Center for Research and Development in International Education

Citizen Exchange between the United States and Kenya

Patricia Kelly, Josiah Tlou and David Hicks
($239,000 - US Department of State)

Kenya is a young democracy, having attained its political independence from Britain in 1963 but keeping a one-party dictatorship until 1992 when it legalized other political parties. However, not until 2002 was a president elected from an opposition party. Elected on a platform of zero tolerance for corruption, the party has yet to institute approaches for transparency and accountability by top government officials. It is within this context that we began to develop and foster a dialogue on the theme, “Responsible Governance,” between Kenya and the United States through a Citizen’s Exchange.  The multi-layered, four-phase project has provided educators, community leaders, and government professionals the opportunity to live and work in each other’s environments. The two broad objectives were (1) that Kenyan participants would gain an understanding of the rights and responsibilities inherent in a democratic society and (2) that Kenyan and U.S. participants would understand the cultural context in which responsible governance is defined and practiced in both countries.

Virginia Tech has partnered with Kenyatta University in Nairobi and the Center for Civic Education in California to provide a series of seminars in Kenya that examine the practices, policies, and processes that encourage or discourage transparency and accountability in governance. In addition, ten Kenyan participants came to the United States to learn first-hand the governance at national and local levels as well as engaging with U.S. citizens with internships in agencies and schools, living with host families, learning the importance of volunteers in the work of community agencies, and taking part in several cultural events. These ten Kenyans became trainers and also implemented small projects upon their return. The outputs of the Exchange directly impacted over 500 people.