Dickey Center organizes trip to Africa for YALI

by Hye Young Kim | 1/12/18 2:15am

This winter break, the Dickey Center for International Understanding organized a trip to Ghana and Nigeria as part of their involvement in the Young African Leaders Initiative, a State Department-led program. The trip was designed to reconnect with YALI alumni who had previously attended programs at the College and to conduct a workshop for the Nigerian social enterprise Inspire Africa, which was co-founded by Cynthia Ndubuisi, a 2015 Dartmouth Mandela Washington Fellow.

“This was one of the first times we got over there and had the opportunity to meet up with a number of our fellow alumni,” said Thomas Candon, associate managing director at the Dickey Center and YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship administrative director.

The College’s involvement in YALI is centered around the Mandela Washington Fellowship, which sends YALI fellows to universities across the United States to study either business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership or public service over the summer. Participants go through a highly selective process to earn the fellowship, with a one percent acceptance rate. At Dartmouth, fellows attend six weeks of curriculum on design-driven entrepreneurship. The College has hosted 25 fellows from across Africa every summer since 2014.

During his stay in Ghana, Candon met up with the four Ghanan Mandela Washington Fellows and visited the startup companies they have established. He also visited the YALI Regional Leadership Center in West Africa to meet with representatives from all four leadership centers on the continent.

Candon said that throughout the trip, he was able to strengthen ties between the College and the Mandela Washington Fellows, who have hosted more than 15 Dartmouth students.

The second leg of the trip was to Nigeria, where Amy Newcomb, senior program officer at the Dickey Center and MWF academic director, oversaw a “Train-the-Trainers” workshop, a joint project with the U.S. Consulate in Lagos and Ndubuisi’s social enterprise Inspire Africa. The workshop consisted of a six-day human-centered design program facilitated by Robert Halvorsen Th’17 and Ashley Manning ’17. Following the design thinking training, deputy director of outdoor programs Brian Kunz A&S’00 and Outdoor Programs Office teambuilding director Lindsay Putnam also facilitated various team-building exercises.

“The idea was to give them a taste of what this human-centered design process looks like and how it can benefit entrepreneurship efforts, but also to teach them exercises that they could then facilitate and integrate into the Inspire Africa curriculum going forward,” Newcomb said.

One of Ndubuisi’s goals in creating Inspire Africa was to create a cohort of trainers that would help other young African entrepreneurs receive opportunities and resources, said Halvorsen, who helped lead the workshop. Ndubuisi reached out to Newcomb and incorporated Dartmouth’s YALI curriculum model into the workshop.

Although Halvorsen had worked as a teaching assistant during the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship curriculum hosted on campus, facilitating an entire workshop was a completely different challenge.

“The best way to learn design thinking is by doing it,” Halvorsen said. “So rather than just sit them in a classroom and talk at them, we gave them a design challenge that we wanted them to tackle.”

Halvorsen and Manning challenged the participants to “solve youth unemployment in Africa.” The participants applied design thinking processes by interviewing young people, figuring out their needs, defining a persona to design for and developing solutions and prototyping. They also introduced tools like empathy mapping and mind mapping that the trainers would be able to pass on to their trainees in the future.

“Our goal was to step them through the entire design process from start to finish, so they get exposed to it,” Halvorsen said. “We gave them smaller actionable exercises that they can bring wherever they go.”

Similarly, the Outdoor Programs Office conducted exercises to build a team that would work together after the workshop, but also left the trainers with a set of exercises they could use in the future. The feedback from both Ndubuisi and the U.S. Consulate was very positive, Newcomb said.

The workshop, which Newcomb describes as a “mini-YALI experience,” was similar to other professional exchanges promoted by the Dickey Center, in which the Dartmouth YALI model is shared and reproduced in various parts of Africa. In 2016, Dartmouth and the YALI East Africa Regional Leadership Center cooperated on a year-and-a-half project to improve the center’s business and entrepreneurship program.

“[The center now has] a team of really wonderful African trainers teaching, using the core content that our YALI fellows get to experience when they’re here, which is fantastic,” Newcomb said.

According to Candon, the Dickey Center looks forward to continuing their involvement in YALI but are concerned about funding cuts to the Mandela Washington Fellowship by the federal government. Due to budget cuts, the program offered only 700 fellowships this year, while last year it said it would accept up to 1,000 fellows. Funding for next year’s program has not yet been announced.

“We would love to stay engaged with the YALI program, and we’re hopeful that it continues on,” Candon said.