For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.


Drexel University has been selected as an Institute Partner for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. In summer 2021, the Office of Global Engagement will host 25 of Africa's brightest leaders in civic engagement for a six-week leadership institute, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by IREX.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities and local community engagement.

2021 Mandela Washington Fellows - Drexel University

MWF 2021


Read more about Drexel's involvement and development of synchronous and asynchronous content for the 2021 Fellowship below:

Community of Practice Reflection: Health & Medicine 

By: Veronica Carey, PhD, CPRP (College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel University); Rita Adeniran, DRNP, RN, CMAC, NEA-BC, FNAP, FAAN (College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel University); Kimberly McClellan, EDD, MSN, CRNP, WHNP-BC, FNP-BC (College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel University)

Communities of Practice (Lave & Wenger, 1998) are groups of varied persons who share community through a passion or concern for what they do, what they learn, and how to do it better. The learning occurs with intentionality and surprise. Lave and Wenger (1998) shared that a Community of Practice (COP) cannot occur without a domain, community, nor practice. The 2021 Mandela Washington Fellows are competent and lauded professionals, from various parts of Africa, who came together to share their experiences, build a sense of camaraderie, and dialogue about how to meet the needs of the marginalized individuals in their respective countries. The Fellows typified domain, community, and practice.

Experienced and emerging leaders must continuously acquire new knowledge and competencies to enhance their ability to innovate and successfully address their workplace and society's challenges (Case & Śliwa, 2020; Sonnino, 2016). While no leader can accurately predict the future, all leaders must prepare to deliver excellence in the ever-evolving, fast-paced, and complex healthcare and business environments. Preparation includes developing the skills to think strategically within local and global contexts, acquiring the ability to inspire and articulate a shared vision,  crossing cultures, and boundaries with competence, and making intelligent choices amid everyday constant uncertainty. The 2021 Mandela Washington Fellows who participated in the Health COP were offered varied learning opportunities and exercises to strengthen their capacity to exert leadership. While the lessons focused on the healthcare industry, the concepts are relevant to other business environments.  Content of the exerting leadership section of the program  included the operationalization of the below four concepts:

  • Making Leadership Happen
  • Collective intelligence
  • Boundary Spanning Leadership
  • Polarity Management

One of the primary responsibilities of a leader is to make leadership happen by creating and sustaining an environment that maximizes collaboration among all stakeholders (McCauley, 2014). Leaders can make it possible for individuals to collaborate willingly and effectively through inclusive strategies, decisions, and actions (Rosen et al., 2018). The lessons on collective intelligence, boundary-spanning leadership, and polarity management equipped the 2021 Mandela Washington Fellows with new leadership tools and a framework to inspire teams to think collaboratively and participate more fully in a shared process that often leads to breakthrough greatness.

“People who share a concern…or passion…and who deepen their knowledge and expertise by interaction on an ongoing basis” (Wenger et al., 2002).  This is the scholarly definition of a COP.  It is also the description of the faculty, Fellows and associates of the Mandela Washington Fellowship.  Although 2021, drove us once again into the virtual world, the paramount global issue of inequity in care continues to be a formidable barrier to wellness.  This barrier is one which change-leaders and their faculties must combat with creative solutions, inclusive-community participatory intervention and cultural congruence.  The transition toward a more inclusive definition of wellness and a “heard” community voice must occur.  This was the shared mission of this COP!  It was the pleasure of the faculty of the Health & Medicine COP Sessions to facilitate discussion in the purpose of a community’s self-defined wellness, congruent cultural practice and the importance of each community member’s “story” of safety and hope.  It was also common practice in this COP for participating faculty, Fellows and associates to share their own “story”, meaning and reflection on such phenomena.  However, challenging this work may be, for this faculty member it is the reflection, check on positionality and realized meaning of humanity that keeps it sustainable. 

Social determinates of health impact every nation in the world (CDC, 2021). The determinants are in areas where persons live, learn, work, and socialize and affect the degree of health disparities and health inequities that exist in the world. The determinants impact the quality-of-life risks for persons and the wide range of health outcomes. Behavioral/Mental health is considered a social determinant of health and was a strong consideration in the preparation of the Health COP presentation for the Mandela Washington Fellows to explore for attribution to their respective fields of study. In other words, how does behavioral health impact the roles of surgeons, social workers, registered nurses, domestic violence advocate, gender violence worker, and infectious disease doctors to say the least. In order to have gains in these, and other fields, attention to family, finance, and infrastructure also must be addressed and these are also social determinants of health. The Upstream/Downstream analogy was used to have Fellows identify why their respective fields are necessary but are viewed differently in the community (Nessa, 2016).  It was the hope of the Health COP presentation to bring to the attention of the Fellows, the social determinants of health, to further the goals for groups such as adolescents, pregnant women, trans persons, children with ostomy, and overall public health scope.

