Rob Burnet, Head of the East African, youth-centred organisation, Well Told Story, speaks at Share Fair.
What happens when you marry the themes of romance and making money, with off-the-wall concepts like deploying pink chickens in your barnyard?
You get a small but smashingly successful communication company called Well Told Story that is stretching across multiple media platforms with its revolutionary ways of reaching Kenya’s marginalized, disenchanted youth with ideas that can turn around their futures.
On 27 September, Rob Burnet, leader of the award-winning company, spoke at the opening ceremony of Share Fair in Rome, Italy, a four-day forum to share knowledge about food and technology trends. Burnet’s presentation about making agriculture more appealing for youth addressed both of these issues.
Before Burnet started this company post the 2007-2008 election crisis in Kenya, he spoke with citizens and found that an overwhelming amount of people were concerned for the East African youth. In Kenya, half of the population is younger than 18 years old. And many youth living in a developing country like Kenya struggle to find hope for a successful future.
But Burnet knew that this generation didn’t necessarily care about banking or public policy, but that they were interested making money and living in a peaceful community. Through comic books with an engaging storyline, Well Told Story sends positive messages, inspiring youth to take action in their communities and achieve their goals. Once a month, children all over Kenya snatch the comics, Shujaaz, from the pages of the national newspaper. The stories in these comics depict children just like them, namely a character named Boyie.
In the comics, Boyie creates his own radio station. Well Told Story has made this fiction a reality by syndicating DJ B to 20 different radio stations six days a week. The radio show includes comedy, interviews and coverage of various topics that affect listeners. Well Told Story has made its way onto other electronic devices through text messaging, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.“We didn’t plan to create this much of an illusion, but it seems to work,” Burnet said.
Each day, 1,000 conversations are started through the company’s social media sites and text messaging, according to Burnet. The company also estimates that 10 million people have read their comics.Burnet noted that comics are almost as revolutionary as technology in Kenya. He believes children have been drawn to Shujaaz, the Kiswahili word for superhero, because they have never been introduced to character their age who can have such a strong impact on the world.
But back in the Nairobi office, it is people just like their readers who are creating Shujaaz. The people who work there have an average age of 23 and can relate to Kenyan youth, as many of them grew up in similar situations as their audience.
“They’re talking to themselves,” Burnet said.
Well Told Story’s main goal is what the company’s title reads — to tell engaging stories over multiple platforms. And it is through this inventive world that Burnet challenges a young generation to establish a successful future in East Africa.
And by the way: pink chickens are not fantasy creatures, but actually a field-tested way of protecting a flock of chickens from predatory hawks. This innovative farming concept was introduced to readers in one of the Shujaaz comics.
Written by Ellen Kobe, World Food Programme Internal Communications Intern, HQ