14 January 2013

Kenya: Our Politics Will Change When We Change


In 48 days you and I will walk to our respective polling station and elect our leaders of choice. We will be choosing the lesser of two necessary evils and then we will get down to dealing with the absolute pain of making those choices for a few more years.

This is not the election that will change the face of Kenyan politics or Kenyan leadership - this is the election that will prepare us to change how we think.

You see, in spite of the fact that we are always yelling about change, we seem unable to change the way we think and decide as voters and until and unless we do, we're screwed and the politicians know it. The politicians are not the problems, we are.

Our collective anger at the madness that happened in Parliament on Thursday night is comical. Politicians have never been in the business of looking out for us and stupidly, maybe naively, we still buy their silly tales. It's like an 18-year-old who still believes in Father Christmas and the tooth fairy. Grow up!

Two things will have to change about us - firstly we will need to understand that we must own the candidate and in doing so, do what we need to and what we can, to put the candidate of our choice in office. How in heaven's name do we gather around a politician and ask him for money so that we can put him in public office and then whine when he doesn't deliver on anything.

He already delivered - he gave you something between Sh200-1000 and that is his full contribution towards your livelihood for the next five years. Enjoy!

The other thing that needs to change is how we approach the process - we are going to need to define and decide what we want and knowing that, commit our effort and time in identifying the candidate we want and then getting them into office.

Allow me to share with you a bit of a wonderful study done by The Stanford School Of Business on Obama's 2007/2008 campaign.

The lot running for office in Kenya seem to think that the only major factor that led to Obama's success was social media - they couldn't be more wrong.

Not in Kenya, not now, not yet. In fact they should fire anyone on their think-tank still pushing them to do so. It's a waste of time. The major factors of Obama's success are down to two things - his ability to raise money and the groundswell of empowered volunteers who felt they could make a difference.

Obama won by "... converting everyday people into engaged and empowered volunteers, donors and advocates."Campaigns cost money - not money for dishing out to people who want a small hand-out, but money to fund the message, allow the candidate to travel, counter the messages from their opponents and keep them going.

Until and unless we learn that we must fund our candidates of choice and help them get out and about then our candidates will be funded by drug-lords, gun-runners, foreign nations with an agenda, dodgy businessmen - these are the smart people, the people who understand that once the candidate gets to office, they can call him up to lobby for their interests and take care of the deals and items that matter to them.

You and I who take money from the candidate will not be on the radar once he's in office. He doesn't owe you and please don't whine that you voted for him so he must - no my friend - he paid for your vote, so the two of you are now even - deal done - kwisha.

The other item crucial to Obama's success was the sheer ground swell of volunteers. Please note the term carefully - volunteers. These are people who make it their business to spread the message for the candidate pro-bono. I'm sure you saw Obama's tearful thank you to his campaign team when he won his second term.

He knows what it means to have people who put their time, sleepless nights and dreams into ensuring he got the vote. The story we don't bother to read or acknowledge is how many people gave their time and effort to getting Obama elected.

In Kenya we do the opposite, we sit around waiting for the guy to deliver himself to office, so that we can sit outside Continental House waiting to catch a glimpse of the Muhesh and ask for a favour. Nktest!

It's no secret that I have been asked to sit on political think tanks. I have politely declined for two reasons. If I don't believe in the candidate or their message/vision (or lack thereof), I'm wasting my time and his/hers - and my time is expensive - yes it is. Secondly, if the rest of the team does not understand there is a science to politics, then we're going nowhere.

I'm an annoyingly rational, logical, numbers sort of person. Too many people want to make decisions based on emotion and engage in discussions that have no logic. I get in trouble for being surgically brutal with the facts - I'm very black and white - grey is a silly colour and in the world of politics, there's very little room for emotions and fuzzy thinking.

Indulge me for a moment on the issue of logical, rational, planned thinking and execution.In January 2007, Obama hired 25-year-old Joe Rospars to work on the tools and systems that were not technology related. Note "not technology related". Rospars went on leave from his job to work on the campaign's content, organising, and fund raising. Yes he took leave.

The technology arm was handled by Kevin Malover. In early 2007, a series of young talented team leaders were hired. Chris Hughes, 25, a co-founder of Facebook, became director of internal organising and one of the key players behind MyBO. Hughes was also on leave from his regular job.

Traditional campaigns typically focused on getting votes and money in the USA. The Obama team's grassroots efforts revolved around asking for a third element: time, which meant involvement and engagement. Time. On developing a fund raising campaign Rospars said: "our goal was the number of people we wanted giving, not the dollar amount."

"Dinner with Barack turned traditional fund raising upside down," said Rospars. Traditional fund raising dinners allowed donors of high dollar amounts to buy access - that's what we are doing in Kenya - but remember the people who do go to that dinner, own that candidate - not you and I who are waiting for a hand-out from the candidate.

Sam Graham-Felsen, 25, joined the team as lead blogger, to focus on telling stories and blogging. He said he wanted to tell the story of how the Obama campaign was bigger than just Obama; how it was a movement of ordinary people - volunteers".

I love numbers, so let me share a few with you from Edelman Research, "The Social Pulpit," 2009.Obama's campaign garnered 5 million supporters on social networks.

By November 2008, Obama had approximately 2.5 million (some sources say 3.2 million) Facebook supporters, outperforming McCain by nearly four times. Obama had over 115,000 followers on Twitter, more than 23 times those of McCain. Fifty million viewers spent 14 million hours watching campaign-related videos on YouTube, four times McCain's viewers.

The campaign sent out 1 billion e-mails, including 10,000 unique messages targeted at specific segments of their 13-million member list. The campaign had garnered 3 million mobile and SMS subscribers. On Election Day alone, supporters received three texts.

Registered users and volunteers planned over 200,000 offline events, wrote 400,000 blog posts, and created 35,000 volunteer groups.

Obama raised $639 million from 3 million donors. Volunteers on MyBO generated $30 million on 70,000 personal fund raising pages. Donors made 6.5 million donations online, totaling more than $500 million.

Of those donations, 6 million were in increments of $100 or less, the average being $80. The average donor gave more than once.

Steve Grove from YouTube summarized: "There's a tendency to think of new media as a secret sauce that suddenly unlocks this viral potential.... But... they had a very talented candidate who was a great communicator and a campaign that matched and mirrored very well with the Internet: openness, inclusiveness, self-organizing, grassroots.

If they hadn't had that philosophy, they wouldn't have gone anywhere." No amount of time on the internet or social media can deliver the change we desire unless the strategy is built on openness, inclusiveness, self-organising and grassroots.

When we begin to accept that the change we want will have to come from us, be designed by us, rolled out by us and owned by us, then and only then will our politics and our nation change.

Until then, please go ahead and take your Sh500 and those of you who don't take cash, go back to ranting on social media. Change will not come on March 4 - you see, we are still waiting for muhesh atuwachie kitu (muhesh to remove something small)- then we protest when Muhesh robs us blind. Seriously?

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