Rose Mbone and The Legend Kenya – Local Organizations As Part of a Global Ecosystem

Article by Rose Mbone and Sera Bulbul

Rose Mbone is a fierce advocate for conflict mitigation and community-led development (CLD). With a long-standing commitment to localizing global policies on women, peace, and security, Rose’s work continues to drive change within Kenya that is manifested globally. 

When we interviewed Rose last year for MCLD’s monthly column, she described founding The Legend Kenya, a community-based organization focused on trauma healing, conflict mitigation, and resilience. This year, it is evident that her vision for CLD has grown even stronger, and The Legend Kenya’s work has achieved even more impact. Furthermore, her work with The Legend Kenya points to how MCLD’s commitment to changing the relationship between local organizations and global actors is led by individual member organizations. 

The Legend Kenya is dedicated to engaging communities at every project step, starting at the very beginning with situational awareness. “This is one of the ways we engage local actors because if you engage them from the word “go” then you’re able to get the right information to guide the entire project,” Rose explains. They bring this same commitment to engaging other CBOs in global connections and opportunities, like those that come from being part of MCLD. “The Legend Kenya is truly collaborative,” Rose emphasizes. “We focus on lifting other community-based organizations (CBOs) by sharing opportunities with like-minded organizations and individuals, often those not already in databases or on mailing lists.” 

Changing Funding Norms 

The Legend Kenya’s dedication to collaborative partnerships has opened new opportunities – and new ways of partnering. A recent partner on a climate change and resilience project led to a long-term partnership on a new three-year program. This project, involving work in three informal settlements, exemplifies what transformed partnership can enable.  

“This long-term funding is transformational for a local organization,” Rose notes. “It allows us to plan and implement sustainable initiatives, rather than rushing through activities.” Often, funding comes in six or eight-month increments, so this three-year commitment is transformational for the scope that The Legend Kenya can work in. 

Longer-term funding is one aspect of funding reform MCLD and its members have been pushing for. Despite notable successes, like The Legend Kenya’s new partnership, challenges persist in changing funding norms. Building a sustainable CBO requires years of relationship-building, emotional investment in the process, and resource mobilization. 

Funders’ rigid requirements often pose additional hurdles. In particular, a prevalent approach is that funders come to communities with set ideas and use local organizations to implement their vision. They want community-based organizations to fit their criteria, rather than make the funding work for the community and the CBO that supports them. This makes the programming less sustainable and means it is hard for most community-based organizations to meet funder requirements. 

Through several opportunities since joining MCLD, Rose has been able to share these insights directly with funders and international actors. Notably, interacting with decision-makers from USAID during a visit to Kenya in May 2023 opened lines for honest communication about challenges and opportunities for changing funding norms and strengthening community-led development. In October 2023, Rose attended the Conference on Strengthening Local Actors in the HDP Nexus in Copenhagen and connected to the global agenda around community-led development, highlighting the significance of her work, and demonstrating that the work of grassroots actors is essential to these global conversations around community-led development. 

Looking Ahead: Optimism for Community-led Development

Through The Legend Kenya’s efforts to share their work and push for better funding and partnership norms, Rose remains optimistic about the direction that locally-led development is heading. “I foresee a space opening up for grassroots leaders and organizations. I’ve seen a lot of work being done in the global arena, so I’m optimistic that this will trickle down to the grassroots level,” says Rose. “I am looking forward to a future where this is neutralized and both parties are respected regardless of what they’re bringing to the table.” 

“For me, MCLD has been this bridge of consistently reminding us that this is what we want to achieve, this is what you’ve been doing, and this is how it links to the ongoing conversation.”

Rose’s commitment to MCLD’s global advocacy agenda is only strengthened by her interactions with the Movement Secretariat and global coordinators. In March 2023, MCLD’s Founder John Coonrod visited the Kenya National Association and joined conversations around climate change, youth, peace, and security. For Rose, this put a very real face to the support of the MCLD global Secretariat. Later in the year, Rose was able to travel with Gunjan Veda, now MCLD’s Global Secretary as well. Rose notes the significance of Gunjan’s new leadership position:  “Seeing Gunjan Veda assume her new role as MCLD’s Global Coordinator is inspiring. It motivates us [women] to do more every day, knowing that we are in a field that appreciates our contributions.”

When it comes to Rose’s vision for the future of community-led development in Kenya, she points her attention to hoping that this global community of practice that appreciates local actors continues to grow. 

“I am hoping that when this dream finally becomes a reality, the people who have really struggled for [community-led development] will be in the forefront without being sidelined for lack of ‘expertise’ or ‘experience.’” 

Rose Mbone

About Rose

Rose Mbone has worked for over 12 years as a peace and justice advocate in the informal settlements in Nairobi County. She has experience as a youth leader in disarmament, cohesion building, reintegration, trauma awareness and resilience among youths in informal settlements. She also has experience carrying out dialogue processes among youth and police in disarmament and crime reduction. As a community mobilizer, Rose has vast practical experience in bringing together youth from diverse backgrounds to have conversations on different issues and concerns that affect the youth and community.

Rose was among the first cohort of the inspiring African women leaders for the peace and security program in Ghana at the Koffi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center 2019 and had an opportunity to go back in 2021 for coaching and mentoring training. She continues to champion the inclusion of young women and youths in peace and security processes in Kenya and beyond.

Rose is currently coordinating trauma awareness and resilience campaigns under the Legend Kenya community-based organization specifically targeting the youths in three informal settlements in Nairobi county focusing on both reformed youths and those still struggling to reform with support from the Daima initiative for peace and development.