Since July 2016, I’ve been working for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) East Africa Regional Leadership Center (RLC) in Nairobi, Kenya. The East Africa RLC is an initiative of President Barack Obama and is one of four centers supporting leaders in sub-Saharan Africa between ages 18-35. The center provides quality leadership training in three tracks: civic leadership, public management, and business and entrepreneurship. Participants come to the East Africa RLC from 14 countries in East and Central Africa. They spend 3 weeks doing residential learning in Nairobi, 8 weeks of virtual learning, in their home country, and a final week back in Nairobi for wrap-up. So far the center has graduated 9 cohorts of over 700 leaders! The RLC is a USAID initiative supported by the MasterCard Foundation, Deloitte, and Kenyatta University among other partners.
The YALI RLC has a number of departments ranging from admissions and curriculum to alumni engagement and monitoring and evaluation. I have had the opportunity to work on a number of projects dealing with different departments. One of the first projects I worked on was looking at the attendance data of participants over the past year to understand if there were any trends in the sessions participants were unable to attend. This was also used to revise graduation requirements for the participants. Additionally, I helped to analyze some of the assessments that participants filled out for each module within their three-week residential training. I put together a series of tables to be used in the quarterly report to USAID showing the levels of satisfaction for the modules.
One very interesting project that I was able to help out with was focus group discussions to understand ways to improve the admissions process for women, rural individuals, and persons with disabilities. I brainstormed questions to ask during the discussion to hear about any difficulties that participants faced in applying and attending the program. This was an informative way to hear about some of the potential obstacles that applicants face. I’ll be working on compiling the information from the focus group discussions to see how the application process can work better for these groups.
During the admissions process for each cohort there is an interview stage. I was able to spend a week interviewing over 40 applicants to the RLC to hear about their experiences as a leader, the issues they are passionate about, and the work they are doing to improve their communities. It was incredible listening to these African leaders who are dedicated to enhancing different aspects of their home countries and the African continent.
More recently, I’ve been working on compiling a list of various East and Central African organizations that work with women, rural individuals, and persons with disabilities. This will be used to get the word out about the YALI RLC and have more applicants and participants from those groups. I am also beginning to examine the mentorship program that is part of the RLC. I will be looking to understand what aspects of the program are working successfully and what aspects could be improved.
My work at the YALI RLC has been very meaningful and has taught me a great deal about how US development initiatives are implemented abroad and how they impact different countries and communities. Living in Nairobi, Kenya has also been a positive experience for me. Although it was a bit difficult to adjust at first, I have been able to connect with some ex-pats and locals and even a Dartmouth alumni! I had the opportunity to do a safari at the Maasai Mara where I saw the wildebeest migration in addition to doing some of the tourist activities in Nairobi. I am so thankful for the Lombard Fellowship and the Dickey Center for giving me this truly rewarding experience and I look forward to continuing my work in the coming months.