Lightup Impact Days 2022: Sustainable Development of CBOs and NGOs in Gender and Health in East Africa

Lightup Impact Days 2022: Sustainable Development of CBOs and NGOs in Gender and Health in East Africa

On 30-31 May 2022, over 50 Lightup Impact community member organizations and external partners gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, to foster exchange, networking, and collaboration. It was a crucial step toward strengthening the organizational development of CBOs and NGOs in East Africa. The two-day event focused on the sustainable development of CBOs/NGOs in gender and health in East Africa, with ample discussion of key leadership strategies, system strengthening, and resource mobilization.


It hosted inspirational speakers from several regional organizations (see speakers list at the end) who gracefully shared their experiences and knowledge. We were privileged to have Hon. Dr. Linah Jebii Kilimo, chief administrative secretary of the Ministry of public service, gender, senior citizens affairs, and special programs, as our keynote speaker, taking us through the anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) campaign and how it all began.

Why the event?

CBOs and NGOs are vital in advancing gender and health equality, especially in resource-limited communities. However, without the necessary resources, many impactful organizations struggle to get off the ground and become sustainable i.e. meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Organizations aim to balance economic, environmental, and social issues with sustainability.


Capacity building is a well-known strategy for achieving this balance and works best when tailoring systems to the people and the environment. When organizations and communities can develop and strengthen their skills, processes, and resources, they are better positioned to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world. Throughout our event, speakers and participants discussed several key points to achieving sustainability.

Topics of discussion at the event

Leadership is key to sustainability

Sustainable leadership emerged as one such key point. Keeping the various pillars of sustainability in mind, this type of leader prioritizes capacity building at all levels. Taking organizational goals and long-term vision into account, sustainable leaders focus on, for example, extensive collaborative engagement, working proactively, and improving the quality of life of all stakeholders involved. In this way, sustainable leadership gives organizations opportunities for sustained competitive advantage, innovation, continuous improvement, and long-term success. 


Caren Wakoli, founder and executive director of the Emerging Leaders Foundation (ELF-Africa) – an organization that nurtures the next generation of ethical leaders for Africa’s transformation, provided further insights into this important topic. Some key takeaways from her talk were that being a leader is difficult, but to be successful, leaders shouldn’t shy away from asking for help or sharing responsibility. She also emphasized that leaders should focus on their leadership development first, acquiring skills in social entrepreneurship, pitching, negotiation, and people management. And finally, ideally, founders should build and routinely evaluate a credible board that can assist in developing strategy and overseeing management, ensuring that organizational goals are met on time.

Caren Wakoli in action as a transformational leadership trainer who delights in mentoring young women and men to achieve their best potential in life

System strengthening

Capacity building is a consistent and persistent strategy focused on creating a sustainable and effective organization. Simply put, it involves any action needed to push an organization to its next level. Making this part of organizational growth crucial for any organization that wishes to strengthen its systems and advance, but more so for startups. Whether it’s operational, systems, or financial development, organizations should always focus on their vision and mission when building capacity. 


For a better understanding of this approach, Arinolah Elizabeth, an organization capacity-building consultant from Warande Advisory Centre, walked the founders through an engaging and interactive session, which began with how and why the founders started their organizations. Arinolah reiterated the importance of a deep understanding of organizational vision and mission when building capacity and eventually strengthening organizational systems, “no matter the developmental stage, corporate vision should be the focus, with the mission as the guiding tool”. She closed the session with, “as organizations progress, founders will find themselves among a team of allies willing and capable of walking the journey with them, helping to create impact as they continue to sharpen skills and build relations through networking and opportunities”.

Arinolah Elizabeth breaking down capacity-building techniques to the founders during a session on system strengthening.
Arinolah Elizabeth engaging Christopher Nyambury founder LVDAH during an interactive session on resource mobilization.

Resource mobilization

Having the right resource(s) at the right time can determine if a movement, event, or organization succeeds or not. Resource mobilization theory, originating in the 1960s, argues that the success of social movements or collective action depends on the ability to obtain the necessary resources.


Specific to the topic at hand, there are five categories of resources, namely 1) material (e.g. money), 2) human (e.g. labor), 3) social-organized (e.g. social/community networks), 4) cultural (e.g. organizing a community event), and 4) moral (e.g. celebrity endorsements). Discussions at the event highlighted resource mobilization, labeling it the backbone to “achieving the dream” – helping organizations to execute their vision.


When discussing fundraising, Arinolah Elizabeth highlighted relationship building or “friends-raising” versus purely raising funds, and the guest of honor, Hon. Dr. Jebii Kilimo, stressed the value of sharing experiences and telling stories to engage a community of changemakers effectively.

Local expertise matters

To expose the founders to opportunities on the ground, Martha from iMPACT direct spoke on local expertise and why it matters. She explained how iMPACT Direct is leveraging experience from their own projects across Africa to change how locally-led NGOs approach fundraising and giving.


