Participatory Action Research for Advancing Youth-Led Peacebuilding in Kenya

from US Institute of Peace
Published on 11 Oct 2018 View Original

By: Illana M. Lancaster; Sahlim Charles Amambia, Felix Bivens, Munira Hamisi, Olivia Ogada, Gregory Ochieng Okumu, Nicolas Songora, Rehema Zaid

One-third of today’s generation of youth—those ages ten to twenty-four—live in fragile or conflicted countries and are susceptible to the sway of ideological narratives of violent extremism. Evidence suggests, however, that they also play active and valuable roles as agents of positive and constructive change. Part of a USIP portfolio that engages youth leaders as critical partners, this report documents an initiative undertaken in Kenya in 2017 and 2018 and explores its utility and effectiveness as an approach for youth-led peacebuilding in marginalized communities marked by violent extremism.


  • Since 2015, youth have emerged as new key actors in peacebuilding processes. Policies such as UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2250—on peace, youth, and security—place youth at the center of community, national, and global security agendas.
  • Although small, youth-led groups make up the majority of the organizations in the peacebuilding sector, little research has been conducted on how to operationalize these youth-led peacebuilding agendas.
  • Innovative approaches for operationalizing UNSCR 2250 on the ground, supported by replicable youth-led methods, are required to overcome the barriers to youth participation in peace and governance processes.
  • An innovative approach of using participatory action research (PAR) as a mechanism for youth to engage proactively in their communities on key issues related to peace and security is especially promising.
  • An overview of three youth-led action research projects in Kenya, each with a different youth-determined topic, demonstrates that PAR is a practicable and effective approach for youth to proactively engage with their local communities and governments around critical issues.

About the Report

This collaborative report documents a pilot initiative to explore the utility and effectiveness of participatory action research as an approach for youth-led peacebuilding in marginalized communities. The initiative is both a product of and supported by the United States Institute of Peace Academy.

About the Authors

Sahlim Charles Amambia is a consultant, peace trainer, and grassroots organizer as well as current director of operations for The Carrot Co., a Pan-African research, mobilization, and campaign company based in Nairobi.

Felix Bivens is founder and co-director of Empyrean Research, a community-based research organization dedicated to enhancing the research and learning capacities of social-change organizations.

Munira Hamisi is the founder of Lonamac, a youth-led, community-based organization founded on the basis of peacekeeping, securing livelihoods, and youth empowerment that serves four subcounties within Mombasa County.

Illana Lancaster is a senior program officer at USIP. Her portfolio includes managing the Conflict Management Training for Peacekeepers and Understanding and Engaging Communities for Effective Policing Training.

Olivia Ogada is currently the programs coordinator for Women in Democracy and Governance in Kenya, a human rights organization championing the rights of women and youth.

Gregory Ochieng Okumu is deputy national coordinator for the National Movement of Catholic Students Kenya PAX ROMANA, a global citizenship education expert with UNESCO/APCEIU.

Nicolas Songora is the founder of Manyatta Youth Entertainment, a not-for-profit, youth-led, community-based organization active in coastal Kenya, in Mombasa, Kwale, and Kilifi counties.

Rehema Zaid serves as programs coordinator for Integrated Initiatives for Community Empowerment in Kenya and previously as MIS officer at Aga Khan Development Network program, East Africa.