Request for Leadership Institute Applications Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the dates of the program?  

It is anticipated that the Leadership Institutes will begin on June 19, 2024 with Fellow arrivals and conclude on July 27, 2024.  Fellows and designated Institute staff will travel to Washington, D.C. on July 28, 2024 for the Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit.  The Summit will be held from July 29 to August 1, 2024.    

Q: Can one institution host multiple cohorts? 

Each Institute Partner may propose to host up to two cohorts; however, selection priority will be given to single-Institute partnerships.  Institutions that propose to host two Institutes must demonstrate separate and distinct programming for each cohort in different thematic areas.  No institution may host two cohorts of the same theme (e.g., no institution will have two Leadership in Civic Engagement cohorts).  Institutions may designate only one official entity as the lead administrator on the subawards. 

Q: When will applicants be notified if they are selected to be an Institute Partner?   

We anticipate that all applicants will be notified of their status in mid to late November 2023. 

Q: Are the Fellowship participants students?  

No.  Fellows are between the ages of 25 and 35 and have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries.  Academic content should be designed using adult learning principles and experiential training techniques.    

Q: When do selected Institute Partners receive the list of Fellows placed at their institution? 

We anticipate that selected Institute Partners will receive initial information regarding their Fellow cohorts in spring 2024.  It is important to note that these initial lists are subject to change as Fellows may drop and alternate candidates may be added during the time leading up to the Fellowship.  For that reason, we recommend that Leadership Institute curricula, at this stage, be structured so that they are applicable to Fellows from a wide variety of backgrounds, rather than specializing based on anticipated Fellow backgrounds. 

Q: What type of support do Institute Partners provide? 

  • All university fees 
  • Program-related labor 
  • Program materials, including Fellows’ course materials and textbooks (you must provide all required program materials at no cost to the Fellows), and any necessary materials to facilitate the Common Leadership Curriculum (CLC) 
  • Fellow housing, including linens, for 39 nights; housing offers wireless internet access; basic cooking supplies/utensils should be provided if Fellows will have access to kitchen facilities  
  • Note that single rooms, defined as an individual bedroom with a door, are recommended for public health reasons but not required.  Should conditions change and compromise Fellows’ health and safety, single rooms may be required.  Single rooms must be available for Fellows in isolation.  
  • Three meals per day (universities to provide a mix of cash stipend and prepared meals) for 40 days 
  • All transportation during the Institute, including local airport transfers for arrival and departure (from the nearest international or other IREX-identified airport) 
  • Supplemental allowance of $650 per Fellow to cover books or materials in Fellows’ areas of interest, optional events and activities of personal interests, and incidental expenses  
  • Support for Fellows to access medical care as needed 

Q: Are Institute Partners required to budget to loan/rent laptops for Fellows? 

Institute Partners may budget for rental laptops if desired for Institute programming, but it is not required.  Many Fellows opt to bring their own laptops, and Institutes should plan for Fellows to have regular access to an on-campus computer lab.  

Q: Are Fellows required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before arrival in the United States? 

Fellows will be subject to all U.S. federal mandates for travel to the United States as well as any Institute Partner policies.  ECA will monitor pre-arrival requirements and coordinate with U.S. Embassies and Consulates accordingly to ensure Fellows’ compliance.  Selected Institute Partners should follow their institutional protocols for COVID-19 and non-COVID immunizations once Fellows are on campus. 

Q: How much detail is required for the proposal? 

Successful proposals show a balance of theoretical knowledge and practical skills that is responsive to the topics and sub-themes for the track, as well as the seven ECA priorities and expectations described on page 2 of the RFA.  

Additionally, successful applications highlight some of the on-campus and community resources that can be leveraged to form a unique Institute experience that builds on the individual strengths of the host institution and community, which may be outside of the prescribed sub-themes.  Though the narrative does not need to be a full program agenda, we have found it helpful in previous applications to see some specific examples of faculty members that might be engaged, sessions they might facilitate, and community members or organizations Fellows might interact with in the host community.  For the weekly themes, we recommend applicants demonstrate how all the required program components will be integrated and connected to create a cohesive program. 

We also highly recommend that applicants review the evaluation criteria and evaluation guidance found in section XI of the RFA. 

Q: Who should the University Letter of Support be addressed to? 

The University Letter of support to can be addressed to “The Mandela Washington Fellowship Team”. 

Q: How many hours of structured session time and unstructured time should we include in our agenda? 

Academic and practical sessions should be balanced with cultural enrichment and unscheduled time.  Reflection time should be included for Fellows to process new learning and experiences during their program.  Institute Partners should plan for one free afternoon each week during regular business hours for Fellows to network and pursue individual professional interests.  There should also be unscheduled time during evenings and weekends for Fellows to socialize with each other and U.S. citizens, and to rest.    

Q: Are we required to implement/use the Common Leadership Curriculum (CLC) or can we leverage internal leadership resources and expertise at our institution? 

The CLC is provided to Institutes by IREX and implemented by all Institutes regardless of the track they apply to. The “common language around leadership” formed through this curriculum is intended to help Fellows engage with each other across sectors. Institute Partners are encouraged to leverage Institutional resources and strengths for the required Institute-identified leadership activities and supplemental sessions. 

