Today, we review question 3 of the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship application.
For this question in particular, I have worked with:
Esther Mark- Nigeria
Adepeju Jaiyeoba – Nigeria (Team Lead)
Amani Katana – Kenya
Chola Lungu-Mutoni- Zambia
Mioraniaina Johane – Madagascar
Patience N. Agwenjang – Cameroon
Rita Zaumu – Cameroon
Dayo Nigeria- Nigeria
Owolabi Tobi Isaiah- Nigeria
Tola Oni- Nigeria
During the Fellowship, you will be exposed to new opinions and worldviews held by other Fellows and by the Americans you meet. Describe a time where you worked with people of different backgrounds, identities, or perspectives from your own.
What strategies have you used in the past to navigate these situations, and what lessons have you learned from the challenges you faced?
Elements of the question
1. Description of a time you worked with people of a different orientation and background.
2. Strategies you have used in the past to navigate these situations.
3. Lessons learned.
Your response to this question should show clearly that you are someone who respects the opinion of others and embrace diversity. You can, for instance, tell the reviewer how diverse the people you are leading are so as to prove you are actually able to handle diversity in your day-to-day activities. If you have previously participated in a similar program this is the right place to mention.
Don’t be all theoretical because sharing an example of how you do this is a critical part of this question. This is not also where you share pedestrian examples of how you made rice for someone who doesn’t like noodles to accommodate their difference or preference or how you adapted to winter when you went on holidays by putting on a winter jacket or how you are so peace loving and religion driven, you do not have disputes with anyone hence no example to give. Preferably, look critically at the work you do and extract an example from within it.
The example can be the expression of a different opinion on a subject matter under consideration or different cultural or religious belief or even different ways of doing a particular thing. Avoid coming across as someone who is a dictator whose opinion is always final. Remember that this question is not an opportunity to state how other people have been terrible communicators or how other people hate you due to your background or where you come from and how you have suffered in life. As a leader, you must be able to manage polarities as well as tolerate and accept other people the way they are.
Discuss also strategies that has worked for you in managing differences. An example is listening and appreciation of other people culture, dialogue for mutual understanding, learning few words from a language can convince people you want to work with them, clarifying misconceptions politely, and expressing opinions respectfully.
It is also important to highlight and explain lessons learnt in such situations. This may include conflict management, how collaboration can accelerate impact, how effective community mobilisation and engagement can contribute to project sustainability etc.
With the idea of collaboration and networking for example, show the reviewer that you have a goal in mind and see everyone you come across as a new opportunity to learn, share and build together. You may also want to talk about preparations and research on people you’d be interacting with. This knowledge helps you know what is obtainable in certain quarters and prepare accordingly.
Ensure that whatever lesson you are projecting flows from your example.
Do not forget your central theme for this application. Even as you answer the third question, you should be able to connect the dots and have a flow. Let that synergy still be felt as the reviewer moves from one response to another.
Wishing you all the very best dear applicants.
(Compiled by Adepeju Jaiyeoba for the Team)