Rye Barcott in Kibera Kenya Carolina for Kibera, a social entrepreneur, CFK

Rye Barcott, Co-Founder of Carolina for Kibera

Social entrepreneur Rye Barcott is a captain from the US Marine Corps and the co-founder of Carolina for Kibera (CFK)This NGO leads a massive, community based youth program in Kibera (Kenya), the largest urban slum in Africa. CFK has been awarded by TIME Magazine and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their nonprofit work in Kenya.


Rye Barcott is the author of the award winning memoir, It Happened On The Way To War: A Marine’s Path to Peace. He is the 2006 Person of the Year from ABC World News and is a TED fellow.


Rye started CFK as an undergraduate ROTC student at UNC-Chapel Hill. He grew the nonprofit organization while simultaneously serving in the US Marine Corps in Bosnia, the Horn of Africa, and Iraq.

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Show Notes for Rye Barcott

  • Rye Barcott explains the concept of Participatory Development
  • “The community itself must be in charge of driving the change that it seeks.” – Rye Barcott
  • What Rye Barcott was doing when his daughter was born
  • Carolina for Kibera is celebrating their 15th birthday
  • Rye has been a volunteer this whole time for Carolina for Kibera
  • Rye is now working in solar farm investments
  • Kibera is the size of Central Park
  • One sixth of the world lives in informal urban settlements or slums
  • Slum dwellers don’t have land tenure rights
  • What Rye’s first impression of Kibera was
  • Why Kibera is a source of enormous talent
  • “Talent is universal, opportunity is not.” – James Peacock
  • Rye’s relationship to his mother
  • The meaning behind Rye’s middle name
  • “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”
  • Rye’s most popular and highlighted passages in his books
  • Rye spent nine years writing the book
  • Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”
  • We are not trying to “save” the world
  • Why the savior mentality will lead you to fail
  • Carolina for Kibera’s soccer program that was locally led
  • Organizations have to be led locally
  • The power dynamics for outsiders with a different skin color
  • Participatory and local leadership has been Carolina for Kibera’s success
  • Being the backseat and not in the front seat
  • The Executive Director must be from the community or at least a reference point to it
  • The Board of Directors must reflect the community
  • The community itself must be involved in the decision-making
  • Post-election violence in Kibera put CFK’s medical clinic at risk. They had to decide if they were going to keep it open during the crisis. The staff members took a decision together, and these decisions are life or death.
  • Letting decisions be made at a local level
  • Why Rye still deliberates today on the decision he took with his colleague, Cash.
  • Integrity is everything.
  • It’s easier to maintain integrity when you have Maslow’s hierarchy of needs taken care of
  • Rye’s take on asking for money.
  • Rye sent out 600 letters in his first fundraising campaign and the surprising result
  • “Find the 5% who will care about your cause.”
  • Rye’s first public speech for Carolina for Kibera and how he felt
  • Rye’s public speaking routine now and how he works on his craft
  • How Rye’s experience in the ROTC and Marines shaped his experience in Kibera
  • Integrity is about doing the right thing when nobody is looking
  • Analysis Paralysis
  • OODA Loop decision making
  • What is was like when Barack Obama visited CFK’s project site inside Kibera
  • Rye’s take on slum tourism and why authenticity matters when an organization is hosting guests
  • Why CFK is able to stay so lean and punch above its weight
  • Rye’s take on selling things to generate revenue for your nonprofit organization
  • Exceed expectations to help with fundraising
  • CFK is working with the CDC to design long-term initiatives on water and sanitation for Kibera
  • Julian Rowa, the new Executive Director for Carolina for Kibera was a boxer
  • Rye’s advice on writing a book