Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

Green String Network

What is the name of your solution?

The Ustawi - Thrive Initiative: The Power of Community

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

Ustawi-Thrive delivers culturally sensitive, virtual, community-led holistic care for mental and emotional well-being to people and institutions in fragile contexts.

Film your elevator pitch.

What specific problem are you solving?

The cracked cup

Visualize a cracked cup symbolizing a damaged home, community, or institution in a resource-constrained environment, where resources are lost without being utilized effectively. Adversity, especially in such contexts, encompasses various challenges or circumstances that harm the health and well-being of children, families, and communities, affecting society at all levels. ACEs have been associated with numerous adverse health outcomes and behaviors in adulthood, including poor physical health, substance abuse, depression, and other mental health issues. The yearly cost of ACEs in fragile contexts is unknown but deeply felt.

The concept of adversity and its impact on health and well-being continues to evolve. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) framework has been expanded beyond Childhood to include Community, Climate, and Cultural Experiences. The image below shows how we have adapted 4 Realms of ACEs to the African context.


Recognizing and mitigating the effects of ACEs is crucial for ensuring overall health and well-being, as these experiences can have long-lasting consequences for both individuals and communities. The 4 Realms of ACEs cause major social and health problems, with links to poor physical health, substance abuse, depression, and other mental health issues. Furthermore, those who experience ACEs are more likely to engage in harmful health behaviors, such as smoking, inactivity, and poor diet, increasing the likelihood of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. The impact of ACEs on fragile communities is vast, and addressing them is vital to promoting health and breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty, violence, and trauma.

Fatuma's story


ACEs extend far beyond individuals, affecting entire communities and society as a whole. Young people like Fatuma in conflict-affected areas such as Mogadishu, Somalia, face numerous challenges, including limited education and employment opportunities, as well as constant fear for their safety. These external factors leave Fatuma and her peers feeling hopeless, isolated, depressed, and anxious, leading to a rise in youth suicides and drug use.

Fatuma says, "Our neighborhood is dangerous, and we live in constant fear. I've lost many family members and friends to the ongoing violence, and it's hard to attend school and find a job." Despite encouragement to start a business, Fatuma feels overwhelmed and unable to see a path forward.

Fatuma and her peers live in a society plagued by trauma, violence, and inequality, leading to collective harm and leaving young people in survival mode. The lack of fairness and justice in conflict-affected areas only exacerbates the sense of hopelessness, affecting both individual and collective well-being.

Fatuma emphasizes the importance of having a safe space to share their stories and be heard. "We're not bad because we're young and unhappy, but life feels difficult and unfair. We're so wounded by our life experiences. We need a safe space to share our stories and be heard," she says.

What is your solution?

The power of community helps us THRIVE

The Ustawi-Thrive Initiative aims to address the complex challenges faced by individuals in conflict-affected and fragile contexts by combining the best practices from peacebuilding, mental health, and development. Our goal is to create a holistic approach that connects well-being and livelihoods, thereby creating a pathway for scaling our work and creating lasting impact. By linking mental health to livelihoods, we aim to empower individuals to build a brighter and more prosperous future for themselves, their families, and their communities.

To break the cycle of poverty, violence, and trauma in resource-poor and fragile contexts, it's crucial to acknowledge the impact of early adversity on a person's life. The Ustawi-Thrive Initiative is working to raise awareness about ACEs among targeted communities, including children, parents, healthcare providers, teachers, community leaders, and others. Our goal is to make discussing ACEs and their impact a common practice with practical solutions. By linking virtual peer support groups for young adults (16-35) to fintech partner Onkout, we aim to enhance community-initiated care solutions and provide accessible, context-specific mental health care while supporting livelihoods and economic stability. Our multi-faceted approach addresses complex problems with comprehensive solutions.


The virtual peer support groups in the Ustawi-Thrive Initiative draw from Africa's rich storytelling tradition through the use of short videos, incorporating traditional indigenous healing practices into their programming. Trained Circle Keepers lead groups of 6-14 participants in receiving educational videos and conversation starters, which they can download and share with family and friends, increasing the reach of ACE awareness. The groups communicate daily and hold weekly virtual circles, fostering a sense of humanity and meaningful conversation, leading to individual healing and group bonding that contributes to a larger story of personal and social transformation.