Q: What are the costs associated with the Fellowship? 

  • IREX anticipates awarding 28 subgrants of up to $225,000 each for a total of 28 Institutes.  It is anticipated that each Institute will host 25 Fellows. 
  • Cost-share of at least $37,000 by the Institute Partner is mandated.  All costs incurred in implementing the Institute over $225,000 must be cost-shared by the host university.  Cost-share can include, but is not limited to, university fees, transportation, and personnel costs.   

Q: What are some examples of ways that Institute Partners have contributed to the $37,000 in cost-share?  

Previous Institute Partners have met this requirement in a variety of ways, including direct and in-kind contributions from community/corporate partners, university donation of staff salaries and benefits, reducing the cost of housing accommodations or local transportation, and reducing/waiving university NICRA. 

Q: What housing standards are expected for Fellows during the 2024 Leadership Institutes? 

Given that Fellows are mid-career professionals and for public health reasons, single rooms for Fellows (defined as an individual bedroom with a door) are recommended, but not required.  Private or shared bathrooms and common spaces are permissible.  Should conditions change and compromise Fellows’ health and safety, single rooms may be required.  Single rooms must be available for Fellows in isolation.  Fellows must have access to laundry facilities.  Access to shared common spaces and any other relevant housing features or amenities, such as kitchen facilities, is encouraged, but not required.  

Q: The RFA recommends that single rooms be included in the budget.  Are single rooms required for 2024 Leadership Institutes? 

Single rooms are not required, but we do recommend that they be included in the $225,000 budget so that Leadership Institutes are best prepared to support Fellow needs if public health conditions change between now and program implementation, compromising Fellows’ health and safety. 

 If you are unable to offer single room housing, please submit a budget that includes housing that meets the minimum lodging requirements outlined in section X of the RFA, and indicate how you will accommodate Fellows in isolation. 

Q: Does housing need to be on campus? 

Housing should be either on campus or an easy walk or public transit ride to campus in a facility dedicated to mature adults (i.e., not undergraduates).  If public transit is used, service should be frequent and have enough capacity to transport all Fellows to campus as needed during programming hours (for example, a city bus that runs every 10 minutes from 7:00 am – 6:00 pm). 

Q: Is air conditioning required in the residences where Fellows are placed? 

Air conditioning is not required, but applicants should have some alternative source of ventilation/moving air planned. For example, if you don’t have air conditioning, offering Fellows a window fan or something similar would be a valuable addition to their accommodations. 

Q: Is health insurance provided for the Fellows?   

Fellows will be enrolled in the U.S. Department of State’s Accident and Sickness Program for Exchanges (ASPE).  This is not health insurance – it is a health benefit plan that covers Fellows in emergency situations while they are in the United States.  ASPE is provided by the State Department.  A university health insurance or benefits plan may be provided as a supplement to the ASPE benefits provided by the U.S. Department of State, but it is not required.  

Q: How many Focus Project Coaches are we required to have? 

Institute staffing structures vary, so Focus Project Coaches may be incorporated in the way that best aligns with your institutional resources and capacity.  Coaches may be assigned to work with more than one Fellow; however, all sessions should be conducted individually with each Fellow.  Models with only 1-2 Coaches for the entire cohort should also include consideration of alternate coverage if a Coach is unavailable for any session(s).  Additional information on Focus Project Coaching expectations can be found in the Focus Project Coaching Overview.     

Q: Are we allowed to incorporate some external presenters virtually? 

Most presentations should be in-person.  However, to ensure equitable and inclusive programming that incorporates diverse viewpoints and aspects of U.S. culture, some virtual presentations are acceptable. 

Q: What is the expected compensation for Focus Project Coaches? 

If a Focus Project Coach is an Institute staff member compensated by the subaward on a salaried basis, the cost can be included as part of that staff member’s total effort.  If a non-staff member will be incorporated as a Coach, this cost can be included in subaward requested funds using the $250 maximum per day honorarium rate, with any additional costs included as cost-share.  

Q: Can administrative staffing overlap if we are applying to host two Leadership Institutes in different tracks?  

Per the RFA, the program model for the Fellowship includes identification of an Academic Director, Administrative Director, and Leadership Manager for each Institute.  Each Institute must have its own team.  Note that CLC sessions must be scheduled separately for each cohort, as they are not designed to be facilitated for a group of more than 25 Fellows.  

Q: Can we budget for support staff or other non-core staff members, such as Principal Investigators? 

Applicants should include all staff  in the budget as part of grant requested funds or cost share.  In addition to key staff roles, this may include Principal Investigators, departmental/organizational staff and faculty, and temporary student workers.  

Q: Will Institute Partners need to budget for Fellows’ international or domestic travel?  

IREX will arrange and cover the cost of international flights for Fellows to travel from their home countries to the nearest international or other IREX-identified airport in the host community, as well as their return flights from the Summit to their home countries.  IREX will also arrange and cover the cost of Fellows’ domestic travel to Washington, D.C. for the Summit.  Institute budgets should include local transportation to and from the closest international airport on arrival and departure days. 