With help from iMPACT direct, locally-led African NGOs can gain better access to funds and build trusted partnerships, providing them with opportunities to showcase their expertise and strengthen their organizations.


According to Martha, locally-led NGOs are prime candidates for financial aid to create change in their communities as they are not only acutely aware of their challenges but also the solutions they need to implement and resolve these challenges.

Martha from iMPACT direct talking on local expertise matters.

The NGOs that iMPACT direct work with are usually the first to respond and last to leave when it comes to the implementation of these local solutions. Additionally, local NGOs are incredibly effective in their implementation and form part of the 70% responsible for all impact in development cooperation.


Some of the ways in which iMPACT direct supports its beneficiaries include: 1) providing unrestricted financial aid to fund the implementation of local solutions and 2) giving a platform to NGOs (both online and at events) where these local experts can showcase their projects and organizations more widely and to the right audiences.


Learn more about iMPACT direct’s goals for 2022, their past projects with local NGOs, what a partnership with them looks like, and how you can become one, too.

Stories from iMAPCT direct beneficiaries

To our delight, iMPACT direct beneficiaries shared stories (below) of how iMPACT direct helped turn their visions into impact.

Dr. Karambu, director of International Peace Initiatives (IPI)– Food Forest, sharing how she dreamed about building a green community – a dream that became a reality with resources from iMPACT direct.
Stanley Kinyanjui, program director at COSDEP Kenya, a small-scale ecological farm, sharing the different farming ideas they use to change communities on the ground, making them sustainable and economically empowered.

The guest of honor Dr. Linah Jebii spoke on the Anti- FGM campaign and how it began

We were honored to have Hon. Dr. Linah Jebii Kilimo, an influential changemaker in eradicating FGM in Kenya, as a keynote speaker at our event. Female genital mutilation involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons (WHO).


It is a practice that has no health benefits for girls and women. Hon. Dr. Kilimo has worked tirelessly with NGOs across Kenya, campaigning for eradicating FGM and promoting girl child education. It was a privilege to have her amongst the founders of CBOs and NGOs from the Lightup Impact community, working in gender and women empowerment in East Africa.

Hon. Dr. Kilimo in action, speaking with the community about FGM

Hon. Dr. Kilimo believes that no woman or girl should undergo FGM and will continue to fight to make that a reality. She is an excellent source of encouragement and motivation to keep pushing community impact forward. She shared how her desire to eradicate FGM began with a dream to be different and do things differently. A dream she confessed came with many challenges she chose to look past, instead focusing on her goal to see the end of this barbaric practice. 


To create real change, she knew the best place to start was in parliament, where laws are made. She became active in the Marakwet East constituency as a member of parliament from 2002 to 2012. As a passionate advocate against FGM, Hon. Dr. Kilimo was incredibly influential in creating the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011, which criminalizes FGM. In December 2013, she was appointed by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta to chair the newly formed anti-FGM board, whose main mandate is to see a society free from FGM.

The winner of the open call presents the "double brand idea"

Before the Changemakers Event, Lightup Impact had an open call for community members on the organizational development of CBOs and NGOs to present their innovative ideas for driving sustainable growth. Christopher Nyamburi, the founder of Lake Victoria Basin Talent Development and Adolescent Health (LVDAH), emerged the winner with his “double brand idea” – receiving a charitable donation towards realizing his project. 


In his presentation, he clarified how the inability of organizations to kick-start their projects and programs stems from inadequate resources and financial constraints, contributing to 60% of organizations failing and closing down. The “double brand idea” allows non-profits, CBOs, and local NGOs to raise money through their brands, in collaboration with companies and local businesses, selling merchandise with a strong connection to their organizations.

Christopher Nyambury wowing the crowd with his “double brand idea”.

Lightup Impact Community members share their impact stories

Interactive session: Find your impact station

The founders were separated into groups according to their community impact. They shared the challenges they are facing and discussed different solutions which they presented. Below are the group topics according to their impact:


  • Mental health
  • Sexual  gender-based violence
  • Economic empowerment
  • Agriculture and forestry
  • Reproductive and sexual health.

What’s Next for Lightup Impact

The Lightup Impact team was happy to share at the event all that the organization has accomplished since its founding one year ago, emphasizing Lightup’s strategic pillars and plans for the future, including long-term ambitions and goals.


A recap of what was said: Lightup Impact develops evidence-based solutions to integrate CBOs and NGOs into wider development policies and discussions in East Africa. Through our activities, we empower local leaders to become sustainable and independent drivers of the change they want to see in their communities. Our vision is based on three strategic pillars:


Through a virtual community of  91 member organizations in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria, we aim to integrate CBOs/NGOs in gender and health in East Africa. In this community, we share learnings and enhance collaboration over competition. We are creating an ecosystem of change where partners from the development, business, and academic field can work together through our online and in-person networking events. For more information, please visit our events page.

