Organization Details

What is your organization's name?

Kenya Connect

What is your organization's classification?


In what city, town, or region is your organization headquartered?

Wamunyu, Kenya

Provide your organization’s mission and/or vision statement and list its core values.

Kenya Connect's vision is an empowered rural community that harnesses the benefits of education to drive sustainable development. With the mission of engaging and empowering students and teachers in rural Kenya to succeed in the 21st century we believe we can achieve our vision.

In order to effectively carry out our mission, Kenya Connect believes that:

  • Local community leadership must drive and implement the organization’s actions

  • Expanding into new communities requires identifying and fostering strong local leadership

  • Buy-in and support within the communities where we work is essential

  • Our actions must promote the economic sustainability and independence of local communities by working through local economies to provide resources 

  • We must focus on building connections between and among communities in Kenya and abroad

  • The best practices of non-profit organizations – including fiscal responsibility and stewardship, board development and leadership, and assessment and monitoring – are essential tenets

Kenya Connect, Inc. is a 501 c-3 based in Maryland and Kenya Connect is a registered NGO in Kenya. Both entities have their own independent Board of Trustees and work in tandem to support the mission and philosophy.

How many products or programs does your organization operate? Please use numeric values only.


What stage of development is your organization’s product or program that is the focus of your LEAP Project?

Growth: An organization with an established product or program that is rolled out in one or more communities.
Team Lead Details

Who (first and last name) is the Team Lead for your application and LEAP Project?

Sharon Runge

Describe the role the Team Lead plays in your organization. [100-200 words recommended]

Dr. Sharon Runge serves as the Executive Director in the U.S. She works to raise funds and friends, write grants, explore and nurture partnerships, communicate Kenya Connect's work and to help strategically guide the organization. Sharon works closely with James Musyoka, Co-founder and Executive Director, in growing the breadth and depth of Kenya Connect's work and to guide the staff.

Explain how your Team Lead and supporting team members are well-positioned to effectively support the LEAP Project, given other priorities within your organization. [200-500 words - recommended]

Under Sharon's leadership, our literacy programs have grown significantly. As a result of partner teachers requesting books and asking for help in improving students' reading and writing, Kenya Connect developed a plan to build our programs. These initiatives included creating and implementing a mobile school library through purchasing a bus and truck, launching World Read Aloud Day, LitClubs, LitMoms, the Radio Read Aloud, Saturday Storytime and the Reading Challenge, and focusing on teacher professional development programs. Sharon helped Kenya Connect become a LitWorld partner which provided outstanding training and guidance for our Library Staff. Librarian Esther Muinde is dedicated, creative and passionate about strengthening literacy in the community and has been tireless in reaching out to library and literacy colleagues to ensure we are following best practices. Margaret Mutune, Kenya Connect's Coordinator of Monitoring and Evaluation, is excited to learn from the LEAP fellows on best practices and better ways to measure our programs' effectiveness. This team, and the entire Kenya Connect staff is excited to share our work with the LEAP TEAM to learn. 

Solution Details

One-line solution summary: In 20 words or less, summarize your organization's product or program that is the focus of your LEAP Project.

Kenya Connect is striving to improve student achievement through our literacy programs including the library, student enrichment, and parent involvement.

Define the problem that your solution seeks to solve. [200-500 words recommended]

According to a World Bank Report, “Ending Poverty, What Will It Take,” reading is instrumental in academic achievement and in lifting families out of poverty. Children and families in the Mwala sub-county face many challenges that affect student achievement and literacy. Most schools in the sub-county are severely under-resourced and lack basic supplies, including books, computers, and learning resources. In addition, many of Kenya Connect’s 63 partner government schools are overcrowded with classes of 30-50 students, which is compounded by regular understaffing with not enough teachers for each grade level. English, the students’ third language, is essential for student success in Kenya because the national exams are administered in English. Only 3.4% of Kenya students, however, speak enough English to use it in their homes, which further affects academic and exam achievement (Statista, 2022) Students do not have the benefit of hearing or reading English on television or through the web, as their homesteads lack electricity and internet connectivity. Students and their parents also have not had access to books or other print materials due to high poverty rates and the lack of print materials. Many parents, having never had access to books, do not know how to guide and/or encourage their children to read. Parents in our community believe that education is important and want their children to be successful, but do not always have the tools or understanding on how to help their children.