Q: Can we budget for multiple housing options for an individual Fellow on the same night as part of COVID-19 response or Institute activities for the 2024 Leadership Institute? 

It is appropriate to budget for multiple Fellow housing options that may be charged at the same time on the same day for reasons related to COVID-19 response (e.g., isolation accommodations) or Institute activities (e.g., overnight excursions for site visits, cultural exchange, or networking opportunities).  This allows Institute Partners to respond to public health needs on the ground and provide Fellows with an impactful experience through Institute activities.  Institute Partners should first explore whether primary housing charges can be suspended while temporary housing is in use.  If charges cannot be suspended, simultaneous housing arrangements may be made. 

Q: Can we include Institute staff travel expenses for the Planning Retreat and Summit in the budget? 

IREX will cover the lodging and travel costs for the designated Leadership Manager and one additional Institute representative (either the Academic or Administrative Director) to attend the Planning Retreat in late 2024, and for one staff member to travel with Fellows and attend the Summit.  Up to two other representatives can attend the Planning Retreat and/or the Summit, and their travel costs can be cost-shared or included in subaward-requested funds.  

Q: For per diem planning purposes, how many meals will be on-your-own during the Institute Partner Planning Retreat and Summit programming?   

For the Partner Retreat, IREX typically provides three breakfasts and two lunches.  For the Summit, we typically provide four breakfasts and four lunches. 

Q: The IREX budget worksheet includes multiple lines for transportation costs.  Can you please explain the difference between these categories? 

There are a few sections of the budget template that refer to transportation in different circumstances: 

  • Line 44 – Air Travel: Air travel expenses related to the optional CliftonStrengths® facilitator training.  If needed, Institutes may include transportation costs for attending the Successful CliftonStrengths® Coaching course for the designated staff/faculty CLC facilitator under subaward-requested funds or as cost-share.   
  • Line 45 – Ground Transportation: Ground transportation expenses related to the optional CliftonStrengths® facilitator training.  If needed, Institutes may include transportation costs for attending the Successful CliftonStrengths® Coaching course for the designated staff/faculty CLC facilitator under subaward-requested funds or as cost-share.   
  • Lines 57-58 – Institute Staff Travel for Planning Retreat: Travel costs for up to two optional additional Institute staff members traveling to the Planning Retreat in Washington, D.C. 
  • Lines 81-82 – Institute Staff Travel for Summit: Travel costs for up to two optional additional Institute staff members traveling to the Summit in Washington, D.C. 
  • Lines 152-153 – Guest Speaker Travel: Travel costs related to Institute guest speakers.   
  • Lines 170-171 – Airport Transportation: Transportation expenses for airport transfers to the Institute from the nearest international or IREX-identified airport in the host community and return to the airport for departure to the Summit.  Please note that Fellows will not arrive all on the same flight, but they will depart as a group. 
  • Lines 175-176 – Ground Transportation: Ground transportation for Fellows, not including airport transportation, during the Fellowship.  This line item should include bus/van/taxi rentals for Fellows to attend all site visits, community service, cultural excursions, networking, grocery shopping, etc. 

Q: Can you explain the tax withholding and the IREX-provided debit cards? 

The IREX-provided debit cards provide Institute Partners with a way to distribute funds directly to Fellows without having to set up internal payment mechanisms or reconcile the tax withholdings.  Several Institute Partners have used this option to distribute the required $650 per Fellow supplemental allowance, and some have also used it to distribute monies as part of their overall meal plan. 

If you opt to use the IREX-provided debit cards, you must list the cost for all funds to be paid directly to Fellows via this debit card in Column I, rather than Column G, of the appropriate line item on the budget worksheet.   

Column G and Column I should be totaled individually at the bottom of the budget worksheet.  All monies allocated to the IREX-provided debit cards will be deducted from the maximum allowable subaward-requested funds, so the combined totals for Columns G and Column I may not exceed $225,000. 

You must apply a 14% tax withholding to all funds distributed via the IREX-provided debit card in order to offset IREX’s tax liability in distributing these funds.  This withholding amount should be calculated on the “IREX-Provided Debit Card Tax Withholding” line of the budget worksheet and the total should be listed in Column I.  This 14% withholding should be calculated on all funds listed in Column I, including the Supplemental Allowance.  The 14% withholding will be part of your overall budget and reduced from the total available subaward amount of $225,000. 

If you do not opt to use the IREX-provided debit cards, you should follow your institutional policies regarding distribution of funds and associated tax withholding.  Institute-specific tax withholding should be reflected in Columns G and/or H on the appropriate line in the budget worksheet.  IREX is not able to provide tax guidance for Institute-specific funds.   

Q: Are applicants required to include the $5.00 incidental per diem in their budget? 

Some previous Partners have budgeted for this incidental per diem expense, but since Fellows receive an incidental allowance, it’s not required to include an additional per diem in your budget. 

Q: Can Indirect costs be represented as cost share in the budget? 

Yes, indirect costs can be cost shared and reflected accordingly in the budget and budget narrative.