By mending our wounds and healing our collective cracks, we become whole, maximizing our resources and enabling both individuals and communities to THRIVE.


Empowering Young Adults through Well-Being Support

Fatuma and her friends were transformed through their participation in the virtual peer support group. Their bond in the virtual space allowed them to see new possibilities and opportunities where life once appeared bleak. They not only saved money together but also nurtured their small business ventures, leading to personal and financial growth. Fatuma now runs a successful salon, and her friends have found new ways to support themselves through education and entrepreneurial ventures.

Fatuma reflects, "The virtual circle provided us with a safe and connected space, where we could manage our emotions and resolve conflicts. It gave us the courage and funds to start our own businesses and opened our eyes to a brighter future." The healing aspect of the program was crucial in their success, as they emphasized that their savings alone would not have been as impactful without the emotional support they received.

The virtual healing circle offered a space for the group to come together, manage their emotions, and resolve the conflicts in their lives. It gave them a brighter outlook on the future and a sense of empowerment, even amidst the difficulties they faced in their neighborhood and city. The support they received was instrumental in their growth and success.

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

The Ustawi - Thrive Initiative is aimed at improving the lives of young people aged 16 to 35 in sub-Saharan Africa's conflict-affected, fragile-context countries. These individuals face multiple challenges, including financial struggles and a lack of access to traditional financial systems like banking. Additionally, they often struggle with mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, brought on by the ongoing conflict and environmental degradation in their communities. Despite these challenges, these young people seek connection and a sense of safety in their lives, and above all, they want to be respected and live with dignity.

The initiative aims to provide a virtual platform for community-focused mental health prevention through its unique, small-sized, human-facilitated peer support circles. These circles will build safety and connection among participants while also providing them with evidence-based information about the impact of trauma in their lives and opportunities to learn self and community-care practices. The Ustawi - Thrive platform seeks to shift the focus from just addressing trauma to a holistic approach of healing and liberation. Our mission is to empower and support individuals and their communities by fostering what liberates life energy, ignites creativity, stimulates imagination, and rejuvenates connections and a sense of belonging in an interconnected world. Individuals who have completed the 12-week healing circle process will have the chance to give back and support others on their own journeys by becoming facilitators themselves.

In addition to the virtual peer support circles, the platform is also envisioned to offer a variety of other services in the future, including access to embodied somatic practices adapted for the African context, group and individual healing-centered therapy and coaching for recovery, and a community board that will link people to virtual and physical community events. 

The focus of the Ustawi - Thrive Initiative is on creating a platform where young people can lead real conversations with their peers, not chatbots. The platform will prioritize human connection, which is key to healing from the 4 Realms of ACEs. Group conversations will be facilitated by trained and supported Circle Keepers, and confidentiality agreements will be in place to ensure the privacy of participants. Data will not be mined or shared, and participants will be given the option to voluntarily participate in any research through informed consent.

In summary, the Ustawi - Thrive Initiative is a comprehensive and culturally-sensitive solution aimed at improving the lives of young people in sub-Saharan Africa's conflict-affected countries by addressing their mental health and well-being needs through virtual peer support circles and a range of other services. The focus is on human connection, privacy, and confidentiality, and the ultimate goal is to create a safe and supportive community for young people in fragile contexts to thrive.

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

The Green String Network (GSN) has a long history of working with communities in East Africa and the Horn, including Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia. As a network of local community-based partners, GSN is well-positioned to understand the needs of these communities and engage with them as they develop solutions to address their challenges.

The Ustawi - Thrive platform, which is being developed by GSN, is a first of its kind in Africa and possibly the world. Unlike other mental health apps that rely on AI and chatbots, the Ustawi - Thrive platform takes a human-centered approach, recognizing that AI technology cannot capture the diversity of human emotional experience and is often biased by the programmer's own cultural perspectives. By offering human-facilitated peer support circles, the Ustawi - Thrive platform prioritizes the needs and perspectives of the target population and is meaningfully guided by their input, ideas, and agendas.

The team behind the Ustawi - Thrive platform is dedicated to promoting healing and liberation for communities in conflict-affected areas. Through their extensive experience working with these communities, the team is well-positioned to understand the unique challenges and needs of the target population and to develop a solution that is both effective and culturally sensitive.

