Crowdfunding in Mogadishu

A solution to the city's displacement crisis ?

© Kate Holt / IRIN

© Kate Holt / IRIN

In the eastern districts of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital city, informal camps hosting internally displaced people emerge next to apartment blocks, imposing palm trees, and public buildings. Protracted insecurity, drought, competition for resources and weakened livelihoods, have driven many Somalis to flee to Mogadishu, in search of shelter, security, and aid.

The influx has made Mogadishu one of the most densely populated cities in Africa. The city is now home to over 600,000 internally displaced people (IDPs). Most live in informal camps that are overcrowded and unsafe. Between 2017 and 2018, 32% of new displacements recorded in the country were to, or within, Mogadishu.

While the international press is preoccupied with covering the most recent car bombing, referring to the residents of Mogadishu only to count casualties, the human side of the city is overlooked:  the vitality of the markets, the energy of the beachfront, and a bourgeoning solidarity among host communities and IDPs. If harnessed, this could provide some relief to the city’s displacement crisis.

Faced with the void left by weak authorities, fragmented humanitarian aid, and ongoing insecurity, host communities are growing more sympathetic to the potential of crowdfunding efforts to provide assistance and relief to IDPs.

Solidarity and public mobilisation in the face of misfortune run deep in the Somali society. This is evident from remittances being a vital lifeline for 40% of Somali households, to the unprecedented mobilisation of public resources in response to the October 14th, 2018 bombings. Somalis are turning to each other for support. Where a weakened, yet slowly recovering state, is unable to provide for its citizens, Somalis turn to solidarity to help each other.

“The best way we can assist the displaced is by all of us coming together and giving the little we can afford to those displaced who are in need”.

Male, Host, Dharkenley district

Crowdfunding seems an unorthodox solution to a crisis of such proportions, that both the state and humanitarian agents would deem near-intractable - 1 in 6 Somalis are displaced.

Yet 29.5% of members of the host community who participated in a series of interactive radio debates in 2018 suggested that collective fundraising efforts to help the displaced would be the best way to support durable solutions. The interactive radio shows invited residents of Mogadishu to propose solutions to the displacement issue. The sympathetic sentiment was echoed by 21.4% of recently displaced who also responded to the on-air call for proposals.

Across both groups, the idea was more likely to be raised by women, youth (under 25), and residents in the east of Mogadishu.

Suggestions on how such initiatives would work were framed both as the imperative of the wider community and as the responsibility of particular privileged individuals such as business leaders and the private sector.

“They can overcome this situation if they get assistance from people with money like business people and those who are in a position to and the whole Somali community.”

Male 26 years, IDP, Dayinle district

The radio shows were aired as part of an initiative by Africa’s Voices Foundation (AVF), the Regional Durable Solutions Secretariat (ReDDS) and the Banadir Regional Administration (BRA). They aimed to build a large-scale inclusive dialogue between host communities, displaced people and key decision-makers to enhance the wider social accountability landscape in the city.

Central to this attempt was the interactive radio methodology developed by AVF which allows audiences to drive the discussion by inputing their perspectives through free SMS in response to open-ended questions. As such, interactive radio connects citizens with each other and with decision-makers. This way, it overcomes some of the barriers of cost, infrastructure and security to catalyse effective social accountability programming in Somalia. It does so, without losing the scope for rich and sustained citizen-authority interactions.

The radio shows covered a range of topics related to durable solutions, discrimination against displaced groups, and evictions. The elicited contributions of citizens, hosts and IDPs alike, were placed in conversations with representatives from local authorities and humanitarian agencies.

Guests included a representative of the BRA to discuss the role of government in durable solutions and the new IDP policy. Other guests from the humanitarian sector included an official from the Norwegian Refugee Council who outlined clear eviction guidelines for citizens and a representative from the Danish Demining Group who described efforts to enhance social cohesion in the city.

