Dr. Trisha Gott, Associate Director and Assistant Professor, and Dr. Tim Steffensmeier, Associate Professor and Director of Research at the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) traveled to Dakar, Senegal this past March to engage in meaningful work with leaders and cyber-activists.
Dr. Steffensmeier received a Reciprocal Exchange Grant, which supports diverse projects and allows Americans to travel to Africa to engage in purposeful work and build on connections that were established during the Mandela Washington Fellowship. Dr. Gott’s trip was an extension of the Leading Change Institute (LCI), launched in 2015 with the sole purpose of bringing together thinkers, doers, scholars, and leaders that are collectively addressing real issues with tangible strategies.
Dr. Gott and Dr. Steffensmeier combined their synergies with 2018 Kansas State Mandela Washington Fellow, Seydina M. Ndiaye to facilitate civic engagement workshops for community leaders alongside Africtivstes, an on-line community of activists and civic leaders. Ndiaye also engaged 2016 Kansas State University Mandela Washington Fellowship alumni, Salif Kanoute to present during the workshop.
Africtivstes was founded during the 2012 Senegal elections. The online community focuses on the consolidation of democracy through digital platforms. They aim to be a watchdog of the democracy of African countries, and they focus on transparency, good governance, participatory democracy, accountability, fighting against corruption, and impunity.
Dr. Steffensmeier, Dr. Gott, and Ndiaye partnered with the West African Research Center and facilitated a five-day workshop that focused on youth, leadership and civic engagement, with elements of storytelling and public narrative. The workshop engaged 25 participants, both men and women from different sectors, all working to create change within the community.
“This was the first time this online community was able to come together and meet face-to-face,” said Dr. Gott. “It was wonderful to have Tim there because he is solidly planted at Leadership Studies and KLC. He was able to bring some of the KLC’s programming to Dakar. The workshops were centered around KLC’s competencies.”
“The workshop focused on the activity of leadership that is available to anyone in the system. Early on in the training, participants were encouraged to learn from one another and intervene in the group. As the workshop progressed, particularly in an exercise when we were diagnosing a complex problem, the participants started to engage with one another by using the leadership competencies,” Dr. Steffensmeier said.
Dr. Gott and Dr. Steffensmeier were both very much inspired by the way these individuals are using their voices to bring awareness to governance issues. “They are speaking to an entire generation in ways that people haven’t been. Their network and reach in Senegal are very impressive. They are making information accessible and demonstrating great leadership online,” Dr. Gott said.
The Staley School is committed to working with Africtivistes to look at their data and thinking about interventions that will result in longer-term change. Changes that move beyond discussion demonstrating action and progress in communities across Senegal, and ultimately, the continent of Africa.
Dr. Gott and Dr. Steffensmeier look forward to working with Ndiaye and Kanoute in the future as they continue deepening their partnerships.
“The work Seydi and his community are doing is moving community leadership forward through innovative online platforms. They are building new networks and pushing for our world to think, to lead, and to engage more boldly,” Dr. Gott said.