In addition to helping students improve their vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension, reading provides students with new knowledge, ideas, and the opportunity to picture a story in their minds. Reading helps build creativity and critical thinking while inspiring students through opening new worlds to them. For years, students have not had the opportunity to read beyond their textbooks due to the lack of resources.

Describe your solution and how it works in simple terms. [200-500 words recommended]

As the former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “Reading is the bridge from misery to hope.” Knowing that reading is a key to success, Kenya Connect works to build a culture of reading through a multi-pronged approach for students, teachers, and parents. 

Our library has grown from 100 books in 2012 to over 36,000 books by 2023. We are proud of opening the first community library in the Mwala sub-county last year, but our literacy work is far more than our book holdings. In 2018, we began the Library Card and School Library Days program. This mobile library program allows students, teachers, and parents to enroll with a library card to check out books. To subscribe their children into the library program, parents have to pay a one-time fee of 100 Kenyan shillings (roughly $1) to offset the cost of the library card and to create buy-in. Our vehicles bring books to 35 partner schools every other week. Equipped with laptops, scanners, and containers of books, our library teams provide a wide-range of age-appropriate books to students in all grades. 

In addition to Library Days, we hold professional development workshops with teachers on how to incorporate literacy into their classrooms. The teachers have been receptive to this, especially as they have seen their students’ comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary improve. 

As Kenya Connect has provided enrichment programs, we have worked to meet the needs of each learner. We provide tailored enrichment programs in part because there has been a historical practice in schools for teachers to label students as “dull or slow learners” or unable to learn, especially if they are not good at rote memorization. As our staff works with students in LitClubs, technology classes, and library programs, they work to meet each student’s individual needs. For example, in one LitClub, a student was hesitant to read out loud. The LitClub mentor worked one-on-one with the student to help the student build fluency and the confidence to read and talk in the class. As a result, the student became one of the most engaged students in the program. In a coding technology class of fourth graders, a special needs student who had been integrated into the class could not read. Because Scratch coding uses blocks and pictures, our staff was able to work with the student so he could participate. The classroom teacher was amazed to see what he could do. 

In January 2020, Kenya Connect forged a partnership with LitWorld, an organization working around the globe to promote reading and literacy. As a result, our staff launched LitClubs and LitMoms programs. The LitMoms program is thriving, with moms checking out books for their children, sharing books and stories with them, and feeling empowered and comfortable talking to their children about reading. Through this program, these moms are finding new ways to connect with their children and are seeing the importance of having them be fully literate to achieve in school and in their future lives. 

Select the key characteristics of your target population. Select all that apply.

  • Women & Girls
  • Primary school children (ages 5-12)
  • Rural
  • Poor
  • Low-Income

In which country or countries does your solution currently operate?


Upload your solution's Theory of Change or Logic Model.

Where would you place your solution on Nesta's Standards of Evidence?

Level 2: You capture data that shows positive change, but you cannot confirm you caused this.

To date, what research/studies has your organization conducted that have helped demonstrate the effectiveness of your solution? [200-500 words recommended]

As our Library programs have expanded, the Kenya Connect staff has been diligent in monitoring and evaluating our various initiatives. This evaluation is occurring through statistical analysis of test score data, surveys of Head Teachers, semi-structured interviews with LitMoms, and tracking of the library card program.

We have examined the KCPE (Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education) scores of students at schools in the sub-county, statistically comparing the scores of those participating in the mobile library program with those who do not, using a BACI (before-after-control-impact) design. We have seen a slight improvement of scores in the schools that participate in the mobile library program, but accounting for the effects of the pandemic have been difficult. As a result of the pandemic, school closures, and an altered school calendar, test scores have been flat or declining across the county. Since many of our library programs went into effect just before or during the pandemic, it is hard to separate out causal factors; it does appear, however, that the schools with the mobile library program saw better outcomes than others. We are continuing this analysis.