The Green String Network and its team are committed to co-designing the Ustawi - Thrive platform with the target population to ensure its cultural sensitivity and relevance for the populations it is serving.  This collaborative approach allows the team to understand the unique challenges and needs of the target population and to develop a solution that is tailored to their specific circumstances.

The co-design process also helps to build trust and establish a sense of ownership among the target population, ensuring that the Ustawi - Thrive platform is truly a solution that is designed by and for the communities it serves. This approach is critical to the success of the initiative, as it ensures that the platform is relevant and responsive to the needs of the target population and is likely to be adopted and sustained over time.

In conclusion, the Green String Network and its team are the right people to design and deliver the Ustawi - Thrive platform to the target population. Their proximity to the communities they serve, combined with their commitment to human-centered solutions, positions them to effectively address the needs of young people in sub-Saharan Africa's conflict-affected countries.

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Enable continuity of care, particularly around primary health, complex or chronic diseases, and mental health and well-being.

In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

East Africa

In what country is your solution team headquartered?

  • Kenya

What is your solution’s stage of development?

Pilot: An organization testing a product, service, or business model with a small number of users

How many people does your solution currently serve?

The Ustawi - Thrive platform is currently in its Minimal Viable Product (MVP) phase. During this pilot phase, the platform is utilizing open-source software from Google, including Sites, Docs, Sheets, Jam board, Meets, Calendar, Classroom, and YouTube, and the peer support groups are hosted on WhatsApp. The platform has been successfully marketed to eight South African CBOs, IOM's northeast Nigeria Hubs, four INGOs and NGOs, and human rights organizations in East Africa.

To date, the platform has directly served 700 participants, with an estimated 14,000 indirect beneficiaries. Data on the impact of the program has been gathered through before and after surveys, focus groups, and key informant interviews. The results from seven peer support circles have shown significant changes in the participants, including increased awareness of stress and trauma symptoms, healthier coping mechanisms for stress, and increased engagement in the community. There was also a noticeable increase in trust and a greater willingness to forgive, even without an apology. These results are consistent with the outcomes of the program when it is held in a physical setting.

The development of the Ustawi - Thrive platform has required an investment of $12,000 to $15,000 USD, and the program has generated about $35,000 USD in the last seven months, providing the Green String Network with much-needed unrestricted funds. The next step is to develop the Ustawi - Thrive platform and formally connect it with and an API to the fintech partner, Onkout. In the long term, the GSN would like to invest in a variety of African languages and animation, and the platform will continue to be co-designed and evidence-based with the communities it serves.

Why are you applying to Solve?

As a team of peacebuilders, psychologists, and human rights activists, our focus is on enhancing lives and promoting change. We are excited to connect with Solve, as we believe that by associating with the platform and the connections it offers we can reach the next level in our work.

We are committed to preserving the privacy of our users and ensuring that our platform remains culturally relevant while using technology to foster human connection. In order to achieve our goal of sustainable growth, we need to find the right technology partners to help us realize our vision. We believe that Solve can provide us with the resources, support, and guidance we need to take our platform to the next level. By joining Solve, we hope to further our mission of building a more just, equitable, and healthy world.

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Business Model (e.g. product-market fit, strategy & development)
  • Financial (e.g. accounting practices, pitching to investors)
  • Human Capital (e.g. sourcing talent, board development)
  • Legal or Regulatory Matters
  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and global media)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design)

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Angi Yoder Maina

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

The problem we face is formidable - there is not enough funding available to hire all the experts needed to address the mental health issues caused by systemic stressors such as inequality and injustice. Conventional, professionalized mental health care is not a viable solution as it is not scalable and fails to provide the sense of community that young people require globally. True well-being can only be achieved through social justice and addressing the root causes of mental distress. Community support and connection can alleviate the effects of isolation and poverty while working together to create a fairer society can address collective trauma.

The traditional approach to mental health care, which relies solely on professional help and technological solutions, is inadequate to meet the growing demand for support and cannot provide the necessary community connection for individuals. Chatbots and AI may be useful in some cases, but they cannot replace the importance of community in promoting mental well-being. A sense of community, where individuals can connect and support each other, is a crucial element in improving mental health and overcoming the challenges posed by systemic and structural stressors.

