Collaborating Virtually Across the Globe
In July 2020, the Mandela Washington Fellowship launched its exclusive Fellowship Portal, including the Givitas platform. The Fellowship Network uses Givitas as a resource to seek guidance, share ideas, and collaborate on topics of mutual interest, helping forge new and deepen existing cross-continent connections. Through Givitas, Alumni, Fellows, and partners can make a post with a request for help, advice, or support. Then, other members of the Fellowship’s Givitas ring can respond with an offer for help.
With over 1,100 interactions already facilitated between users from 47 sub-Saharan African countries, the United States, and the United Kingdom, this unique, innovative platform showcases diverse skill sets and interests to help the Fellowship Network adapt and evolve.
Digitizing Access to Education
When Levit Nudi saw a 2021 Fellow and teacher post about needing to digitize their classroom in response to COVID-19, he knew his experience running coding school and software company CodeInn could be a useful perspective to share. Through his work, Nudi witnesses the disadvantages rural students must overcome when learning during a pandemic, such as the lack of reliable internet and e-learning materials. He has incentivized those who are digitizing education by offering CodeInn’s software to support the requestor’s needs, and through the Givitas connection, offered his software to the teacher.
Nudi said, “Givitas provides the opportunity to ask and offer help” and agrees that Givitas provides valuable “access to talent and support.”
Networking for Disability Rights
Following a 2018 Reciprocal Exchange, a WhatsApp group was established to connect U.S. Participants and Fellowship Alumni working on disability rights and accessibility in Africa. The group has evolved into an informal disability rights working group, expanding to 15 members from the United States, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Namibia. 2016 Fellowship Alumnus Joao Vembane and his colleagues noticed the vast network and diversity of collaboration taking place on Givitas, so they decided to put out a call to invite new members, which helped spur the growth in membership and scheduling monthly meetings.
We know less alone, but a lot together. There is diverse knowledge and resources around Africa and the world that needs to be capitalized through small initiatives of collaboration.”Joao Vembane, 2016 Fellowship Alumnus, Mozambique
Good Governance through Givitas
2018 Alumnus and 2020 Leadership Impact Award Winner Ibrahima Kalil Gueye is passionate about good governance issues in his home country of Guinea and turned to Givitas to ask members of the Fellowship community to develop a common project on good governance. He says, “Givitas was the best option to present this initiative since it has brought so many people having powerful impact together.” Paul Sachs, a longtime partner of the Fellowship who specializes in mental health services and nonprofit management, thought Ibrahima’s post was an interesting opportunity to maintain a working relationship on the continent.
After collaborating further, Sachs and Gueye created a training curriculum on good governance and mental health resilience, which would aim to improve a rural community’s reporting in the World Health Organization’s Quality of Life assessment. The result of their partnership has won them a Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund (CDAF) grant, which aims to award alumni of prior exchange experiences funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
While recognition in the form of a CDAF grant is nothing to take for granted, what Sachs and Gueye have fostered from connecting on Givitas goes beyond their work. When asked to describe how their initial contact grew into such a successful partnership, Gueye insisted, “Our relationship at this stage is deeper than collaboration. We are a family.”
Members of the Fellowship Network continue to use Givitas to problem-solve in their communities, share resources related to combatting COVID-19, and find project collaborators for personal endeavors and larger projects, such as LINC Grants and Reciprocal Exchanges.
Written by Allie Claman and Cason Kirby. Edited by Abbie Wade.