The Journey of a Grassroots Economist

Tags: career, economist, community development, collaboration


Grassroots Economists are an integral part of building resilient local socioeconomic systems, utilizing and developing Community Asset Vouchers and Commitment Pooling to boost cultural economic activities to foster sustainable community wellbeing. Their work is grounded in Community Action Planning and Ecosystem Stewardship.

A Grassroots Economist understands that people are key to their own development. They are masters of the visionary approach, systems thinking and the principles of sustainable development. They guide communities to see and utilize their abundance among all their assets (social, human/spiritual, political, natural, physical, and economic). Formalizing community assets into Community Asset Vouchers enables Grassroots Economists to be paid for their work by the communities themselves.

Preparation and Requirements

  1. Have the end result in mind to guide all your actions and decisions. Prepare your own Structural Tension Chart (Look into Community Action Planning).
  2. Become a certified Grassroots Economist by attending trainings organized by GrE and URDT
  3. Obtain an Android Smart Phone and internet access for communication, learning, monitoring and CAV creation and usage.
  4. Ensure you are deeply committed toward the visions of the people and groups you serve.
  5. Value Your Work: Plan to receive payment for your services to people and groups. a. Develop a signed MoU with the community. b. Contributions for your services can come from individual CAV payments during activities and as well from the group’s Community Fund c. Reciprocity is crucial for sustainable systems: Keep a balance between friendship and professionality.

Core Activities

  1. Create Structural Tension to help people know what they want and develop shared action steps.
  2. Facilitate and organize trainings on Community Asset Vouchers, Ecosystem Stewardship and Community Action Planning through the Visionary Process
  3. Co-Organize: rotational and community services (ROLA), markets, jubilees and other activities.
  4. Ensure balanced trade among members, bringing excessive or chronically low CAV accounts back to balance. Verify group records - ensure that they are keeping track of high and low balances and enforcing group rules.
  5. Braid and build connections between members and potential CAV users and members.
  6. Provide technical support - ensure everyone can access and use the digital system (Paper Wallets, USSD/SMS or Website).


  1. Document community activities, learnings and impacts via transaction histories, photos, videos and testimonies.
  2. Document community assets (baseline to current), vision, and status on their action plan.
  3. Carry out an evaluation and prepare impact stories for each group to be presented at annual Jubilees and other stakeholder events.
  4. Present these deliverables in order to renew your MoU with the community and ensure they will continue paying for your services. Prove the impact of your own work. Did you give value for what you earned?

Remember (Tips)

  1. Be of service and don’t create dependency. Aim to be a trainer of trainers, support and develop community leadership.
  2. Community Engagement: You can enable people but remember that people are key to their own development.
  3. Digital Power: Use technology as a tool for transparency, learning, accounting, reporting and communications. Teach others.
  4. Fair Access: Ensure everyone makes commitments toward their own resources and has a chance to access the group’s resources fairly.
  5. Asset Mapping: Regularly review your own and groups Action Steps and identify and leverage the resources, including collaborations with schools, government, clinics and so on, to achieve goals.
  6. Continuous Monitoring, Research and Learning: Seek out new ideas and information. Assess and adjust your vision and action steps as needed. Embrace new approaches to community wellbeing.

We want to celebrates the personal journeys of seven people who have embodied the transformation into becoming Grassroots Economists. Each brief story is reflects the learning, and triumphs experienced in their paths. We highly recommend seeking them out as consultants for their hard work and ability to empower communities.

1. Janet Otieno: Joining Grassroots Economics in May 2020 as a Community Development Officer, I embarked on a transformative journey across Kenyan communities from the Kalobeyei Refugee Settlement to Nairobi. Implementing the Community Asset Voucher program and conducting Visionary Approach training, I helped foster economic inclusion and sustainable grassroots economies. My role expanded globally, enhancing our projects' visibility and fostering international collaborations. This journey has been a profound learning experience, deepening my understanding of commitment pooling and its potential to foster community-centric economic models.

2. Joyce Kamau: My journey took a pivotal turn in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 upheaval. Transitioning from a Quality Assurance Officer to a Community Development Officer at Grassroots, I engaged with regions across Kenya, implementing Community Asset Vouchers and fostering the growth of Chamas. Collaborating with organizations like the World Food Programme and Kenya Red Cross, I participated in projects that revived Rotational Labor and syntropic agroforestry, leading to vibrant marketplaces and community-driven infrastructure projects. The profound connections with communities have been the essence of my experience, reinforcing my commitment to sustainable development.

3. Amina Godana: Starting as a cashier, my career shifted dramatically when I joined Grassroots Economics as a phone support representative in 2019, thanks to a tip from a former manager. My role quickly expanded to field support, where I trained youths on community asset vouchers and managed various groups, advocating for community asset vouchers in areas like Kalobeyei and Kakuma. Collaborations with Kenya Red Cross and training in the Visionary Approach by URDT from Uganda have been highlights of my fulfilling journey.

4. Wilfred Chibwara: Over six years at Grassroots Economics, I have engaged deeply with communities in Kinango, Siaya, and Kitui, driving the implementation of syntropic agroforestry and leading various successful grassroots initiatives. Managing a team of community development officers, I developed action plans that guided communities towards sustainable growth and spearheaded the revival of Rotational Labor, enhancing agricultural productivity and community cooperation.

5. Francisca Achieng: Inspired by my mother's community service, I joined Grassroot Economics in 2021. Working in this role boosted my confidence and allowed me to empower communities through innovative economic solutions like Community Inclusion Currency. My journey has been filled with learning new skills, facing challenges head-on, and building meaningful relationships that have inspired me to continue making a difference.

6. Emmanuel Mbui: Beginning my journey with Grassroots Economics in 2019, I have been part of empowering marginalized communities through programs like Mwerya and the Visionary Approach. These initiatives have allowed me to help communities identify and address their needs, fostering a sense of shared purpose and collective action. My experiences have enriched my understanding of the diverse cultural and social landscapes of Kenya and the power of collective effort.

7. Sylvia Karanja: Reflecting on five transformative years at Grassroots Economics, I started as a field and support representative and grew into a Community Development Officer. This role has allowed me to lead projects that uplift communities and encourage sustainable growth, working closely with community leaders and stakeholders to identify and implement development opportunities.

These stories highlight the diverse paths and collective impact of Grassroots Economists. Each journey, filled with challenges, learning, and success, underscores the powerful role of grassroots movements in driving sustainable development and community empowerment. As they look ahead, their continued optimism and determination promise to overcome any obstacles, paving the way for a future filled with possibilities for positive change.