At the Green String Network, we have shifted our focus to address this issue in East Africa and the Horn. We understand that well-being is a collective effort, addressing issues of agency and empowerment, breaking cycles of violence, and addressing intergenerational and collective trauma. Few organizations have developed sustainable, culturally relevant, grassroots healing-centered interventions outside of North America, yet there is a direct link between the levels of trauma in vulnerable communities and the challenges faced with justice, reconciliation, security, and overall economic and social well-being.

A healing-center approach is a foundational building block that most peace and governance programs do not incorporate into their design, development, and implementation. If global leaders, donors, and organizations understand the importance of incorporating such a foundation into their work, we believe it could change the way global governance programming is designed, implemented, and measured, and ultimately improve the success of such interventions.

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

Our impact goal for the next year is operational.

  1. Expansion of partnerships with community-based organizations, NGOs, and universities to increase the reach and impact of the platform.

Our longer 5-year goals are more programmatic.

  1. Increased reach and accessibility of the virtual platform for preventative, community-based mental health.
  2. Improved mental health outcomes for users of the platform, such as reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
  3. Enhanced cultural relevancy and responsiveness of the platform to meet the needs of African users.
  4. Sustainability and growth of the initiative through a viable and scalable business model.

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

The following is a list of post-intervention significant findings we have seen in our peer support programming in the past.

  • Participants increase healthy stress alleviation practices 
  • Participants report the strength of their support system increasing
  • Participants' involvement in social groups that meet regularly increases
  • Participants' trust in members of their community increases.
  • PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) scores are found to be significantly lower post-intervention

By adding the livelihood component these would be new types of impact measurements we would be regularly collecting 

  • Participants' ability to meet monthly saving goals
  • Participants' income increases
  • Participants' SME has grown and is thriving.

During the pilot phase of Ustawi - Thrive programming we have been doing before and after surveys as well as focus groups and key informant interviews to better understand how the program is impacting participants. 

In our most recent round of participants. We noticed significant changes in the pre and post-surveys conducted with participants being more aware of both stress and trauma symptoms, having healthier ways to cope with stress, became more engaged in their community, there was a significant increase in trust and more participants were ready to forgive others even when they were not apologetic. All of these results are similar to our results when the program is held physically. We believe this continues to point to better relationships and intentionality in part because of how the program is set up. 

What is your theory of change?

The initiative aims to bring about a lasting positive impact in the lives of individuals and communities in conflict-affected countries and fragile contexts.

IF by joining the Ustawi-Thrive peer circles users adopt healthier coping mechanisms, develop supportive relationships, and feel a sense of safety

AND IF the promotion of ACEs awareness and intentional healing process helps young people have a great sense of well-being and connection helping them build resilience and find a sense of hope and connection

AND IF young people are a part of building a genuine sense of community

THEN young people will take a more active role in their own well-being and the well-being of their communities affected by conflict and adversity

BECAUSE young people will feel a sense of agency and control of their lives making them healthier and more resilient.

Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

The Ustawi-Thrive Initiative will combine several technologies. We see the Ustawi-Thrive platform as a Health/Social tech that will use evidence-based research in neurobiology and the nervous system that will uniquely connect and link with new fintech technology while leveraging traditional, African, communal healing practices. 

We will start in Kenya and Somalia by creating a well-being API to plug into our fintech partner Onkout. As we grow we will look for other partners like blockchain initiatives such as DAOs or other entities that we could also plug into. 

Our answers on the technology are basic and still not very informed. The platform is currently a Minimal Viable Product (MVP). Presently, the platform is open-source software using Google (Sites, Docs, Sheets, Jam board, Meets, Calendar, Classroom & YouTube). Groups are hosted on WhatsApp. In early May 2023, we will start working on developing the technical design with a team of students from Develop for Good. We hope by early fall to have our prototype platform developed. In early 

We recognize that our expertise does not lie in app development and digital technology. As a result, we are actively seeking guidance from reliable technical professionals to assist us in constructing and evaluating the app and its broader platform, which connects to the fintech sector. Our main objective is to address the comprehensive well-being of our target audience – primarily young Africans residing in conflict-stricken and delicate contexts – by focusing on social-emotional health that enables them to pursue meaningful livelihood advancement.

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Behavioral Technology
  • Software and Mobile Applications

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Ethiopia
  • Kenya
  • Nigeria
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Congo, Dem. Rep.
  • Ethiopia
  • Kenya
  • Nigeria
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?


How many people work on your solution team?

