Application Guide for the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship

These tips should serve as a guide with which you evaluate your application. They should not replace your authentic voice, your truth and the way you say it.

Remember they are just a guide.

So now let us delve into the application.

1. If you had 50 words to introduce yourself to President Obama, what would you say?
(50 words)

This question is essentially your elevator pitch. You want it to be direct, short and catchy enough to elicit Obama’s curiosity. If it does not make the president ask you a question to learn more about you, it is not good enough.

In responding, essentially you want to say the mission you are on- this mission is essentially the problem in your community that you have committed to solve. In answering, you have to state clearly who is benefitting from the solutions you deliver.

For example, I define my mission as improving access to high quality healthcare for disadvantaged and low income communities across Africa.

Your pitch should also cover what you have achieved as you have sought to fulfil this mission.

Note that your achievement is not about the positions you have held but more about the benefits you have generated for those who are the target beneficiaries of the mission you are on.

You may find my elevator pitch useful. Here we go-

“I am a healthcare entrepreneur delivering affordable high quality healthcare services to low income communities. I combine training in the health sciences and business management as well as over five years of experience developing new business worth over $1 million for healthcare companies with relevant offerings for low income communities across Africa”

2. Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” Describe a specific instance of when you did something that seemed impossible. How did you gain support from others who did not share or understand your vision? (100 words)

This question essentially is asking about what project you have done in the line of your vision that you never thought you could get accomplish.

How did you identify stakeholders and engage them to carry out the projects? Did you create space and buy in for them on the project by letting them see the benefits they could derive by participating in the project? What responsibilities did you hand over to the stakeholders? What did you achieve at the end of the project and what was your key leadership learning?

Rather than list your partners and stakeholders, it is better to pick one or two and lead us through how you convinced them to support the project.

It is better that the project you use to illustrate your leadership is in line with the mission you defined in number 1.

If I was to answer this question I will detail the project I led as President of the Corpers’ Campaigning against HIV/AIDs in Bauchi which was focused on raising awareness about HIV/AIDs in the conservative town. I will state how after winning elections, I nominated my co-contestant as head of the committee that carried out a public rally, donated wasted bins labelled with sensitisation messages, organised high school debates and a fundraiser for child orphans of the epidemic. I will also show how I worked with the government agency responsible for controlling this epidemic in the state and got their buy-in by showing how our efforts supported their mandate.

This is a question that should help you illustrate your leadership.

3. Describe the role you play in your community. What interaction do you have with your community outside of your professional work? (100 words)

Again remember, please leave out quotes. They only take up space.
Also remember that it is better to further highlight your interaction with your community in a line related to your mission.
If you are a healthcare professional are you initiating medical outreaches or leading initiatives that subsidizes healthcare to those disadvantaged in your community?
If you are an environmental scientist, what sensitization campaigns have you led or participated in your community aimed at promoting awareness about environmental issues.
My answer to this question would be to state the work I am doing with my business- Lusoy Investments Limited in cross subsidizing medical commodities for rural communities. I would highlight medical outreaches I have initiated as well.
You will notice that my narrative is consistent- essentially built around healthcare. I have not jumped around with the work I do, I am focused on creating value in healthcare.

4. Where do you see yourself professionally in 10 years? How will the Mandela Washington Fellowship help you meet your goals? (100 words)

In answering this question, you have to be specific. No trying to be many things in 10 years (which is a rather short period in a man’s life. Right? )
I would advise you to state exactly where you want to be in your career in 10 years and how this fits into your community focused initiatives.
In 10 years, where exactly would you be in your career, what cities would your initiatives be, how many people will you have directly impacted with your life’s work?

The second part of the question should articulate clearly how you see the fellowship expanding the impact of your work or conference beyond where it is now? As always, focus on the one or two reasons why you want to be a Mandela Washington fellow. No long winding statements and bullet lists of your hopes.