Each year at the annual Head Teachers (principals) meeting, we survey the Head Teachers, asking them questions including what they believe is the most important Kenya Connect enrichment program offered and why. For the last two years, over 95% of the Head Teachers have reported that our library and literacy programs are most important, because they are seeing improved fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary in their students participating in the literacy initiatives. Teachers have also observed that reading culture is positively changing in most schools with the library program as learners are accessing books and other reading materials from Kenya Connect Library. Teachers are also seeing a difference in students, especially those participating in LitClubs. Through interviews, teachers are sharing that students in our LitClub programs are more engaged in the classroom through asking questions, raising their hands, and contributing to discussions. They have reported that students are also more confident and thinking creatively and critically. In addition, our staff has recorded anecdotal accounts of profound changes from when students begin the program to graduation. Once afraid of reading aloud, now the students eagerly are reading to their peers. 

As we have worked with the LitMoms group for the past year, we consistently seek feedback on the programs through semi-structured interviews. The moms have shared that their children are no longer getting in trouble at school since they are completing their homework and improving in their schoolwork. Many of the LitMoms are sharing stories with their children, which they did not do before the LitMoms program.

Finally, the number of library cards distributed has increased to over 6500 and more individuals are visiting the library to borrow books or to read the daily newspapers. This is a clear increase over previous years.

What has the research/studies you have conducted revealed about your solution and how did it inform your work moving forward? [200-500 words recommended]

Through our surveying of Head Teachers and Teachers and analyzing the KCPE scores, we have seen some research that shows our programs are making a difference. Teachers are reporting that students who are part of the library program and actively reading are more fluent, have improved comprehension and more engaged in school. They believe that their pupils are improving in school as a result of Kenya Connect programs. The teachers are especially amazed at the transformation of the students who participate in the LitClubs. A class that they thought of being "dull or unteachable" are now the best and highest achieving class in school (by their reporting). With teachers and head teachers eager for more programs, we have expanded into more schools.

We have also had self-reports from the LitMoms that their children are no longer getting in trouble in school for not doing their homework or being unable to participate in class discussions. The LitMoms have shared that their children are doing better in school and that their relationship with their children is improved. As a result, we have been incorporating parents in more of our programming including LitFests and the Girl/Boy Empowerment Program. 

Most importantly, students who several years ago would not pick up a book to read, are now eagerly running to the bus on school library days. We also have students, parents, and teachers visiting our library to borrow books and reading is becoming mainstream for students in our community.

LEAP Project Details

Describe your organization's need to strengthen the evidence base of your solution. [200-500 words recommended]

Opening the first community library in 2022 has been fantastic. Parents, students, teachers, and other NGO staff members are amazed when they see our bright space and the thousands of books on our shelves. In just 10 years, our book collection has grown from 100 to 36,000 with over 6,500 library cards issued and 31,000 books checked out last year. We know that books provide pleasure and information, and our preliminary monitoring and evaluation has demonstrated that we are making some incremental progress. However, we want to have a deeper understanding of how our library and literacy initiatives are making a difference as a means to know:

  • how best to deploy our resources;

  • how to improve our programs to help students and their families become more literate;

  • the programs’ impact on academic achievement;

  • whether reading improves quality of life; and 

  • the impact of reading on workforce readiness.

Since many of our programs have been operating for multiple years, this is an ideal time to engage experts from LEAP to help us evaluate our programs. We are excited about the opportunity to build upon our foundational and formative research and conduct summative research, which will inform ongoing program development and implementation as well as provide critical data about effectiveness. Our staff is eager to learn from the LEAP professionals and has an excellent record of partnering effectively with outside organizations including Team4Tech, LitWorld, The Raspberry Pi Foundation, and Level-Up Village. We have the capacity to work with a team and have the technology, tools, and reliable internet to  meet with the Leap Team as well as collect, analyze, and utilize data as recommended by the team. With deep ties to the community and a high level of trust, the Kenya Connect staff is comfortable talking with teachers, students and parents to garner feedback. 

What are 2-3 research questions that you would like your LEAP Project to help you answer? [100 words recommended]

Research Questions:

  • What is the correlation between improved KCPE/KCSE test scores and student enrollment in the School Library Days program?

  • What are the academic and social outcomes for students enrolled in the School Library Program and LitClubs?

  • What is the impact of the LitMoms program on student achievement?

What type of research/studies do you think will help answer your stated questions? Select all that apply.