6 (full) 3 (part)

How long have you been working on your solution?

Since January 2021

What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

We are a diverse, multi-disciplinary team of peacebuilders, economists, computer programmers, entrepreneurs, community development workers, psychologists, artists, multi-media professionals, web designers, and researchers designing healing-centered interventions and methods for their evaluation. We are primarily Kenyans and Somalis, made up of men and women. We are also of many different ages with lots of different life experiences. We are immigrants and diaspora as well. We seek to incorporate different elements allowing leadership and the people working on the initiative to bring their whole selves to the work. We celebrate our differences.

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

The Ustawi-Thrive platform operates on a social enterprise model, which means that our primary focus is on creating a positive impact for the communities we serve. Our customers are young people aged 16 to 35 in sub-Saharan Africa's conflict-affected countries who are in need of support and connection to heal from the effects of adversity and trauma.

We provide our customers with a comprehensive and culturally-sensitive platform that offers peer support circles facilitated by trained humans, access to embodied somatic practices adapted for the African context, both group and individual healing-centered counseling and/or coaching, and a community board linking them to virtual and physical community events.

Our revenue is generated through partnerships with organizations and companies working in mental health, development, and peacebuilding. These partnerships provide us with the resources we need to continue to grow and improve our platform, as well as access to new customers and beneficiaries. Additionally, we also generate revenue through grants and donations from individuals and organizations who believe in our mission.

Overall, our business model is focused on creating a positive impact for the communities served by our network partners and ensuring that our platform is accessible and affordable for everyone who needs it.

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

As the Ustawi-Thrive platform, our plan for financial sustainability is to utilize a combination of different revenue streams to fund our work. We will focus on promoting our services to humanitarian organizations operating in Africa's fragile environments, and aim to reach the local staff who are in need of contextual and cultural support.

One of our primary revenue streams will come from selling our products and services to these organizations. Our goal is to offer a comprehensive package of support that addresses the unique needs and challenges faced by these staff members. This will include cultural awareness training, language support, and access to relevant resources and tools.

In addition, we will also explore the possibility of securing grants and sustained donations from organizations and individuals who share our mission and vision. These funds will be critical in helping us to continue developing and expanding our services, and reaching more people in need.

We will also consider partnering with governments and other organizations to secure service contracts, which will provide a stable source of revenue for our work.

Finally, we plan to raise investment capital, which will enable us to scale our operations and reach even more young people who are seeking to build real community. With a focus on generating long-term, sustainable revenue streams, we are confident that we will be able to achieve our goal of financial sustainability.

Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

With the Ustawi-Thrive platform, we have already taken several steps toward achieving financial sustainability. In 2020, we received grant funds to design and test our virtual peer support groups in the MVP stage, which allowed us to develop all the necessary videos and use an open-source platform to test our programming. We have invested around $12,000 to $15,000 USD into the design of the system.

In the past six months, we have been successful in securing contracts with four organizations, ranging from local South African CBOs to a national Kenyan NGO, and a large international organization in NE Nigeria. These contracts represent approximately $35,000 USD in fees to use our service, providing us with much-needed unrestricted funds in a challenging post-COVID funding environment. This demonstrates a market for our services, and we believe that it is a service that could also be supported by grants.

Our next step is to develop our own Ustawi-Thrive platform (starting the coding design with Develop for Good in May 2023) and formally connect it to our fintech partner Onkout. At present, we are in the initial stage of a substantial five-year program, with the total project valued at 25 million Euros, which is set to be financed by the German Development Bank in Somalia. This program will link our platform to Onkout's SME initiatives for women. As this new project commences, we anticipate that the Ustawi-Thrive platform will be fully developed and operational within the next 12 to 15 months.

In the long run, our goal is to secure funding for incorporating a range of African languages and animation into our work. Our approach will remain co-designed and grounded in evidence, in collaboration with the communities we serve. Currently, we are in the early stages of discussions with multiple bilateral partners who have expressed interest in supporting the development of our platform and the concept of a holistic mental health framework, tailored to cultural and contextual considerations

Solution Team

  • Ms. Yvonne Gache Critical Counseling Psychologist, Green String Network
  • Mo Yahye Founder & CEO, Onkout
  • Dr. Angi Yoder Maina Healing-Centered Peacebuilding Practitioner, Green String Network
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