during the Urban Dialogue. Photo: Nairobits

The question is, why are partnerships strategic for Nairobi City County at this time?

One primary reason is financial. Tacit in the commitment conveyed by Dr. Omanga is that partnerships should help advance the county integrated development plan. The county government currently has the onerous task to step up its revenue collection and its capacity to deliver on overdue services and incomplete projects to meet expectations and restore resident and investor confidence. Yet it’s fiscal strategy paper (2022-23) shows the County’s financial performance as below par. For the year 2020/2021, according to this paper, county total revenues were Ksh 29.6billion; total expenditure was Ksh 30.1billion; and cumulative debt at year-end sat at Ksh 79.0billion.

Roseline Asena from Mukuru during the Urban Dialogue. Photo: Nairobits

The reasons for such financial discrepancy must be openly declared in the quest for partnerships. What are the reasons for this poor performance? Inefficient county collection systems? Financial loopholes and mismanagement? Corrupt practices? Since a county government’s objects are for public good, partnerships which the county may seek to help in closing its financial gaps, must have a high public goods quotient. For this to happen, partnerships must also be about other essential wins, besides money.

Stakeholders like The GoDown bring many additional benefits to a partnership. While they can raise and bring financial resources into a partnership agreement, they also bring non-material benefits which strengthen the odds for successful outcomes.

An important example is how non-state stakeholders amplify the power of county partners and diverse allied parties to move together towards a common goal. The vision of a Nairobi that works is at the heart of Governor Sakaja’s manifesto. It is a desire shared by residents and special interest groups such as The GoDown, all determined to make real this goal that will galvanize and help forge successful alliances and agreements.

The County and The GoDown are no doubt on the same page in their common desire to see Nairobi flourish. And a city can flourish in many ways. For The GoDown the recognition and leveraging of culture as a vector for sustainable urban development is one of the ways that Nairobi City County may begin to flourish again. Over the years The GoDown has addressed itself to the questions of creative economy, cultural infrastructure, urban identities and cultures and people-centred approaches to urban design. In the process, it has gathered tremendous insight and experience in these areas. It is such invaluable wealth of knowledge that the GoDown would bring into a partnership with the County.

The Primary Stakeholder Group of HerCity#HerStreets analysing Dunga Rd, Nairobi. The initiative aims to improve the streets around the upcoming New GoDown Complex

The GoDown has leveraged culture towards better city futures for Nairobi in the following ways: firstly, through strategic community mobilization which includes co-creating frameworks, convening resident and interest group meetings, and social media activations; secondly, through people-centred approaches to assessing and ideating on local area and city plans; and thirdly, by not remaining peripheral to implementation, but rather identifying (digital) tools and methods that are appropriate for action. In short, The GoDown is willing to partner with the County, believing it can provide valuable input in the development of innovative and participatory approaches, especially in matters of cultural infrastructure, county cultural laws and policies and the revitalization of the county’s economy through the creative economy.

This partnership will be based on a broadened understanding of value as held in more than just money. Local government can emulate best practice elsewhere and offer endorsements, champion initiatives, even give waivers and grants against expected revenues or social cohesion impacts from a project. New York City, a major tourist draw has, for instance, a relationship with 34 of its key nonprofit cultural institutions – museums, arts centres, botanical gardens, etc – that have made it a ‘world -class cultural hub’. New York City subsidizes these cultural revenue-generators by supporting their utility and maintenance costs from the city’s own budgets. Nairobi City County may likewise view financial subsidies, concessions, and waivers it may be required to bring to a partnership more strategically, as an investment for long-term impactful dividends.

The GoDown is optimistic about the Nairobi City County’s move toward intentional partnerships and collaborations. It could be instrumental in bringing us all closer to achieving the goal of sustainable urban development and, indeed, to making Nairobi work.

Tags: No tags