Massai Mara University
Nov 11, 2022

A Swahili-language Instrument Aims to Measure Flourishing Among Kenyan Youth

A first-of-its-kind tool uses local languages to explore the character strengths positively impacting the lives of young people in Kenya.

By Templeton Staff

With funding from Templeton World Charity Foundation, Dr. Kennedy Onyiko and his research team at Maasai Mara University, are using an inductive approach to examine positive youth development across three kinds of arenas in Kenya. The project is a collaboration between researchers with expertise in youth development from Maasai Mara University (Kenya) and the Universities of Clemson and Oregon State (USA).

"We’re working hand-in-hand with schools, rehab centers, and children's homes. We want to make Massai Mara University a center for youth development studies. The project's goal is to develop a measure of character for Kenyan youth who live in different contexts – youth in rural and urban schools, and homeless youth or 'street children'," says Dr. Onyiko.

In order to capture the local context when creating these measures, the team is designing their tools using Swahili and other local languages. Tools in these languages are the first of their kind. The team plans to use exploratory sequential mixed methods in their work. The research begins with the study with semi-structured interviews based on the 5 C's of Positive Youth Development:

  1. Competence (e.g., thrift, wisdom)
  2. Confidence (e.g., hope, humility)
  3. Character (e.g., integrity, honesty)
  4. Caring (e.g., compassion, empathy)
  5. Connection (e.g., forgiveness, gratitude, love, reliability)

When young people exhibit evidence of the Five Cs, research predicts they will likely also be actively engaging in the “sixth” C: Contribution (e.g., purpose, selflessness, social responsibility), traits that contribute to human flourishing.

The project is developing two interview protocols, one for use with youth and one for adults working with these youth, that assess these key character strengths. Interviews will be conducted in Swahili but will also be transcribed and translated into English. The research team will code the interviews for common themes and use these codes to create a comprehensive list of key character strengths related to thriving and wellbeing among Kenyan youth. They will then generate a list of Swahili-language quantitative survey items that capture the constructs highlighted in the interviews. During this process, the team will remain cognizant that different character virtues may be relevant to youth in each of the three contexts examined. The overall aim is to understand more about the diverse ways self-regulation, the Five C's, and community contribution manifest among the target populations and how these manifestations relate to Kenyans’ understanding of successful development. 

Learn more about the project here.