After two years evolving and expanding in South Africa the media innovation is taking their award-winning model to Kenya.
Citizen Justice Network (CJN) came to life as a 6 minute pitch on a stage in Jakarta in 2015. It was an event where we won gold at “The Global Innovation Competition” by Making All Voices Count. Back then the project was a mixture of ideas and enthusiasm. We received our first burst of funding from that competition. Subsequently, we have been strongly supported by The Open Society Foundation for South Africa and Canon Collins Trust. We took our ideas and solidified them. We expanded to eight areas.
The winning cheque that started CJN in 2015
It has been over two years since Jakarta. We have been serving communities around South Africa with quality legal content and media training. We are a fully established project within the Wits Journalism Department. We have a logo. And a website. And, crucially, we have deep relationships with paralegal offices and radio stations in rural and semi-rural areas. We have brought legal advice to over 400 000 radio listeners each week and editorial know-how to people who wouldn’t have, without us, received it.
And now the project has moved forward again thanks to another gala event, a shorter time to pitch, a different stage, this time in The Hague, and a new prize. The Innovating Justice Challenge is a large, glass shard of an award. And it is with incredible pride that CJN took it home in November last year. The level of competition was astounding and the partnerships we made with other justice innovators around Africa will last forever.
So now the question is: how do you scale to a new country? Kenya has a, to put it euphemistically, “vibrant” media landscape (with national TV stations being shut down by the government recently because of their editorial decisions). However, it is a perfect site for CJN. Radio is powerful. Political debate is educated. And the paralegal sector has penetrated every part of the justice process.
CJN visits the paralegal office in Naruku Prison, Kenya
So we have partnered with three formidable organizations to help us with making CJN:KENYA a success. First The Legal Resources Foundation Trust (LRF) is helping us to recruit an Editorial Manager and allow them to be placed in their head office in Nairobi. We take pride in how CJN keeps constant contact with our radio stations and paralegals. If one of our paralegals has a problem then we definitely know about it. And we are always a text or a call away to answer a query around what would make a better editorial product. The second organization is HiiL; they organized The Innovating Justice Challenge and are now guiding CJN into this next phase. They have representatives in Kenya which are going to make remote expansion much easier. CJN is based in Johannesburg and even though we are going to be travelling to Kenya as much as possible this year having people on the ground in a new area is invaluable.
The third organization in our corner is Kenya Community Media Network (KCOMNET). They represent the community radio network in Kenya and are helping us match paralegals with station managers so we can produce the quality content we have become known for.
Back in South Africa we are busy developing a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) with The Centre for Learning, Teaching and Development at Wits University so all types of activists around the world (not just paralegals) can become journalists by enrolling in our handy course. We plan to roll out this online course later this year. It will be free for all. The plan is to proudly incorporate CJN’s learnings on citizen journalism, activism and ethics.
CJN wins first prize at The Innovating Justice Challenge in The Hague, The Netherlands in November 2017