Dholuo for your community “Koru” symbolizes new life, growth, strength and peace and brings a scene of shared community and appreciation for life and growth, represented in their motto, ‘Tushirikiane’ Swahili for ‘We support eachother’.
Koru was founded by Jacky Kowa and Will Ruddick and has over ten years working with slum communities at the coast.
According to the non-profit, “Jacky Kowa is a native Kenyan and has been working primarily on women’s rights and health issues her whole life. Professionally, she is a specialist in behavior change communication and using drama as a tool for change and mobilization. Will Ruddick has been designing development projects in Kenya since 2009 and has a background in scientific research and business. He has developed cooperatives, conducted impact assessment and baseline research, trained hundreds of Kenyans and developed over a dozen different programs.”
Other team members include Alfred Sigo, Esther Achola, Helena Analo, Lydia Anyango and Hassan D. Masudi both working in the Bangladesh slums in Mombasa to help slum dwellers.
Koru teams says, “Our goal is to improve lives. The approaches that have informed and designed our programs include: community profiling to understand needs and meaningful impact and participatory education and in-depth research.”
Among its partners is Community Forge, a Swiss Non-Proft.
Loucéro Mariani part of the swiss non-profit has donated funds and time in support of our Bangla Pesa. Other non-profits Burners Without Borders had also promised to help support and scale Bangla Pesa while the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) spearheaded research on Complementary Currencies.
According to Koru, “Bangla-Pesa is a program to strengthen and stabilize the economy of the informal settlement of Bangladesh, Kenya by organizing its more than 200 small scale businesses into a Bangla Business Network (BBN) through which its members can utilize a complementary currency to mediate trades.”
The non-profit adds, “Bangla-Pesa is a unit of credit within this mutual-credit-clearing (or multilateral reciprocal exchange) system which provides a means of payment that is complementary to official money.”
Launched May 2013 by the BBN, Bangla-Pesa was aimed at stabilizing the community in the face of monetary volatility by allowing Network members to trade with each other without using the national currency.
Its local availability would give the slum community with a stimulus to local business incubation and social service projects. Koru has worked with the BBN on planning and baseline data-gathering since November 2012.
Users get paper-vouchers which they can pass from hand to hand as payment for goods and services. BBN was also working on introducing use of mobile phone technology to transfer the Bangla-Pesa credits.
Like agaency based networks, once a business is accepted into the Network through a process of finding four guarantors, it gets a Bangla-Pesa credit line.
The businesses then pay a membership fee to the network in Bangla-Pesa for administration, marketing and community programs.
“By using the Bangla-Pesa to buy goods and services at fellow BBN member businesses, they also accept to sell their own goods and services for Bangla-Pesa. The amount of Bangla-Pesa in circulation is determined by the membership and targeted using baseline data, at an amount usable for daily transactions. This currency forms a buffer against fluctuations in the money supply due to remittances, weather, holidays, sending children to school, political turmoil and so on,” the non-profit writes.
The BBN membership says it has 75 percent women businesses owners who regularly fall below the international poverty line.
For those in need of remitting money home, Bangla-Pesa helps them save their national currency and use the local currency for daily spending on just anyhing including business like clothes washing, tailoring, cobblering, manual laborer, house builders, salons, mechanical and electronic repairs, and porting.
Clients in water, transportation, hardware, soap, general shops, food services, raw food, farming, charcoal, lamp oil, education, clothes, medical clinics, drinks.
Bangla Business Network (BBN) Organization
According to the non-profit, “The BBN has a board of directors consisting of representatives from: youths, elders, women business owners, men business owners and community health workers. These directors have the task of accounting, administration, registration, Networking, care taking and organizing community service work. In order to join the BBN local business must have 4 other local businesses as guarantors in case of default.”
Thereby if a BBN member spends their credits at other stores and then refuses to accept a minimal level of Banglas in their own store, the guarantors must resolve the issue, accept those credits at their own businesses or loose membership. This occurrence is minimized with good networking and communication among members. Koru-Kenya holds a non-voting advisory role on the board.
Bangla on Mobile Phones
By using mobile phones, BBN members hope to trade their Banglas digitally without the need for printed bills.
The Bangla artwork was done by Karol Opondo. Born in 1979, Karol Opondo is the Head of Art Department at The Mombasa Academy, Kenya. Karol finds that the communities around her are her greatest inspiration. The security printing and graphic design for Bangla-Pesa was done by the Punchlines Security team in Nairobi under the artistic direction of Saul Nassilah.
Image and Article Courtesy:Koru Kenya