  • Formative research (e.g. usability studies; feasibility studies; case studies; user interviews; implementation studies; pre-post or multi-measure research; correlational studies)
  • Summative research (e.g. correlational studies; quasi-experimental studies; randomized control studies)

Please elaborate on your selection above by describing your desired outputs of the 12-week LEAP Project sprint. [200 - 500 words recommended]

Kenya Connect believes that reading is important for our community, providing knowledge, pleasure, and the ability to explore new ideas, places in the world, and stories. As reading is essential to academic achievement, we are eager to learn if our multi-pronged approach is helping students to achieve academically with improved outcomes for success in and beyond school.

Question 1: It would be extremely helpful to have LEAP research associates review the data we have collected for the last five years to determine if there is a correlation between students participating in the library and those who are not. We are also looking forward to the team suggesting improved ways of collecting and examining the data to determine the effectiveness and efficacy of our library program.

Question 2: In addition to looking at the test scores, we need guidance on best ways to garner information from teachers on how our library programs are making a difference for students. Helping our staff to develop questions and protocols would be beneficial as well as best practices in evaluating and reporting the information gathered. We are especially interested in the impact of the School Library Days, The Reading Challenge, and LitClubs.

Question 3: The LitMoms program has been an oasis for the mothers/grandmothers participating in the program. Most of the mothers show up for all the programs and are excited to hear the chosen Read Aloud story. For most of the mothers who had dropped out of primary school, it is the first time they have had access to books or educational materials. In addition to enrichment for the moms, our library staff is working with the mothers on how they can help their children in school and nurture a love of reading. We are interested in learning if there is an impact on the children of the mothers in this program, and if so, what improvements are shown. These desired improvements includes academic achievement, engagement in school, interest in reading, and improved parent/child communication.

How will your organization put these outputs into action? [200-500 words recommended]

We have strived to create our programs through research, incorporating best practices, and learning from the outcomes of program implementation. Throughout our history, we continually review our programs to make revisions to strengthen them. With the outputs developed by the fellow-produced research, our team will use the recommendations, guidance, and strategies to strengthen our programs. We welcome the opportunity to work with the LEAP fellows and to discuss their findings with our team. Participating with the LEAP fellows will increase our understanding of how our programs are making a difference and new ways and best practices of measuring how our work is transforming education in our rural community. Having a dedicated team working with our staff will provide a new focus on program evaluation and effectiveness.

We will share these outputs to inform program and evaluation strategies and appropriate modifications. Our library team and senior staff will review the outputs and use them to ensure that we are meeting our goals. We also will share outputs with donors, future funders, and stakeholders including teachers, parents, the Ministry of Education, and students. Having this type of information will be a tremendous help to our work, the community, and the field. This is especially timely since our Boards and staff are undergoing a strategic planning process and the results and recommendations will help inform our discussions.

In addition,the data and findings will be share with teachers and head teachers at our partner schools as well as with the Curriculum Support Officers in the County (Ministry of Education) and other education officials. We know that the findings will help inform and direct resources to continue or expand the programs.

Describe your desired short-term and long-term outcomes of the 12-week LEAP Project sprint for both your organization and solution. [200-500 words recommended]

Kenya Connect has grown significantly over our 20-year history and we are currently reaching 18,000 students at 63 partner government schools. Our success is partially a result of partners who have shared best practices and ideas with us. As we have grown, we have been committed to developing strategies to better evaluate and monitor our programs. Guidance from a team of experts will be extremely helpful.

In the short-term, we are excited to work closely with the LEAP fellows to grow and learn. It will be a stimulating 12 weeks with best practices and new evaluation techniques for our staff. We believe the learnings will help us better understand how our literacy programs impact students, teachers and parents.

In the long term, we will have information we can share with all stakeholders and with our donors to show how we are creating catalytic change through our work. Being research informed and guided is essential for our future growth and long-term success. As a member of the East African Philanthropic Network, a member of Team4Tech, a partner of LitWorld, and a friend of many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), we believe that the information gleaned will be helpful and relevant to share with other organizations working to strengthen literacy in rural communities. 

Finally, outside organizations love to work with Kenya Connect. We learn from them, they learn from us, and we become a community together. Many funding organizations and partners continue to support and work with Kenya Connect because of our “can-do” team, our interest in continual learning, our nimbleness in making changes based on solid research and evidence, and the good humor, collaborative spirit,, and passion we bring to every project.

Solution Team

  • Dr. Sharon Runge Executive Director, USA, Kenya Connect
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