One Year of Shujaaz Inc: a letter from our CEO
- 31 Jan 2021
A year ago, I wrote a blog to mark our relaunch under a new name: Shujaaz Inc. I began: ‘2020 will be a big year for us.’ Well, little did we know…
It’s not been the year we’d expected, but it’s been the right name for this year. Shujaaz Inc (Heroes Incorporated) was named after ordinary young heroes; young people who’re changing their lives and the lives of their communities, by doing something just a bit different.
And this last year, there have been millions of shujaaz at work. In a recent SMS survey, 75% of young Kenyans told us they’d volunteered their time or money to support community responses to the pandemic. In the midst of a crisis, young people in the Shujaaz Inc network have mobilised at a scale we’ve never seen before.
Within a few weeks, thousands of Shujaaz fans were stepping up to #LindaFam (Protect Your Family) by spreading the word about Covid-19. A few months later, they became citizen-journalists and content-creators, filming real-time insights on the mood in their neighbourhoods, and updates on how their communities were responding to the pandemic.
Faced with new public health measures, our network of ‘SuperFans’ designed and built more than 2,000 comic book dispensers. Between February and November, they delivered 3,600,000 comics and 500,000 flyers carrying critical public health information and advice to young people right across the country.
When, through our work with Kenya’s National Business Compact, FCDO, AMREF, Unilever and the Ministry of Health we were given 500 new community handwashing stations, Shujaaz fans running small businesses in hotspot areas volunteered to set up and maintain them. Our survey suggests they’re now serving 25,000 people a day.
As lockdown measures came in, we took all our live events online. In April, just under 2,000 young people joined or viewed our weekly live ‘Mic Yetu’ (Our Say) chats, where young people come together with local and national leaders, public health experts and youth-leaders to share their experiences and ideas for the road ahead. By November, that number increased ten-fold to 22,000 views of our live chats. This generation want to listen, share their ideas and participate.
Last year, our team had to find a new way of working. But as we closed our offices, our network came to life. As I write, the team are busy drawing up plans; new models for how Shujaaz Inc can operate that connects, supports and activates our fans in entirely new ways.
Shujaaz Inc is a team of 60, but we’re a network of 7.5m young heroes. And this year has reminded us all, there’s no limit to what they can do.
Rob Burnet, CEO, Shujaaz Inc