On July 22, senior staff at the Town of Marana will host a cohort of Mandela Washington Fellows from Arizona State University. This six-week program offers graduate-level students from sub-Saharan African nations the chance to study American democratic institutions and apply any lessons they learn in their home contexts. For several hours, these students will engage with Town staff in order to learn how the Town supports a strong local economy, maintains transparent channels of communication with residents, and fosters a strong organizational culture.
At first glance, the connection between Marana and countries like Kenya, Guinea-Bissau, and Namibia may appear tenuous, but students like Janepher Shedrack-Kimaro help bridge that divide. Janepher currently works with the Mtwara Regional Administrative Secretariat in Tanzania. In this office, she supports redevelopment efforts, considers rezoning requests, and reviews land dispute appeals. A growing community like Marana offers Janepher the chance to understand how a planning department in Arizona operates, and how it differs from her own experiences.
Altogether, the Mandela Washington Fellows hail from twenty countries across sub-Saharan Africa. Every year, this ASU program hosts 50 fellows in two institutes—Public Management and Civic Leadership. Through the national Young African Leaders Initiative, launched in 2010, these fellows will build personal and professional connections that will allow them to return to their home countries and contribute in meaningful ways to improving democratic institutions, strengthening local economies, and ensuring peace and security across Africa.
During the afternoon in Marana, staff members from various departments will share with these students how they collectively work to serve the residents of this community. Speakers include Town Manager Gilbert Davidson, who will provide an overview of the Council-Manager form of government, and Human Resources Director Curry Hale, who will provide insight into how his department supports the diverse needs of staff.
“We see ourselves as an organization of excellence, and this isn’t just a catchy phrase,” says Hale. “In order to achieve this goal, we believe in living out our cultural values of Dedicated Service, Respect, Teamwork, and Engaged Innovation every day. Hosting the Mandela Scholars is a great opportunity to share who we are as a local municipality and have global influence.
“One of the things we’re particularly excited to share is the Town’s culture and a general overview of how HR works in our organization. We want the students to see differences and similarities between how government runs here versus at home and use this knowledge to enhance their effectiveness when they return home.”
The Fellows’ afternoon in Marana is just one part of larger journey across Southern Arizona. Along the way, they will also visit the Tucson Food Bank, where they will learn about one of Southern Arizona’s leading nonprofit organizations. From there, they will go onto Kartchner Caverns to take in some of the spectacular beauty of the Sonoran Desert. Through these diverse experiences, these Fellows will have the chance to bridge the gaps between government and non-profit, between urban and rural, between development and preservation. In many ways, these same gaps exist as much in Tanzania as they do in Pima County. By hosting Janepher and her colleagues, Marana will participate in a global exchange that will leave both the Mandela Washington Fellows and Marana Town staff better equipped to engage with these questions in the years ahead.
Click here to learn more about the Mandela Washington Fellowship.