Map showing demolished IDP settlements and eviction zones in Mogadishu

In 2017 alone, there were 138,000 evictions in the city
(Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 2018)

© DigitalGlobe 2018

© DigitalGlobe 2018

Crowdfunding is not typically included in the panoply of durable solutions advocated by humanitarian actors. It’s an innovative, locally-driven modality of assistance that, if harnessed, can promote Somali ownership and confidence in grassroots solutions. Initial mobilisation efforts may be more effective if focused on women and youth - those most sympathetic to the plight of IDPs and most likely to propose crowdfunding as a solution.

Grassroots processes are far from new in Mogadishu. The massive public resource mobilisation that followed the October 14th, 2018 bombings is testament to a fragile yet revitalised-in-the-face-of-adversity social cohesion in the city. Authorities and aid actors can provide support and further assistance to these networks to strengthen their value and contribution to durable solutions. In this vein, the recent efforts by UNDP to encourage local solutions can provide a momentum to build on.

The very process of gathering funding to meet community priorities could also contribute to greater host-IDP interaction, and in the long run, stronger social cohesion.

© Tobin Jones / UN

© Tobin Jones / UN

So how can crowdfunding work in practice? Here are some recommendations.

Link crowdfunding efforts to aid sector programming.
This can catalyse and coordinate them and ensure the most vulnerable are not left behind.

Combine mobilisation of community resources with unconditional cash transfer programmes.
This would further allow communities to take ownership of interventions.

Complement with crowdsourcing - collecting ideas from communities for interventions.
Resource mobilisation and community consultation can go hand in hand to maximise ownership and impact.

Advocacy must amplify the plight of displaced people and the need to mobilise resources for durable solutions. The support from women and youth should be harnessed.
As more likely to raise crowdfunding as an option, these groups could be engaged to build momentum. However, it is important to recognise the need to engage other groups in the community, such as private sector leaders, to maximise impact.

More research is required to understand the socio-economic status of those proposing crowdfunding.
This is needed to identify how much its proponents also have resources to mobilise.

Consulting citizens through interactive radio dialogue

3267 participants
14,391 messages received
42% women
51% IDPs

Variations in support of crowdfunding by gender

Variations in support of crowdfunding by gender

Variations in support of crowdfunding by age

Variations in support of crowdfunding by age

Towards a Common Social Accountability Platform

© UNICEF Somalia

© UNICEF Somalia

The insights on crowdfunding from the interactive radio shows resulted from an initiative with a wider ambition: to link the voices of Somali citizens to authorities. For services to be more effective and accountable, citizens' voices need to be better heard.

AVF is using interactive radio to create a Common Social Accountability Platform (CSAP) to strengthen the Somali accountability ecosystem, by connecting citizens with authorities through media dialogue and public opinion gathering.

Social accountability in Somalia is compromised by fragmented approaches, clashing mandates, and a crucial gap in connecting Somali citizens to decision-making.

CSAP aspires to cut across sectors, programmes and mandates, to build sustained spaces of real value for discussion. This way citizens’ voices can impact on decision-making that affects their lives.

78% of participants in the interactive radio consultations ran by AVF said that engaging with CSAP made them feel more included in decision-making around durable solutions. Even more - 93% - argued that such a platform should be sustained and continued.

“Yes, I feel involved because community consultation is always the best thing to do and I personally believe that I am part of the decisions in the community and we appreciate a lot those who made this safe spaces to talk like the radio presenters, the leaders involved and those aid organisations who are involved as well.”

Female, Mogadishu

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© Tobin Jones

© Tobin Jones

Africa's Voices Foundation is inspired by this simple idea: listen first and listen intelligently. If citizens are better heard by decision makers, they will access more timely, relevant and valuable services. We have developed a unique solution to tackle this need. We curate and spark engaging, inclusive discussions through interactive media and digital channels, enabling citizens to share their voices. We then use innovative data analysis techniques to deliver robust, timely and actionable social evidence that strengthens the impact of development, humanitarian, and governance actors.