Influence Networks Relating to Health Knowledge Among Nairobi’s Micro-Retailers and Their Clients


  • Jarret Cassaniti



Social networking analysis,, influence mapping,, participatory methods,, health communication,, visualization,, low- and middle-income countries,, Kenya


TRANSFORM, founded in 2015 by Unilever and the UK’s Department for International Development, supports several social enterprises by combining public sector resources with private sector technical capabilities and networks to support innovative social enterprises. Digital programs have enabled social enterprise partnerships to expand the reach of their initiatives to broader audiences including specifically defined groups that hitherto were untapped or difficult to reach. Unilever partnered with TRANSFORM and Every1Mobile to develop UJoin and UAfya in informal settlements of Nairobi, Kenya. UJoin is a social enterprise initiative for promoting business growth among underserved neighborhood shops called dukas. UAfya focuses on young expectant and new mothers, and women interested in family and maternal health topics. Each initiative uses an online community network to discuss and improve knowledge and behaviors regarding livelihoods and health. Online communities provide opportunities to reach specific groups with targeted behavior change messages and campaigns. However, little systematic knowledge is currently available on how to develop, and scale-up effective behavior change programs for digital communities in low-income markets. There is also little information about key guiding principles and best practices that underlie successful digital and online, social networking models. A systematic and participatory tool known as Net-Map was used to explore and understand potential frameworks for establishing digital-based community-driven partnerships with the private sector for health promotion through behavior change. The Net-Map approach was used to help individuals and groups clarify their view of a situation (including networks and power structures), foster discussion, and develop a strategic approach to their networking activities. Eight Net-Maps were constructed, stratified by groups based on location and digital platform. Each map was constructed by an average of 9-10 people for a total of 76 participants. Seventy-six participants identified actors – stakeholders and groups of people involved - and influential links – ways actors are connected - through the Net-Map activity. Among UAfya participants, local government, family, and friends, and the media were identified as the most important actor types. A comparison of the discussions associated with the creation of the maps by UAfya members shows that the two most important link types are conflict, and collaboration/partnership. Among UJoin participants, the three most important actor types were local government, business and financial institutions, and customers. UJoin members identified regulation, and conflict and competition, collaboration and, information sharing as key links between actors. Recommendations based on findings support a vision for scale-up of the UJoin and UAfya programs through accreditation and branding of a novel type of duka. Shop keepers would be trained and knowledgeable to provide high-quality services to improve customer health while also selling health products that benefit the bottom line.



1 Apr 2021



General Paper