Transitions: Juliana Rotich

Juliana Rotich
Sep 11, 2015

There comes a time in every journey when the road reveals great vistas and wonderful new opportunities. It is almost 5 amazing years since I took on the role of Executive Director at Ushahidi and it is now time for me to transition to the next phase of my life and career.

When we began with Ushahidi in 2008, I was typical programmer, inward looking and unaware of the scale of the impact that the code we were writing would create. When I met with Erik, Ory, David and Daudi, I had no idea that our energy, passion and the sum of our technical and intellectual knowledge could help provide solutions for massive human challenges. Much has been written about the innovation that became the platform and the organization that is Ushahidi but at the heart of the story is a testament to the power of ideas, collaboration and technology.

Over the past 5 years, I have grown tremendously both professionally and personally. I have learnt a lot about people, running an organization and the importance of teamwork. I am eternally grateful to my friends and colleagues that have travelled this journey with me, burnt the midnight oil many, many nights and shared the dream of improving humanity.

It has been my privilege to lead and serve this team of extraordinary people, witnessing their dedication and recognizing that the business of doing good takes everything. I am proud of what we have achieved together. During my time at Ushahidi we built a global community, and continued to blaze trails particularly in Kenya with creation of the iHub and the birth of an African “silicon savannah”. We have accomplished a lot. Some of the highlights for me are:

Over 90,000 deployments of Ushahidi, in 159 countries

Translations into 50 languages

6.5m Posts or "Testimonies" from all over the world

Reaching a population of 20 million

$1 Per Direct Impact

From web to mobile applications with SMSsync, iOS and Android

Grown the sustainability of the organisation by increasing consulting income by more than 75% year on year to $750,000 in 2015.

Part of the fund manager consortium of the USD 55m Making All Voices Count Grand Challenge

Implementing partner for The Rockefeller Foundation’s Resilience Network Initiative

Innovation capacity building and network building through expanding the technology ecosystem in Kenya to include new iHub Nairobi initiatives, BRCK, Akirachix and Gearbox

Significant clients include: World Bank, Al Jazeera, Conservation International, World Vision, and the United Nations Department of Field Services.

Funding diversification: Omidyar Network, MacArthur, Cisco, Google and Ford, as well as funding through programs and earned revenue from clients.

These are just a few of the accomplishments, there are many more and I am sure many yet to come. Above all we have impacted lives and brought the power of the technology to bear in our pursuit of transparent and better governance. We have also made the world sit up and recognize that African ideas have Global relevance and value. We have contributed to changing the African narrative and shown that we are not a continent of dependence and despair but a wellspring of innovation and enterprise.

I have also worked with many amazing people who have inspired me to think about strategy, scale, practical execution and sustainability. Whilst the learnings have been exponential these questions remain mostly unresolved and will form part of my focus as I move forward.

I will miss my friends and colleagues who challenged and surprised me throughout the years. We will still work together albeit in a different capacity as I continue to provide strategic advice and guidance as a member of the Ushahidi board and as I continue to support the leadership team.

As I transition Daudi Were, who is currently leading our work with Making All Voices Count will take on the role of interim Executive Director and I am completely confident that as an insider and long standing member of the team he will ensure that the organisation navigates these changes smoothly and efficiently. Daudi Were brings fresh energy, passionate commitment and the power of a super connector across the tech and international development community.

As many of you will know we have also been developing BRCK and its subsidiaries over the last two years and I will continue to be an integral part of its growth. There is a lot to be done to realise the full Global potential for BRCK so my energies will be focused on building strategic partnerships, accelerating new business and helping to establish commercial ventures.

During one cycle of the testing phase of BRCK, we took an expedition from Nairobi, Kenya crossing several African countries by road, on our way to Johannesburg. As many a weary traveller would tell you, the journey can enrich you while it challenges you, and ultimately it will reshape you. What I saw were the many gaps in local ecosystems which can be tackled by innovative technology, a better understanding of complex systems and a sincere commitment to constructive value.

So, as I prepare to move to my next phase, I realize that this is the new space that I want to explore. In my (solar powered) backpack, filled with dreams and visions of the future I will also carry with me the invaluable lessons and experiences from Ushahidi. I know that new adventures are both exciting and daunting but that passion and compassion for humanity are an invaluable companion.