What is resilience? Toughness? Determination? The ability to “bounce back”? We all need to be resilient – to be able to cope and keep going through hard times and challenges. But resilience is not just a trait that we need to cultivate individually. Resilience is about community. It’s about having people to turn to when things get tough. It’s about working together, with collective strength, to rise up and face everyday issues as well as once-in-a-lifetime shocks. This month we’re sharing some news that shows the awesome resilience of our partner communities – and how they build that resilience through the simplest of actions: communicating.

Last month, the UN Climate Summit brought together global leaders from government, private sector, and civil society to accelerate climate action. Around the world, we saw a record 7.6 million people take to the streets: the biggest climate mobilization in history.

At KDI, we’re tackling climate change through our DARAJA project in partnership with Resurgence, Kenya Meteorological Department, city partners, and informal neighborhoods across Nairobi. Supported by UK Met Office and UKAid (DFID) under the WISER East Africa Programme, the project aims to help vulnerable communities cope with the new reality of an unstable climate.

We often check the weather report to find out whether to bring an umbrella or wear a t-shirt. But in informal neighborhoods like Kibera or Mathare, getting weather information can save your business, your home, or even your life. Meaning “bridge” in Swahili, DARAJA stands for “Developing Risk Awareness through Joint Action”. By co-designing and testing new weather and climate information services, we’re bridging critical communication gaps to help at-risk communities get the information they need to stay safe.

Community members digging out drainage to prepare for heavy rains

Through a series of pilot projects, we’re working with community groups and local radios like Ghetto Radio – one of Nairobi’s most popular stations – to share daily updates and advice tailored to residents of informal settlements. Our partner Habari Kibra is sharing weather information with the masses and working with Kiberan cinematographer Ondivow to raise awareness of extreme weather events through video.

Meanwhile, our local community partners share easy-to-understand forecasts through SMS, word of mouth, and even phone calls. They’re organizing preventative “community clean-ups” to protect neighborhoods from flooding as the heavy rains set in, and engaging local schools to educate kids on protecting themselves from extreme climate conditions.

The climate crisis must be addressed globally by government and business leaders. But these efforts need to be matched with community-level education and action. When people are armed with information about the weather, they are able to prepare themselves for heavy rains, droughts, and increasing temperatures. One step, one news story, one SMS at a time, we will build climate resilient cities!

Just one year after its opening, the North Shore community park has plenty of tales to tell. Minutes after its opening ceremony had ended and ecstatic residents had gone home, an extreme storm tore through the park and surrounding neighborhood.

In the months that followed, community members rallied to repair their homes and grappled with the loss of not only a much-needed amenity, but also a creative landmark: a physical symbol of their vibrant but overlooked community. Together with KDI and local artist Carlos Ramirez – who had been working on a park mural that would capture the identity of North Shore and help to put it on the map – they waited for the park to be rebuilt.

After reopening in August this year, the park is now a hive of activity. From picnics under the shade of the trees and soccer games on the field, to scrambling up the climbing frame and looking out over the Salton Sea, kids and their families play from the moment they get out of school until the lights turn off. But the park is more than a space for fun and games – it’s a bold stage that reflects North Shore’s unique stories through symbols created by residents and woven throughout the design. 

The park is now a well-established and iconic landmark in the community

Carlos recently returned to complete the long-awaited mural, which was co-designed with residents to build on the park’s visual language and help North Shore assert its collective identity. In this interview he highlights the activism and resilience of the local community as the driving force behind the artwork: “The rattlesnake is a sign of respect, something that’s real regardless of where you’re at, things are real, you can make things happen.”

Carlos’s mural is both a beautiful and meaningful addition to the park – helping North Shore residents tell the stories that bind them together. “I let them take the reins and let them use me as a tool. They made it happen, all of this is them!”

We’re thrilled and honored to announce that the Neighborhood Mobility Plan for the Communities of Thermal and Oasis has won the APA California Transportation Planning Award!

Co-designed by residents of Thermal and Oasis and KDI power-trio Paola, Lauren, and Christian, the plan was applauded for its community-driven process, environmental sustainability, and focus on public health. Earlier this year, it was also named the Transportation Planning Award Winner by the APA Inland Empire Section.

The mobility plan has been granted $6.8 million in state Active Transportation Program (ATP) funding to implement the first phase of improvements, which will bring 14 miles of pedestrian and bike paths to a place where there are virtually no sidewalks and many people don’t have access to cars to carry out day-to-day tasks. But this is only the beginning of the journey: together with our recently-drafted mobility plan for Mecca and North Shore, it will drastically improve connectivity and community resilience across the entire Eastern Coachella Valley.

And finally...
  • Following in the footsteps of our Executive Director Chelina Odbert, KDI’s Naria Kiani has been named a Next City Vanguard - congrats Naria!
  • The KPSP Network Challenge kicked off this month – a bit of healthy competition to motivate community leaders to learn from each other and better manage their sites for sustainability!
  • Stay tuned for updates on our exciting new project in Philadelphia – we're partnering with Make the World Better to redevelop Vare Recreation Center!
  • The fourth wave of surveys for the Community Responsive Adaptation project just wrapped up, helping us understand the impact of flooding in Kibera
  • The Oasis Leadership Committee organized an amazing event to celebrate the diverse nationalities in the community, attended by over 200 residents! Antojitos Mexicanos Oasis (AMO) once again provided delicious food (below)

Thanks for reading!
If you would like to support KDI's work, please make a gift today:


Would you like to forward this email to a friend? Click here.

Share This Email: Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Linked In  
Remove my name from all future mass email communications:

Address postal inquiries to:
Kounkuey Design Initiative
2355 Westwood Blvd. #717
Los Angeles, CA 90064