The Mandela Washington Fellows in the Health COP understood that solutions o complex health and healthcare problems encompass effective leadership. Strategies must include but are not limited to recognizing the influence of social determinants of health as the etiology of several disease conditions. Other factors comprise the impact of behavioral health on clinicians, gender inequality, inequities, and barriers to collaborating across sectors. Leaders are responsible for setting direction, creating alignment, and gaining commitments from stakeholders to achieve organizational priorities.  In the same token, leaders must manage complexities, paradoxes, and complex dilemmas that are ever-present in healthcare organizations and delivery systems.  Leaders can maximize outcomes by leveraging the collective intelligence of stakeholders across boundaries.  Boundary-spanning leadership and polarity management offer leaders a framework to break down silos, accelerate collaboration, and strengthen organizations' capacity.  It was encouraging and heartening to listen to the Fellows who attended the  July 22, 2021, synchronous session. Each Fellow confidently shared what and how they are breaking down barriers and numerous inequities and inequalities in their various communities across Africa to advance health and healthcare.  The faculty members who developed the Health COP curriculum for 2021 Mandela Washington Fellows are confident that the content will motivate and empower the Fellows to accelerate their leadership impact.

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.  Drexel University is a sub-grantee of IREX and implemented a Leadership Institute as a part of the 2021 Fellowship.  For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, please visit the Fellowship’s website at  


Case, P., & Śliwa, M. (2020). Leadership learning, power, and practice in Laos: A leadership-as-practice perspective. Management Learning, 51(5), 537-558. doi:10.1177/1350507620909967

CDC (2021).

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Perspectives on Socially Shared Cognition, 2, 63-82.

McCauley, C. (2014). Making Leadership Happen.

Nessa, B.S. (2016). What are the definitions of upstream and downstream determinants of public health. Public Health & Community Health, East Carolina University.

Rosen, M. A., DiazGranados, D., Dietz, A. S., Benishek, L. E., Thompson, D., Pronovost, P. J., & Weaver, S. J. (2018). Teamwork in healthcare: Key discoveries enabling safer, high-quality care. The American psychologist, 73(4), 433-450. doi:10.1037/amp0000298

Sonnino, R. E. (2016). Health care leadership development and training: progress and pitfalls. Journal of healthcare leadership, 8, 19-29. doi:10.2147/JHL.S68068

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Community of Practice Reflection: Advocacy

By: Carrie Hutnick (Lindy Center for Civic Engagement)

This summer, in partnership with the Office of Global Engagement, a group of staff, faculty, students, alumni, and affiliates from The Lindy Center for Civic Engagement facilitated synchronous sessions and asynchronous modules for the 2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship related to community-based learning, engagement and reflection. While constructing discussion sessions and the content for modules, facilitators utilized the Lindy Center’s frameworks for civic and community engagement that seek to create spaces for shared experience and knowledge production where participants co-develop the conditions and tools necessary for authentic relationship-building, critical analysis, and reflection.

Synchronous sessions were led by Cara Scharf, Assistant Director in Community-Based Learning (CBL) at the Lindy Center, and Tais Idi-Infante, a recent graduate from Drexel University and former teaching assistant in Community-Based Learning through the Lindy Center. Cara and Tais focused the two workshop-style meetings with Mandela Washington Fellows to introduce the Lindy Center’s framework for civic and community engagement: “learn, engage, and reflect.” They then led a discussion using that approach to examine gentrification and inequitable access to resources in West Philadelphia as well as local efforts to reclaim land and food sovereignty by residents. The group reflected on connections between conditions in West Philadelphia and the places they live, while considering the potential use of learning, engaging and reflecting as a way to deepen their work on issues they care about. After the session, facilitators reflected on the power of connecting issues happening in places around the world and the ways communities respond. While the particular term “gentrification” was unfamiliar to many Fellows, its meaning and its impact on neighborhoods were familiar to them and what they saw happening in many of their communities.

Asynchronous modules for a Community of Practice (COP) focused on Advocacy were also led by Tais, along with Tiffany Ellis, a co-op for the Lindy Center, Steve Dolph, a Lindy Center Faculty Fellow, and Carrie Hutnick, Associate Director of CBL at the Lindy Center. Also contributing were community partners including John Pace from the Youth Sentencing and Re-entry Project, Leah Reisman from Puentes de Salud, and Naina Ramrakhani from Plenitud, a permaculture farm in Puerto Rico and CBL partner. Participants viewed content introducing CBL as a tool for furthering our understanding of conditions along with their causes and consequences, and provide opportunities for building relationships that can better care for one another and collectively work for change. They were introduced to the format of a reading circle, a tool used by the Lindy Center bringing stakeholders together to read, reflect, and discuss a resource related to community work. Fellows were asked to read a piece by Audre Lorde related to the role of “difference” in advocacy and change. They then viewed three reading circles: the first between Lindy Center facilitators; the second between Tais, Tiffany, and community partners; and the third between Lindy Center facilitators to reflect on the experience and outcomes.

