What We Can Learn about Problem-Solving from a Village Chief and a Twitter Handle

By Catherine Keller
February 23, 2012
Corporate Citizenship Center

This article first appeared on Mashable and I'm sharing it here because the business leaders we work with are always interested in effective ways to engage with local officials to solve community challenges. Community issues that affect local businesses come in all shapes and sizes, both in the U.S. and across the globe. This is a strong example of social media playing a central role in problem-solving to create a better community; what other scenarios have worked? Leave your comments.  

From Mashable: 

How An African Chief Uses Twitter to Keep the Peace

An African administrative chief uses Twitter to help solve problems and maintain order in his Kenyan village, showing another example of how social media has evolved beyond wired metropolises to reach even the most previously unconnected corners of the globe.

Chief Francis Kariuki — or, @Chiefkariuki, as he’s known online — tweets to defeat thugs and thieves, locate missing children and farm animals, and organize village logistical matters, according to the Associated Press.

In one example reported by the AP, criminals were raiding a school teacher’s home at 4 a.m. until Kariuki intervened via Twitter. After receiving a phone tip, Kariuki sent a tweet that mobilized village residents to gather outside the teacher’s house and scare the robbers away. In another example, Kariuki used Twitter to organize a rescue operation after a man fell into a latrine pit.

“There is a brown and white sheep which has gone missing with a nylon rope around its neck and it belongs to Mwangi’s father,” Kariuki tweeted recently in Swahili to help locate a wayward sheep, in another instance the AP cites.

Chief Kariuki lives in Lanet Umoja, about 160 miles west of Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi. Kariuki tells the AP that, although he has just over 400 followers, his messages are able to reach thousands of the area’s 28,000 residents. Many of those citizens are subsistence farmers who access his tweets via forwarded text messages or a third-party mobile application that works without a smartphone, Kariuki says.

“Twitter has helped save time and money. I no longer have to write letters or print posters which take time to distribute and are expensive,” Mr. Kariuki tells the AP.

He says his Twitter activity has helped decrease the crime rate to virtually nil in recent weeks, compared to prior reports of break-ins nearly every day.