By BECKY GITONGA-KARINGE
In mid-March of 2016 following the First Lady presentation to the business community in Phoenix, Arizona, I put out a post on my social network with the following caption:
“The Beyond Zero Campaign has the potential to have a far and wide reach of audiences, supporters and even financiers/investors. Consideration should be given to ensure that it is structured in a manner that will go beyond the current presidency/government that she has ties to.
For sustainability purposes, it is also important to give consideration to what would be the long-term structure of the initiative. While mobile clinics are useful for emergency and marginalized area situations, there should be an effort to move beyond mobile clinics to link the effort to more permanent facilities.
The risk mobile clinics pose; the possibly of diverting personnel (even resources) that would otherwise benefit expansion, equipping and giving more focus to specialized efforts/units. Beyond it all, what the initiative has achieved is commendable.
It would be most useful for the initiative to provide a public report/audit that gives an account of the initiative. It would need to be done in a manner that draws an honest and critical evaluation, not based on scoring points but critically determining if the model is working in moving the issues at hand forward, to serve as a point of reality check or even model for many other programs within the country. Considering the support garnered, keeping the public trust is an essential and useful component.”
The above statement stands today as it did then in March 2016 when I wrote it.
It is even more relevant in light of the recent action by the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta to cancel this year’s marathon. In her cancellation statement, the first lady cited “not wanting to politicise the initiative’ after continuous weeks of public uproar due to the ongoing health crisis.
The decision to cancel and the statement made is a smart move. It was unplanned and unexpected. And considering preparations for the marathon had been ongoing for days, weeks or even months, a lot may have been lost. Even then, this was the right move.
Whether the move to cancel is believable or not, there are some key points to be made.
The is all too often, everything gets so politicised to the point of destroying or tearing down efforts that are well intended and have potential for long-term benefit. To turn on the political heat and hate on the first lady as a way to prove opposition to the president and the government, is short-sighted in many ways.
There is no doubt when the first lady started the initiative, it was with every good intention – to use her office to advance a cause. The initiative was able to garner the support of the public and an array of supporters locally and internationally.
As the effort has grown, it has proved its potential. That has also meant increased scrutiny and along with that, various concerns have been raised. All of these are justified.
However, scrutiny or even concerns should never be a reason to deter from the intended goal. It should be an opportunity to streamline where needed and enhance the initiative to maintain its purpose and the support of its backers.
In this case, the cancellation could be taken as a timely moment to pause. To take the time to consider the best move forward in consideration of key issues and concerns that have arisen.
True success is often tied to the ability to make smart moves along the way, to test and implement, to learn and correct. It is an ongoing process.
If we can learn to own and support great efforts with solid ongoing ideas and actions, instead of seeking to tear them down because they no longer represent short-term interests, we would have more solid projects completed.
Some points for the Beyond Zero Initiative to consider moving forward.READ FULL ARTICLE ON THE PLATFORM FEB EDITION
The writer is a Kenyan currently residing in the US. (firstname.lastname@example.org)