Washington Fellows gain insight, connections through ASU academic institute

July 16, 2014

Twenty-five accomplished young professionals from Africa are sharpening their civic leadership skills through a six-week training institute led by the College of Public Programs at Arizona State University.

ASU was chosen as one of 20 American universities to serve as an academic institute for the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the new flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative. The Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. government and is supported in its implementation by IREX. group photo of Washington Fellows for Young African Leaders Download Full Image

Launched in 2010, the institute is the Obama Administration’s signature effort to support young African leaders in their effort to spur growth, strengthen governance and enhance peace and security across Africa.

This summer, cohorts across the country are participating in one of three focus areas: business and entrepreneurship; civic leadership; and public management.

ASU’s civic leadership institute is oriented toward young Africans who serve the public through non-governmental organizations, community-based nonprofits or volunteerism.

South African entrepreneur Bongiwe Ndakisa started the Kwenzekile Community Development Centre to empower rural youth. Ndakisa’s center teaches young people computer skills, engages them in sports and encourages community development.

For more than three years, the venture has been successfully helping youth in rural and disadvantaged communities gain the skills needed for employment. She hopes to addresses the challenge of giving youth useful skills while keeping them in their community with meaningful employment opportunities.

“There are many partnerships being created here,” Ndakisa says of the Washington Fellowship program. She mentions her colleague Frank Dugasseh’s idea for mobile libraries, which fits into her own efforts to expand access to education in Africa.

Dugasseh founded the Wechiau Community Library in northern Ghana, which now serves more than 800 children in five districts with an emphasis on girls and the visually and hearing impaired.

“In the northern part of Ghana, illiteracy is greater than 72 percent, and with children who are in school, especially at the primary level, less than 9 percent can read and write,” Dugasseh says. “Many of them are not going to get the right tools to proceed to universities and other institutions, so initiating this intervention was a way of trying to get people interested in reading.”

The fellows are also gaining networking opportunities across the state.

Last week, Dugasseh met with African Energy in Tucson to explore options for bringing solar power lamps to his community, which would allow kids to read at night.

“I don’t often get the opportunity to come over to the states and pass on to another organization that might be interested in seeing that a child progresses,” Dugasseh says.

Fellow Martin Muganzi of Uganda also met with African Energy to learn more about how the solar power industry can create jobs in his home country.

Uganda has one of the largest youth populations and highest unemployment rates in the world, and Muganzi wants to introduce the solar power industry to help create jobs while implementing sustainable energy practices.

ASU fellows have been meeting with various Arizona officials, including a talk and tour with Cottonwood’s economic development director Casey Rooney and mayor Diane Joens about the importance of local business, and a seminar on Arizona’s booming wine industry, which has boosted economic and tourism development throughout the state. Fellows also had the opportunity to meet with Clarkdale mayor Doug Von Gausig, town manager Gayle Maybery and community/economic development director Jodie Filardo.

The fellowship at ASU serves as the beginning of the fellows’ professional training. The U.S. government has a long-term investment in the Young African Leaders Initiative, planning to work with institutions and the next generation of African entrepreneurs, educators, activists and innovators to create meaningful opportunities in Africa.

“When you send a book to a child who has never, ever seen a book before, even how to open it becomes a problem. They don’t know how to open it,” Dugasseh says. “But the joy is that even if a child isn’t able to read, and he looks at the pictures, and he smiles, I draw some satisfaction.”

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


ASU receives grant to help expand leadership development program

July 16, 2014

The ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation received a $170,000 grant from the American Express Foundation to further develop and fund the Generation Next Nonprofit Leadership Academy (GenNext).

Building on their investment over the past six years, this new grant will allow the highly-effective leadership development program to expand from a cohort size of 25 participants to a robust and diverse 30 participants. GenNext is a cohort of the Valley's top emerging nonprofit leaders, chosen to participate in a nine-month training program that provides them with the knowledge and tools needed to take on leadership roles within the nonprofit community. The program is comprised of best practice approaches to leading and managing nonprofits that include renowned professors and practitioner instructors at ASU, as well as established nonprofit leaders from organizations that engage with the ASU Lodestar Center. ASU Lodestar Center logo Download Full Image

"Our center’s pivotal role in developing leadership in and for the social sector is validated by this latest investment," says Robert F. Ashcraft, executive director of the ASU Lodestar Center and professor of nonprofit studies in ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development. "We are appreciative of the American Express Foundation and our many community partners who invest in our efforts to advance ethical leadership and effective practice.”

The two-year grant will allow for several programmatic enhancements, which will include 360-degree feedback assessments, as well as one-on-one executive coaching. These new elements bring the GenNext Academy in alignment with the other nonprofit leadership academies that American Express supports across their country as part of their strategy to expand programming for nonprofit leaders both nationally and abroad.

“Building on the incredible success of the past six years, we are honored that American Express has made this investment which will be the catalyst for the leadership development of these executives. The programmatic additions are elements of leadership training that few nonprofits are able to afford for their team,” says Cassidy Campana, ASU Lodestar Center program manager for the Generation Next Nonprofit Leadership Academy. “American Express’ commitment to developing the nonprofit leaders of tomorrow creates a more prepared, sustainable pipeline of executives to ascend into new positions.”

Additional thanks to Salt River Project for their continued support of the Generation Next Nonprofit Leadership Academy.

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions