Rhize: Rhize Global Hub Network

New York, United StatesKenya
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Movements often flounder when the activists driving them lack access to vital strategies, safe spaces and networks. Rhize is building a global system of self-sustaining hubs—franchised, social enterprises that serve as safe access points to training and a diverse activist and resource network.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if today’s activists, struggling for equitable, inclusive, just societies around the world, had the support they needed from a global network of people and resources to build the most powerful, citizen-driven, nonviolent social movements in history?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Movements achieve rights, open civic space, and lay democratic foundations, and the last 5 years saw more protest movements than in the 20th century combined (NAVCO Database). Yet, movements often flounder or dissipate. Catalysts struggle to build ongoing momentum, not because of inability or lack of large funds, but because of lack of access—to knowledge of proven strategies, safe space and support networks—over sustained periods of time.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Rhize built and tested an innovative toolkit for sustained movement-building with 14 movements. Now, an activist-run hub network will provide safe spaces to access this toolkit and train others. This social enterprise model—locally designed cafes that double as training centers—is locally franchised so hubs all over the world are connected by common values, practice, experience and technology. Fulfilling multiple needs and markets with local fare, events, training opportunities, and space rental, hubs will attract a diverse audience from activists to elites—future allies—disconnected from the grassroots. Mounting demand for Rhize in East Africa + Nairobi’s emergence as an international center makes the city an ideal place to pilot.


University of Denver - Practitioner in Residence 2015; Fellow - Fletcher Summer Institute 2015; PAVE NYC Rising Star Award 2013
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Every time a person walks into a Rhize Hub, they immediately feel a part of change much larger than themselves. Space for activists to convene, train, collaborate, and gain access to a larger ecosystem of like minded groups and individuals will strengthen civil society in the region. We have already seen the promising results of in-country trainings and long-term support of growing movements. A hub minimizes the logistical and financial hurdles associated with staging multiple in-country trainings over time by creating a venue and community that recognizes the needs of its peers. Hubs are direct access points for anyone to in civil society to donate skills, money, or voice by signing petitions, attending events, or sharing stories.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We’ve worked with 14 movements and trained 80 activists in-country, who in turn have led their own trainings reaching up to 500 others, and grown our coaching team to 13. As part of a global 6-month fellowship launched this year, fellows have been invited to speak at civil society conferences around the world, have advised others building movements, and recently, we brought a former fellow onto our team in a paid full-time position. Now, creating a network of hubs enables our vision for the long term: continued and sustainable support for movements that evolves as they grow. Rhize’s focus on movement cross-pollination and trainer development creates a path for catalysts to get paid to coach other movements in the network. For example, Sungu from Kenyans for Tax Justice went from Rhize Fellow to facilitator at a Rhize training for other KTJ leaders to coach at a Rhize training in Uganda.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Rhize will focus on establishing its first hub in Nairobi in 2016. Responding to demand for more consistent support, we are prioritizing building a strong base of coaches locally, continue training and deepening our connections to movements, and developing partnerships with various sectors of society. We plan to be in a permanent space by 2017. Over the next 5 years we aim to set up one more hub—most likely in Istanbul or Delhi—support 50 movements, train 30k catalysts, 100 coaches, recruit 50k allies (emails) with 5,000 registered to donate, and set up our connective technology platform.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The goal of a Rhize Hub is to create more local trainers who eliminate the need for expensive, one-off, foreign trainers whose efficacy is hampered by their sources of funding and inability to provide long-term support. After up-front investment, a hub can begin operating sustainably as a cafe selling local fare, with some profits donated back to movements, and as an event space for local and international NGOs to rent.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Training organizations, such as the National Democratic Institute or ActionAid, that deploy their services internationally do not have a method to continue their initial support in reliable ways beyond one-off trainings. Existing international hub networks like Impact Hub or community hubs in Nairobi, like Pawa or iHub, are quiet coworking spaces that cater to start-up enterprises or elites and are inaccessible to most activists. These differ greatly from the lively and accessible space that connects activists’ experiences globally we envision.

Founding Story

In 2009, I worked with a youth movement in Albania and realized catalysts sought answers to the same questions I had asked as a young activist. We get into this work because of passion and conviction, not because of skills. But, rather than reinventing the wheel, I saw lessons we could learn from each other despite cultural or geographical differences. I began looking for ways to connect activists and create better access to best practices, and answering these questions has become my life’s work.


Rhize is a lean but effective organization. In the past 6 months, we’ve grown from a team of 3-4 volunteer staff to 4.5 paid, full-time staff including an Executive Director, a Project Manager, Project Coordinator, Programs & Operations Coordinator, and a part time Finance & Operations consultant. We have an active and diverse Board of Directors that includes top experts in the sector, successful entrepreneurs, journalists and career organizers. Our Coaching Corps, a group of 13 experienced and knowledgeable movement-builders and organizers work with catalysts around the world to coach them through a clear framework using Rhize’s toolkit, which illuminates the foundational strategies of movement-building, while activists adapt these learnings to their local context. But really, our activists are the lifeblood of Rhize. They dictate the types of support they need and set up and run our hubs. Rhize simply creates the infrastructure, connections and common toolkit to help them get there. Tapping our network on the ground in Nairobi, we will work closely with the local population to formulate the market research and business plan, and create the hub’s initial community. Entrepreneurial activists who recognize the benefits of a shared space for strengthening civil society in their community will staff the first Rhize Hub.
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Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Executive Director

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Building communities of commitment and action is an inherent part of my work and life—from managing teams to building an organization.

The mass atrocities in Darfur created an opening for me to take action as a college student. I helped build what became an international movement to end genocide. I was one of the co-founders of the first chapter of Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND) and helped stand up the national coalition, which served to guide and resource local action and liaise with other orgs and policymakers. Under my leadership over a year and a half, we grew from 200 loosely organized chapters in the US to 800 in 30 countries who identified as members of our coalition. Students were recognized as the engine behind what became a movement, and we helped bring 75k people to DC in 2006 for the largest rally on an international issue (other than Iraq) since Apartheid., a movement that has since dwindled due to poor strategic choices we could have avoided with more access to training and mentoring, something I only realized in hindsight. Despite our shortcomings, I was bitten by the almost spiritual power of collective action—people finding their voice by refuting injustice.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

We have highly engaged Advisory Board members who have volunteered many hours of their time and skills to assist with strategic planning, technology, communications, and curriculum development. Until recently, Rhize was wholly volunteer-led with 12 volunteers leading various parts of the operation over the course of 2 years. Our work has reached almost 500 activists after working directly with 80. They provide essential feedback as to what kinds of support best suit their needs and are the primary demographic we are serving. Because our organizational model reflects the strategies and principles we teach, the catalysts we work with are invaluable advisors in the direction of the organization. Finally, we work with academics who are leading the discourse on nonviolent resistance including the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security & Diplomacy at the University of Denver and researchers at Yale’s department of political science who have created and carried out surveys on activists we have worked with to determine our success in providing them with meaningful support.