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Kibera Nights

Patrick in KiberaBy Patrick Donohue, August 2005

"In Nairobi, stay away from the shanty towns, especially at night."

The door closes, Kibera opens, and East Africa's largest shantytown swallows us into the night. It's dark near Edwin's place, a sight sapping blackness that is darker with the knowledge of the trenches and trips that lie ahead, a misstep can send you rolling down make shift steps to soak in the flowing runoff, Kibera's sewage system. Edwin can see well enough in the dark and navigates the pitfalls without hesitation; I make a joke about mzungu eyes and then switch on my torch. I notice as we walk that the only other people using torches are the mzee, the old men or women. We walk through small alleys and walkways, passing row after row of mud houses with radios blaring, stray light seeping through cracks around the doors and below the roofs. I can't shake the feeling that I'm walking across somebody's front porch but I soon realize that's exactly what we're doing.

More Toys from the Base of the Pyramid

To the casual observer, it may seem like we haven't doing much with toys lately here at BRINQ! However, though we HAVE been pretty busy, we've had our eyes at everywhere for new toys and innovations at all things play. Everywhere being Brazil, Kenya, the U.S., and of course the Internet.

Here are a few of the toys we've come across in the Base of the Pyramid.

To the casual observer, it may seem like we haven't doing much with toys lately here at BRINQ! However, though we HAVE been pretty busy, we've had our eyes at everywhere for new toys and innovations at all things play. Everywhere being Brazil, Kenya, the U.S., and of course the Internet.

Here are a few of the toys we've come across in the Base of the Pyramid.

Global Heroes - Carolina for Kibera

Another story about one of the BoP Protocol Pilot's most important partners: Carolina for Kibera (CFK) last week was honored as one of Time Magazine's "Heroes of Global Health" and Acting President Kim Chapman was featured at the Global Health Conference in New York.

CFK is an incredible community-based organization in Kibera: one of the world's largest slums on the outskirts of Nairobi Kenya. The organization's programs target issues of ethnic violence, health care, safe spaces for girls, and environmental sanitation and income generation. All their work follows a common theme of participatory development and the organization's operations in Kenya are run by Kiberans.

A Bigga Boda - XAccess' Cycle in Kenya

After five months of intense work in communities in Kenya and Brazil we've got a long backlog of stories to share. Now that we've got a short breather we thought we'd post a few. This one from Kenya came up recently when we were asked via our colleague & mentor Stuart Hart, "Have you heard of these XAccess guys?"

Actually, yes we have!

In June the BoP Protocol team headed out to the shores of Lake Victoria in Kisumu, Kenya to visit with the XAccess and KickStart folks who were modifying an innovative bicycle for the local market. XAccess is the non-profit sister of XtraCycle, maker of the world's first Sport Utility Bicycle, and KickStart, the NGO formerly known as ApproTEC, is a long time provider of enterprise enabling technologies to low-income communities. KickStart is helping XAccess to commercialize its bicycle in Kenya as the "Bigga Boda", an upgrade to the existing "Boda Boda" bicycle taxis, so named from their early days on the border of Kenya and Uganda where the taxi riders cries of "Border! Border!" eventually morphed into the "Boda Boda" of today.

Base of the Samosa - What's in a name?

There's nothing like a room full of blank stares to tell you that you have just used the wrong word, nobody there knows what you're talking about and you need to adapt, but what do you do when that word is at the heart of what you do? When that glazed-eye-inducing offender is printed all over your business cards?

Erik, Kabi, Edwin and I are in a meeting hall in Kibera, a shanty town in Nairobi, Kenya which, with an estimated one million people, is one of Africa's, if not the world's, largest slums. We're running the second of four community engagement workshops in which we are preparing local community groups, entrepreneurs and social enterprises, on how to best approach and prepare for a partnership with multinational companies; in this case, how to partner with our main corporate sponsor, SC Johnson. This is what we do, we bring people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse resources together, "a creative collision of world views", to create new market opportunities for multinationals and locally grown businesses for poor communities via a process of "mutual value creation". Buzz phrase laden work, yes, but it's actually all been going quite well so far, except that now our community partners are stuck on our name. Behind us, on a brown flip chart taped to the wall, is drawn a large three sided figure, a triangle really, with the words "Base of the Pyramid" written on top, or BoP for short. That's us.

BoP Protocol Pilot in Kenya - Photos


we've been on the ground in Kenya for over a month now, field testing the Base of the Pyramid Protocol, a process to engage local communities in creating new business opportunities. More about the Protocol and the Pilot respectively can be seen at


Textures of Kenya - Mitumba

There's a texture to life that we miss in our discussions of poverty, our arm chair strategies in the U.S. on microfinance, disruptive innovation, and entrepreneurship. The BoP Protocol Pilot team has been been in Kenya for almost a month now, visiting a number of homes and organizations throughout western Kenya, from rural farms to urban slums.

Kenya and local heroes (CFK)


it's been a busy three weeks in Kenya, with the Base of the Pyramid Protocol Pilot team bouncing around western Kenya. If anyone doubted poorer communities had local geniuses or heroes, you should come spend some time in the parts of Kenya few outsiders ever see… we can't seem to turn a corner without bumping into amazing people. So much is being done locally, yet so many challenges still exist.

Off to Find New FriendsÂ…

And so it begins…

In just two days ways we arrive in Kenya, to begin the pilot test of the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) Protocol.

So you may be wondering, with Sheri Willoughby busy consulting on another BoP project for Johnson and Johnson, and Patrick and the BoP Protocol team in Africa, will the the Workshop get pretty empty?

Actually, it may get more crowded than ever in here! I can't tell you how eager we are to invite some smiling new faces in here. Toys to discover, games to learn, stories to share, dreams to awake. Stay tuned for regular updates from the field.

And please, wish us luck and learning.

Create often, play always.

-your friends at BRINQ.

Kenya bound - Piloting the BoP Protocol

The BoP Protocol
Regular BRINQ readers may have noticed a lack of posting the last couple of weeks, this is because we've been working overtime getting ready for the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) Protocol pilot in Kenya, where we'll be hitting the ground in just two weeks. For a quick summary of the Protocol, it answers the following question:

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