In answering this question, I will state clearly that my medical commodities distribution business will be in operation across Anglophone West Africa and will serve over 100 health centres in rural areas in this region. I will also in this period, position myself as a thought leader by writing articles and speaking about enabling healthcare access to rural communities. I will then conclude by stating that the Mandela Washington fellowship will help me achieve these goals by providing me with access to a network that can serve as entry contacts across West Africa as well as linking me to healthcare leaders in the USA who have cutting edge medical commodities suited for the African market.

5. Please write a 4-5 sentence summary on your current work, both professionally and in your community (if applicable), and your long term goals and aspirations. If you are selected as a 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow, this may be used as a short biography in program materials. Please write in the third person (ex: “Mohammed is a medical professional…” not “I am a medical professional…”). Limit: 550 characters*

This is your biography. It should give an overview of your work so far and where you want to go in the next 10 years.
See mine for example, “Adebayo Alonge is a healthcare entrepreneur passionate about enabling acces to healthcare for low income rural communities across Africa. Combining training in the health sciences and business management, he runs a medical commodities distribution business that is currently cross-subsidising healthcare in rural communities in Nigeria. After the Mandela Washington fellowship, he will scale his distribution business operations across West and central Africa.

6. What are your goals for the professional development internship? How might you apply that experience upon your return home? (250 words)*
Be specific as to the area- business, public management or civic leadership that you are interested in doing your internship.
As always it helps your application if the organisation in which you want to do your internship is one where you can do work related to your mission and your near term career growth plans.
What is the typical organisation you are looking to intern in? What role are you looking to fill? What specific lessons, at most two, do you hope to learn during the internship? How would you apply this to your work and social ventures?

7a.What do you consider to be your most significant professional accomplishment or most innovative idea?

Address the question directly. State the project you consider as your most significant accomplishment. Mine for example is my business Lusoy Investments which has helped me afford a pricey MBA as well as do social good. One project is good enough.

B. Explain the accomplishment or innovation, why it was important, and the lessons learned. (250 words)

Now this is where you tell your personal story; the one that makes you passionate about your stated life mission and the initiatives you carryout in this area.

For example, I am passionate about healthcare because while in my early teens, I had traumatic obstructive pulmonary disease arising from an armed robbery incident. A lot of cheap medicines my family could afford were adulterated and I had several recurring near-death experiences as a result. We could not afford very expensive medicines which were usually of high quality and I eventually was introduced to Chinese herbal medicine. To afford my potions, I had to sell potions for obesity and diabetes to professionals especially those working in banks. Today, I am committed to enabling access to high quality medicines for low income communities through the same cross subsidy model that saved my life.

This is my story and my emotional engagement with my passion. Great people have a story; Oprah Winfrey’s story is a case in point.

8. Describe a specific issue or cause that you are working on in your profession or community. Explain any challenges you are facing and the skills and resources you possess to deal with this issue. Also explain any additional skills and resources you still need in order to effectively address this challenge. (250 words)*

Here you talk about the major project you are currently working on and how your academic training and career has prepared you to carry out this project.

What is the main challenge you are facing and what additional skills and resources would you need to help you succeed.

If I was to answer, I would mention the primary healthcare project I am currently working on with the Lagos State Primary Healthcare board and how gaining buy-in by key stakeholders is a major challenge especially as they consider the project a threat to their work. I will then say I would like to improve my negotiation skills as well as have access to senior government leaders whose influence we may leverage to push through this project with the state primary healthcare board.

In conclusion, build a consistent narrative, be direct and specific. You do not have to use up the word limit.

Wishing you all the best and do let me know when you make it.

14 thoughts on “Application Guide for the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship

  1. How do one reply this question: “Please give a brief description of your professional background and work”

  2. Hello there?

    Please help out. I am stuck with this quest, any help? I am a software engineer with a keen interest in the civic education. My email is

    This is the question.“Please give a brief description of your professional background and work”

    Thank you so much!

  3. Hello. I am henry henes bwana, i am from Drcongo and i really want to participate to washington mandela felowship in 2021 but it seems that i wanna have more informations about it and know how’s it workin’.

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