Ian Tarimo

2021 Leadership Impact Award Winner

Innovation and Community Impact: One Leader’s Journey

Ian Tarimo is a 2019 Fellowship Alumnus and the winner of the 2021 Leadership Impact Award. In 2013, Ian co-founded Tai Tanzania, a non-governmental organization that inspires social behavior changes through 3-D animations and media technologies. In this piece, he reflects on his experience meeting U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and his leadership journey with the Fellowship.  Learn more about Ian and his work.

I firmly believe that each of us has the power to make a positive impact on our communities, no matter how big or small.

Ian Tarimo, 2019 Fellowship Alumnus, Tanzania
Ian Tarimo (right) with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington, DC.

In 2022, I was deeply honored to receive recognition from U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris during the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit for my work driving social change.  Her words of recognition were humbling, and a reminder of the importance of continuing to create positive change in our communities.  Vice President Harris’s words were a testament to the fact that regardless of one’s background or status, any individual who embraces a life of serving others with commitment, teamwork, and humility has the potential to make a meaningful difference in their community and beyond.  It was a powerful reminder of the importance of leadership and service and an inspiration to those of us who strive to make a positive impact in the world.

Ian Tarimo (left) with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris during a visit to Tanzania.

I have been fortunate enough to receive numerous accolades and recognition for my work, including the prestigious Leadership Impact Award in 2021 from the U.S. State Department.  This recognition has further inspired me to continue striving for social change in my community.

Looking back, my journey with the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) began in 2016 when I was selected to join the Regional Leadership Center (RLC)’s Cohort 7 in Nairobi, Kenya.  It was an eye-opening experience that taught me valuable lessons from facilitators and fellow African change-makers.  Upon completion of the program, my team and I piloted the use of storytelling for social change, with the aim of better engaging young people to address community challenges.  This initiative was a huge success.

Ian during his Leadership in Civic Engagement Institute at University of Georgia.

In 2019, I was chosen for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, where I gained invaluable knowledge and skills that have helped me grow personally and professionally.  When I returned to Tanzania, I doubled my team size and tripled our organization’s impact in the community.  My organization, Tai, uses animation, comics, and radio stories to encourage youth participation in social change.  Our innovation and community impact have received numerous awards, and our content has reached over 10 million people through traditional and digital platforms.  Our work has been selected for screening in Tanzania, as well as at international festivals such as Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) in the United States.  This success is a testament to the confidence and determination I gained while in the United States.

My journey as a Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumnus continued when I applied for and received a Leveraging Innovations in New Communities (LINC) grant.  The LINC grant was instrumental in expanding my network and collaborating with other young leaders worldwide.  Through LINC, I hosted Nkechi Udegboka, a 2016 Alumna with whom I collaborated, to combine storytelling and media technology for social change.  Nkechi acknowledged gaining practical experience with our approach, and, as a bonus, we co-produced an animation about teenage pregnancy.  She plans to disseminate this educational content in Nigerian schools.

Ian Tarimo with his team at Tai Tanzania.

I believe that humility is a key value that guides my leadership style.  I understand that humility and the willingness to learn from others are essential to creating lasting change.  Additionally, I strive to set an example for young people, encouraging them to pursue their passions and positively impact their communities.

A young man in a suit and tie speaks at a podium, gesturing
Ian speaks to Fellowship Alumni as part of the Alumni Enrichment Institutes.

Currently, I am collaborating with other YALI Alumni to produce content to educate children on the importance of living a life of purpose and values.  This project is just one example of how I continue to pay it forward and support other young leaders in achieving their goals.  I remain committed to my vision and dedicated to driving social change.  I hope my story inspires others to pursue their passions and make a meaningful impact in their own communities.  I firmly believe that each of us has the power to make a positive impact on our communities, no matter how big or small.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX.  The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Government.

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