Carrie Hutnick and Adam Zahn led two synchronous discussions for the participants of the COP in Advocacy, where Fellows discussed the reading, the role of difference in their work and the issues they address, and how they might construct a reading circle to enhance their learning, practice and collaboration with others in their field or across issues in their communities. They also reflected on the ways in which difference can both enhance their understanding of experiences and perspectives different than their own, while also creating challenges to challenging views to which one might hold onto firmly.

The process of creating these sessions and modules provided an important space for facilitators to reflect on why and how we use particular frameworks in our approach, and to engage with Fellows working in communities that are both very different from our own while at the same time experiencing similar issues and conditions that shape access to resources, recognition, representation, and safety. Facilitators and Fellows found connection in their experiences, challenges, and motivations for heeding calls for local and social change. They explored together some of the knowledge and skills required of them to effectively contribute to change.  They identified the need for and benefits to spaces for shared reflection and were given a small opportunity to create some of those spaces collaboratively with one another.

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.  Drexel University is a sub-grantee of IREX and implemented a Leadership Institute as a part of the 2021 Fellowship.  For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, please visit the Fellowship’s website at

Engaging Mandela Fellows on Key Challenges in Monitoring and Evaluation

By: Nishi Dsouza (Dornsife School of Public Health); Joe Amon, PhD (Dornsife School of Public Health)

Mandela Washington Fellows are a diverse group of young African leaders with backgrounds in government, entrepreneurship, and private business, as well as public service and community leadership. Despite these different contexts, members of the 2021 cohort all need an understanding of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) concepts and skills.  Working with the Office of Global Engagement, Drexel University put together a session on key challenges in monitoring and evaluation that discussed core principles and the challenges of policymaking amidst uncertainty – especially appropriate in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic. While our backgrounds are in public health, the principles of M&E are cross-cutting, and we wanted everyone to feel that they could apply what they learned regardless of their professional position.

We started our session emphasizing four key M&E principles, developed by the non-profit research organization Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA): credibility, actionability, responsibility, and transportability. M&E systems are credible if they collect high quality data and analyze the data accurately. They are actionable if they collect the right data – data that can be acted upon. They are responsible if the benefits of data collection outweigh the costs. And they are transportable if the data that is collected can generate knowledge for other programs, or help others design or invest in more effective programs.

These principles were developed with the recognition that resources (human and financial) for M&E are often limited and that M&E efforts should be appropriately calibrated to the questions being asked and the timeliness and precision of the answers needed. In their position as global leaders, Mandela Fellows operate in roles requiring decision-making, so we thought it was best to dive in first with a presentation on the need for people to collect data and use it guided by the four principles.

Boiling down M&E principles to one short presentation was a challenge, as we could spend days, months and years talking about M&E. But we felt that it was equally important to talk about how values shape issues around what data is collected (and what is not). These decisions in turn determine what evidence is collected, what is considered credible and actionable, and what lessons are drawn by donors and others implementing programs. That focus – on values, challenges, and conflicts in determining the focus of M&E systems is reflected in the saying that “what is counted counts” and the response, that “not everything that counts can be counted.” These questions were the focus of a wide-ranging panel discussion with Professors Irene Headen, Sharrelle Barber, and Ayden Scheim, which drew upon research and engagement with communities in the US, Brazil, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. The conversation also brought up the politics of M&E systems – for example, when policymakers do not want to know information about certain populations or public health problems.

The next part of the session was the presentation of a virtual communications toolkit – recognizing that a key part of research is communicating the results. This part stressed the importance of effective communication to both policymakers and community members. The toolkit was intended to be a one-stop shop of resources, something short that can be passed around and shared widely as Fellows return to the challenges of their jobs.

The final session was question and answers, with more than 80 Fellows joining the session from countries across the African continent. A large number of questions from the Fellows returned to the issue of credibility – how to ensure that evaluation results are of good quality and accepted by policymakers despite limited budgets for research. Another area where questions were raised was the challenge of developing an M&E framework that met both ‘local’ needs and one that met the needs of global donors.

Overall, the session with the Mandela Washington Fellows was lively. The level of engagement, despite the challenges posed by the virtual setting, was high. The examples, best practices and lessons learned in the synchronous session were bidirectional: we were inspired by the resilience, tenacity, and passion of the Fellows and by the impressive work they do. Every indication was that the Fellows found the session helpful. But we’ll wait for the results of the evaluation before we know for sure.

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.  Drexel University is a sub-grantee of IREX and implemented a Leadership Institute as a part of the 2021 Fellowship.  For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, please visit the Fellowship’s website at