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Community-led Research 

Method:Community-led Research and Action (CLRA) is a proven method designed and conducted by community researchers. With community we denote those people whose lives are affected by the issues being studied to inform community-led interventions and government and NGO programming that will also be co-developed and examined by community researchers in CLRA project. Vulnerable groups are guided by Ghetto Foundation to decide on their own priority issues around violence, exploitation and exclusion. By using collectively developed and approved research approaches they themselves formulate, interrogate and amplify the voices and choices of the vulnerable groups they are part of throughout the research and action process.



The community-led research and action (CLRA) is an incremental process between 1) research (by community researchers together with fellow group members), 2) collective analysis and planning of community-led interventions, and 3) trialling these interventions. While research will inform the design and implementation of these interventions, the learnings from them will again spur new research questions, and this feedback loop between research and action ensures the development of research insights and community-led interventions that are relevant to the community.The objective of this community-led process of layering research and action and build towards sound data and solid interventions that are relevant to the wider communities at focus is to improve connections between informal strategies and local mechanisms and their formal counterparts by the government and NGO, with the aim of making the latter more accessible, effective, sustainable and accountable to community needs. Insights and evidence about the impact of these interlocking research activities and grassroots interventions engenders system change from below


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Selection of projects


2020-2021 Community Resilience in Nairobi’s informal settlements during Covid-19


In partnership with with Institute of Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS), located at the Erasmus





Research on Community Resilience with the Institute of Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS), located at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam (EUR). This study traces how historical processes result in different levels of community resilience in two of Nairobi’s informal settlements. We focus on vulnerabilities related to health, safety and livelihoods. Not much is known about how and under what conditions evolutionary processes lead to resilience in resource-constrained informal settlements. The study assesses how smart and frugal initiatives of the community and other actors lead to resilience.


GF made all the specific research instruments and conducted 120 in-depth and semi-structured interviews with residents, leaders and community groups in Korogocho and Mathare, Nairobi, on the history and contemporary contexts of the two settlements.


The process was iterative: the data was analyzed during data collection and thereby informed further data collection.  We used two methods of data analysis:


1.         Process tracing: Develop and describe a timeline and a coherent narrative for each informal settlement. Mahoney (2000) recommends process tracing in order to sequence events and their preconditions. He sequences events as initial (these start the process), critical (they change the way of working) and self-reinforcing (they strengthen an existing way of working). Process tracing aims to make inferences about the most convincing process explanation of the level of community resilience.

2.         Comparative analysis: compare both neighbourhoods in order to assess what factors and processes may explain differences and similarities in community resilience. Hereby we expect some similarities, as all are informal settlements in Nairobi, and especially similarities between the two informal settlements. This entailed that (1) overlap and differences in indicators is compared; (2) systemic differences between the three settlements are compared.



1.         Transcribed interviews (120)

2.         Research report with coding

3.         Article presented at EADI under makeshift city as Creative Cities are Safer Cities

4.         Policy paper for local actors

5.         Research proposal to test the findings on a larger scale

















2017-2020 In partnership with VU University of Amsterdam, Towards Inclusive Partnerships: The Political Role of Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and the Official Development Aid System (ODA) in Nairobi, Kenya.

The research specifically looked at:

1) how access to funding influences the issues CBOs prioritize and the ways they address them;

2) the ways in which CBOs participate and contribute to policy making with government institutions; 3) how involvement in different networks and alliances strengthen and/or weaken CBOs political roles; 4) how CBOs daily practices of dealing with urgencies, decision-making, capacity building, outreach work, donor demands, etc. increase and/or impede their political roles and;

5) what CBOs members’ experiences reveal about their relationship with and effectiveness of the CBO in empowering their members to manage and navigate injustices.


We employed various qualitative methods to investigate the every-day dynamics and practices of the two CBOs, one social justice centre and one sex worker-led organisaton, their interactions with the communities they aim to serve and represent, with other community-based organisations, and with other (more powerful) actors in the ODA system— specifically from the perspective of the advocacy aid chain. Our methods included a 3-month literature review and 15 months of empirical research. The empirical part involved a wide variety of qualitative methods, which were employed by five academic- and 20 community researchers. The research activities in this period ranged from the more obvious (i.e. participant observations, ethnographic fieldwork, interviews with stakeholders, network mapping and document analysis) to the more unique, namely community-led research and reflexive logbooks. Altogether, the research was structured as an intensive collaboration between academics, community researchers, CBOs and their members, with constant learning loops between all involved to ensure that the research was conducted incrementally and collaboratively. As a result, the research outcomes provide knowledges that support policy makers working in the ODA system, and especially in the advocacy aid chain, to rethink funding practices and improve the positions of (activist) CBOs. Simultaneously, the findings aim to strengthen the capacities of participating CBOs to improve their positions within the strategic partnerships in which they participate.


2016-2019 In partnership with University of Amsterdam.


The research project undertook a multi-sited, multi-level exploration of the role played by non- state security groups (NSSGs) in the provision of ‘human security’ in Fragile and Conflict-affected states (FCAS) in contexts of violent, religious extremism. Such extremism is experienced daily in such countries as Kenya, Nigeria and Indonesia, where Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and IS put chronic pressure on local communities. In the absence of effective state interventions, local NSSGs engage extremism by deploying defence, policing, governance and development activities. The project seeks to deliver new evidence-based insights into support, effect and understanding of such activities, by: 1) identifying NSSG-government relations in terms of legitimacy and sovereignty, 2)Analysing the interplays between local, national and transnational levels of legitimacy, security provision and development initiatives, 3) formulating country-specific policy recommendations for inclusion of NSSGs in security provision, and 4) formulating a policy-oriented typologization of NSSG actors, activities and agency.



2014-2017 In partnership with VU University of Amsterdam.



This research project was co-created in partnership with Aidsfonds, Ministries of Health in Kenya and Ethiopia and local sex workers-led organisations, and focused on inclusion of sex workers in education, work and local governance structures in urban Kenya and Ethiopia, and has led to several education and economic empowerment projects designed and implemented by male and female sex workers in these countries and one worldwide project on financial inclusion of sex workers by Aidsfonds.

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