From July 21 to August 17, 2022, EnCompass had the honor of hosting Mandela Washington Fellows, Carmen Pereira from Mozambique and Vera Maulidi from Malawi. The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Each year the selected Fellows are invited to participate in a number of U.S.-based activities. Some are chosen to participate in a Professional Development Experience, which includes matching the Fellows with a host for a collaborative exchange that provides these emerging leaders with substantive work experiences. These experiences explore issues and workplace culture from the United States and African and multicultural perspectives.

With our long history of working on programs in Sub-Saharan Africa and our passion for supporting young and emerging leaders, we were thrilled to be selected as one of the host locations for Mandela Fellows in 2022. Our goal was to not only learn from these Fellows but to give them the opportunity to build their existing leadership skills and strategies, along with professional skills they could use after they return home.

Before returning home, Ms. Pereira and Ms. Maulidi shared a bit about their experiences working with EnCompass. Following is a summary of their reflections:

What did you learn during your time at EnCompass that you could apply to your work back home?

Vera: Prior to working with EnCompass, I did not have experience with online course development, but through my PDE, I managed to kickstart my learning related to designing and developing online courses. I found this to be challenging yet exciting, and I look forward to advancing my capabilities when I return home. In addition, through the EnCompass Learning Center classes on Program Monitoring and Participatory Data Analysis, Integration, and Synthesis that I participated in, I learned many of the elements of project design, something that I was really looking forward to. I am glad I will be going back home with insights on how I can turn my project ideas into activities that will bring meaningful impact in the communities.

Carmen: I will apply the valuable on-the-job learning I collected from the one-on-one sessions in project management, budgeting tips, resources, and courses. One of the most valuable takeaways from this experience is the incorporation of Appreciative Inquiry into my work and other projects. This strategic approach is highly valuable, especially for people working in local development like me, who interact with a wide set of individuals and stakeholders such as the rural community, traditional leadership, local and central government, implementing partners, our staff, consultants, and donors. It was with EnCompass that I had first contact with Appreciative Inquiry. I am optimistic that it can enable me to create a positive and long-lasting engagement, participation, ownership, and commitment while also bringing to the dialogue table (1) collective learning, (2) strategic thinking, (3) strategic planning, and (4) cooperation, when we explore the strengths, advantages, and opportunities for the broader community.

What projects and teams did you get the chance to work on?

Vera: I worked with the Cadre Development and Training (CDAT) team on e-learning.

Carmen: I closely watched the work delivered by the USAID/Uganda Maternal and Child Health Nutrition Project team, while also working on the USAID Localization Strategy assignment. For this task, I collaborated with the team on producing an assessment document about the perspectives on decolonization of aid, major donors’ policies and tools to bring localization to reality, and the way forward in terms of locally-led development, at least in Africa and other locations from the Global South. I also had the honor of facilitating the Portuguese listening session with YALI Fellows from the previous cohorts. For EnCompass’ USAID Global Waters Activity, I conducted a brief desk review to find evidence about the Stakeholders’ behavior and expectations, which is important for effective Stakeholder communication and the success of the project implementation in the long run.

What did you appreciate about working with EnCompass?

Vera: EnCompass offered me a very friendly environment for learning and sharing my skills. It was also a great opportunity for self-discovery. I appreciate the flexibility and support of the people/teams that I worked with. I was also amazed by how EnCompass leverages different digital platforms to produce its deliverables. Such efficient use of technology is something I had never experienced before; it was new for me. I think I can now go back to my country and use my learning to show others how convenient work can become if we know how to maximize various digital platforms.

Carmen: The work culture at EnCompass is healthy and invigorating, even in the remote work modality. The meetings are full of life; you feel people’s energy. I also liked that the work environment is less formal and hierarchical than in my country and perhaps many other countries. Another positive thing that I really appreciated is the presence of women at the decision-making level and in strategic and managerial positions. It gave me a great example of “inclusiveness” and “equal opportunities.” In the United States, and particularly at EnCompass, men and women equally explore their talents, and the efforts to “include” men are noticeable. Overall, the human connection and the mutual appreciation are great around EnCompass.

Did you make useful connections during your stay with EnCompass?

Vera: Oh yes, I did! Special thanks to the host supervisors and mentors who really tried to connect us with people from various projects within EnCompass. It has been very amazing to learn from the different professionals within EnCompass.

Carmen: Yes. I was able to build meaningful relationships with so many people. Some of them are from the senior management, employees at different levels, our supervisors, and my fellow peer from the Mandela Fellowship working at the same company. They have been kind enough to reach out, to answer me, talk about specific work or personal endeavors, exchange information, offer advice, give input, or even connect me to other people.

Would you recommend EnCompass for future Mandela Fellows?

Vera: Absolutely! It is the best place to grow professionally. The team tries the best to provide a platform where you can nurture your talent, so I would recommend it to someone who would want to establish new talents they would like to grow. The organization is so diverse, which contributes toward expanding professional horizons.

Carmen: I would absolutely recommend EnCompass to future Mandela Fellows.

Brief bios of the Mandela Washington Fellows:

Carmen Maria Pereira is a National Specialist for Innovation at the UN Population Fund. She works to address issues related to maternal mortality, gender-based violence, and internally displaced peoples. She is also a part of the UN Global Innovators Network, a forum for professionals trained to design, implement, and scale up innovative solutions to development challenges in developing countries. Carmen is working on the first emergency hotline in Mozambique to save women in obstetric emergencies. Before arriving in Washington, D.C., she studied Leadership in Business at the University of Iowa this summer.

Vera Maulidi is a public health professional at the Malawian Ministry of Health. She works in the Malawi-preventive health section where she coordinates disease surveillance, leads the COVID-19 response in the Zomba district, and manages health officers at six health centers. As Coordinator of Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response, she is well versed in how to assess and respond to different outbreaks and specializes in working with vulnerable populations. She also assists with implementing digital health packages, a new strategy for addressing sustainable development in the public health sector. Before arriving in Washington, D.C., Vera studied Leadership in Public Management at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, this summer.

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