Getting innovative during a pandemic

October 29, 2020
People sitting outside in a Kenyan village listening to a man speaking next to a solar microgrid

Piloting new ways to undertake community surveys and data collection

“Undertaking an online training for a rural community personally gave me an in depth feeling of understanding that more can be achieved even under this pandemic challenge” – Benson, Kenya Technical Manager, Renewable World.

In March of this year we all came to a halt. Global travel was shut down, borders were closed, and whole communities were asked to stay at home. But for communities living without access to energy in rural Kenya, life needed to continue. Their need for access to energy didn’t come to a halt because of the pandemic, and so Renewable World needed to come up with a community-based solution that could help us to continue our work without putting any of the communities at risk.

With limited access to healthcare facilities, our primary focus was on protecting our communities from unnecessary risk of infection. Thankfully, in 2020 we live in a time where technology can enable people around the world to connect through the power of the internet.  

So our global team in Nepal, Kenya and the UK came together to identify a way to hear our communities’ voices and understand their needs, whilst limiting unnecessary exposure to individuals from outside of their villages.

In August 2020, with global travel off the table and partial lockdowns in place, our Monitoring and Evaluation Manager in Nepal, Samasti, worked alongside our Technical Manager in Kenya, Benson, to identify and train individuals in three rural communities in Kenya to undertake community surveys and data collection to better inform and measure our programme impacts.

Samsti worked hard in Nepal to create the right questionnaires, one which our data collectors would understand, designing them on an online platform which could be accessed using a smartphone. Benson worked with our community leaders to identify the right people, with the right English language skills and available technology, to participate in a full-day online training workshop. He also set up the communication links and supported Samsti and the community to reach out to each other on the day.

The communities organised themselves remotely: who was to be trained, how they were to move within the village, and also the community response to the data collectors. There was a sense of ownership I felt from all groups; this was their own people carrying out the exercise. It gave me a sense that, in the future, we need to empower the community to deliver local activities. Also, in delivering the training and activities locally, it was cost effective, saved time and gave the communities a unique opportunity, empowering individuals with new skills.

One data collector admitted this was his first international online training, and he requested to be considered in the future for the same exercise if the opportunity was ever to arise. He said the training gave him confidence in life. Even though at first, he was not sure of it.” – Benson, Technical Manager, Kenya, Renewable World.

So whilst the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact us on a global level, we will continue to work with our global team, our communities and local partners to understand how to empower people locally, and adapt to the changing world we live in. Our aim continues to be to keep our communities safe and bring them access to energy to improve livelihoods, health and education.