Marrying Radio and Community Organizing in Africa

ACORN International Radio

Nairobi            After we heard reports from all the ACORN affiliates in Africa in this first ever of its kind meeting in Nairobi, the discussions kept getting more and more interesting.  Part of what was so exciting was the integration of our radio affiliates in Uganda with and in Nairobi with Koch-Fm in Korogocho.

Some might wonder, what they might have in common?  After a day of dialogue and exchange, the answer seemed like, “Just about everything.”  ACORN organizers have to build a mass base and membership that supports the work.  Radio has to build an audience and members who support the work.  Both are deeply involved in communication, literally house to house, person to person.  Add to this community radio and community organizations, both are deeply embedded in the local communities, so share interests and concerns with the same issues.  In Africa, as well as elsewhere for nonprofits, both are constantly trying to mobilize resources to sustain and expand operations.

The parallels are strong, so the conversations easily went back and forth.  The challenge was to see how community radio and community organization could be integrated more closely, so that both could grow and prosper together.  Over and over again, the meeting found areas where collaboration would enhance and grow the work and impact of each part of the operation.   ACORN Kenya’s big campaign involved winning action on commitments to provide public feeding for school children in Korogocho.  We had won the commitment from the last government, but are forced to win it again with the new government in power over the recent year.  Using promotions and specials on the radio, as well as bringing school teachers and parents in for interviews, seemed like a way to add another dimension to the campaign.  Where our petition drive would have to be rebuilt, using the radio to promote the campaign might make it easier this time around.  As we went from one campaign to another, the ways we could put all the pieces together flowed endlessly.

Using social media has been a challenge for the organizers, but the radio team saw this as a way they could help.  Getting members for the radio outlets hadn’t been easy, but the ACORN organizers had suggestions and experience there.  Resources are always a huge challenge.  There were no easy solutions here, but there were breakthroughs in discussing joint proposals and events where both could participate and share the rewards.

Monthly Zoom calls can’t produce these kinds of deep collaborations.  We’re looking for real progress in the coming year from these fertile conversations.