Leadership Institutes

Georgia State Fellow participates in a community service project with Habitat for Humanity, carrying wood to build a house.
Since 2016, Fellows have contributed more than 39,000 hours of community service in their Leadership Institute host communities.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship Leadership Institutes are comprehensive executive-style programs designed to build skills and empower Fellows to lead in their respective sectors and communities through the themes of Business, Civic Engagement, and Public Management.  Since 2014, educational institutions in 32 states and the District of Columbia have hosted Fellows for Leadership Institutes. 

The six-week Institutes, held on college and university campuses, support the development of Fellows’ leadership skills through academic study, workshops, mentoring, networking with U.S. leaders, and collaboration with Americans.  Each Institute also offers insights into American society through site visits and cultural exchange.  The Institutes strengthen connections between the United States and Africa and establish enduring partnerships between Fellows, local communities, and private businesses.  

Now Accepting Applications for 2021 Institutes

IREX, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State, seeks a limited number of partners to complement an existing cohort of U.S. colleges, universities, and organizations to host Leadership Institutes in 2021. Applications are being accepted through Friday, October 30, 2020.

Learning from professors with real-world experience has made me understand more about servant leadership and how public managers have to relate to the public to benefit both the citizens and governments.  As I leave the Fellowship to return and serve the people of The Gambia, I can confidently say I am better equipped to deliver the needs of my people.”  

2018 Fellow from The Gambia

Leadership in Business

Leadership in Business Institutes are tailored to Fellows aspiring to become leaders in the private sector or to start their own business ventures in Africa.  The Institutes introduce participants to business and entrepreneurial approaches in the United States, including those that address social issues. Institutes also help Fellows build technical and leadership capacity in areas such as innovation and technology, business plan development, financial management, business ethics, the intersection of business with civil society and government, and the role of public-private partnerships. Current Leadership in Business Institutes include:

We got the very best blend of teaching, coaching, instruction, and bonding with the University community… We had hands-on visits to businesses, social enterprises, [and] innovation centers, which lent support to what we learned in [the] classroom, thereby enriching our experience and boosting our self-confidence [all] the more.”

2016 Fellow at the University of Notre Dame 

Leadership in Civic Engagement

Leadership in Civic Engagement Institutes are tailored to Fellows who are civically engaged and serving the public through non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, or volunteerism.  The Institutes expose Fellows to civic engagement in the United States while building technical and leadership capacity in areas such as advocacy, strategic planning, organizational development, and the intersection of civil society with business and government.   Current Leadership in Civic Engagement Institutes include:

The Institute provided a broad curriculum relevant for civic leaders that included in and out of class learning, networking, field visits and volunteering.  The diverse approaches allowed me to engage with facilitators and Fellows and provided opportunities for additional meetings [with Americans].” 

2017 Fellow at Appalachian State University 

Leadership in Public Management

Leadership in Public Management Institutes are tailored to Fellows who work, or aspire to work, in all levels of government, regional or international organizations, or other publicly-oriented groups and think tanks.  The Institutes introduce Fellows to U.S. models and best practices in public management while building technical and leadership capacity in areas such as citizen engagement, resource management, financial management systems, and the intersection of government with business and civil society. Current Leadership in Public Management Institutes include:

I believe that the Mandela Washington Fellowship has made me a stronger and better leader and has challenged me to think outside the box… There can only be more, bigger, and better to come from me, my fellow Fellows, and the continent of Africa as a whole.” 

2017 Fellow at Bridgewater State University

Common Leadership Curriculum

A group of Fellows at The University of Texas at Austin participates in a Common Leadership Curriculum exercise, in which participants all pull on a rope while standing in a circle, guided by a facilitator.
Fellows at The University of Texas at Austin participate in a CLC exercise.

The Common Leadership Curriculum (CLC) provides a common leadership experience so that all Fellows have a shared language and a foundational knowledge to build upon as they return to their home countries.  The CLC is guided by the perspective that leadership is not related to an individual’s professional level, but rather to their behavior and actions in whatever position they hold.  It incorporates both a strengths-based approach – including the use of the CliftonStrengths® assessment which focuses on an individual’s natural talents in work and life – and the concept of Ubuntu. The curriculum uses active learning methods to give Fellows practical tools they can apply regardless of their sector interest or level of professional experience.  Fellows return home with an initial action plan and strategies for leveraging their talents to effectively lead and contribute to their local communities.