Leadership Skills

We aspire to develop leadership skills and organization-strengthening training programs for our member organizations to give them the tools and traction they need to secure resources for sustainability. 


We partner with selected member organizations for development cooperation to provide traction and support to organizations that are at the startup stage in our community. 


We foster partnerships between the business sector and our member organizations through social intrapreneurship (Ambition 2022-2023).


We deliver interactive training to make every business leader a sustainability champion and to eventually create transformational leaders who are empathetic, team-oriented, and influential.


We create shared value for our business partners and the member organizations of Lightup Impact.


To join our network as a changemaker organization, please visit our website.

That’s a wrap!

We are thrilled with the turnout and meaningful exchange that took place, and we appreciate everyone who participated virtually and in person, especially all the impactful organizations who attended and speakers who shared their experiences and knowledge (see list below).


We are proud of the fact that our community members are at the center of our decision-making –  our joint discussions are critical in shaping our actions to better assist them in achieving their goals. Lightup Impact community members happily expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to interact with fellow founders from across East Africa (and Nigeria). 


The event ended on a high note as Lightup Impact was also celebrating its first anniversary! It has been 12 months of hard work, and this is just the beginning of our journey as Lightup Impact. Thank you for your continued support. We look forward to another fantastic year of creating change together!

Lightup Impact Members' Testimonials from the event

Working in isolation especially we as Africans actually draws us back, so collaboration will speed up our impact and make the work we do known, it is a huge takeaway that you have a community you can call “a community of founders” a community of changemakers like myself.” - Tobi Adegbite
“I’m thankful to the Lightup team for providing the opportunity to meet good people, have a good time, and collect good memories.” - Francis Gakufu
“It’s the first time I’ve attended an event with young founders. Usually, I find myself in a group of older founders”. He added that “the best part was that the speakers and everyone who shared their stories really understand the challenges and what it takes to be a founder.” - Collins Mureithi
“I’m always grateful to God for every support that came into my life, impacting the lives of others and learning. There is no health without mental health.” - Sammy Lenawalchingei

Speakers list


Lightup Impact member participants

  1.  Activate Action,  Rogers Omollo
  2. Afrikala Arts, Kawira Marlene Kinyua
  3. Beyond Care Initiative, Sarah Itenya
  4. Centre for Adolescent & Young Change Makers (CEFA.YCM), Collins Mureithi
  5. Cheza Cheza, Francis Odhiambo/ Cherrelle Druppers
  6. Circles of Hope, Hellen Boke
  7. County Youth and Adolescent Network (CYAN), Joseph Were
  8. Domestic Professional Association of Kenya, Elizabeth Duncans
  9. Elgon Centre for Education -Abdulkarim Taraja
  10. Eagle Wings organization, Saraphina Ambale
  11. Entojutu, Tobi Gabriel Adegbite
  12. Forever Africa Dada Power, Jacqueline Laurah Marwa
  13. Girlkind Kenya, Fatma Hakar 
  14. Girl Potential Care Centre, Bridget Kigambo
  15. Global Alliance for a Healthy Society, Peter Gregory
  16. Grown to Help, Mugabekazi Denyse
  17. Just A Pad Initiative, Teresa Boke
  18. Kerio Rights Organization, Caroline Rotich 
  19. Kisumu Social Inclusion Network, Jovian Zuena Switzer
  20. Lake Victoria Basin Talent Development and Adolescent Health (LVDAH), Christopher Nyambury
  21. Lea toto, Pauline Khaemba
  22. Me for Her Empowerment, Lucy Weisiko
  23. Mukuru Angaza Film Academy, Francis Gifuku
  24. Nareto Latia Indigenous Peoples’ Programme, Isaac Tobiko
  25. Path Youth Organization, Salimu Ali Mazang’ang’a 
  26. Rhythm of Life, Harriet Kamashanyu
  27. RODI Organization, Chrysostome Uwimana
  1. Safe Community Youth Initiative, Ali Mangale
  2. Tunaweza Empowerment, Vincent Ogallo Mwita
  3. Walk to Light, Edna Paul
  4. Wa-Wa Kenya, Caven Odera
  5. Young Mentorship Community Programme, Sammy Lenawalchingei
  6. Youth Economic Social Empowerment (YESE), Martinah Madeda

Partners List

Author: Nicole Bezuidenhout

About the Blog

The Lightup Impact blogs cover compelling and valuable topics relevant to its members, partners, investors, and anyone with an interest in the work of grassroots social organizations active in women’s health and gender equality in East Africa.


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We increase the visibility and impact of social organizations with a focus on women’s health and gender equality in Kenya. We support the growth of our founders through tailored mentoring and networking opportunities