Ankita Patel is an inspiring women’s rights advocate, working daily to protect immigrant rights in Washington state. Despite the amazing impact she has been making locally, she had always wanted to explore opportunities on the international stage, and specifically identify ways to give back to her home country of Zambia.
Ankita joined the MovingWorlds Institute (MWI) in June 2017, an international cohort-based experience that helps professionals transition into social impact careers. During her Fellowship, she went Experteering with the Zambian Governance Foundation where she supported their efforts to transition towards being less donor-dependent and being more financially sustainable. Specifically, she explored how the Zambian Governance Foundation should structure and position their social enterprise to expand their impact.
Read on to learn more about her amazing journey!
What inspired you to “take the leap” and join the MWI?
MWI seeks to bridge the global talent gap within the global development space. I moved to the U.S. from Zambia 17 years ago to get a college and eventually law school education. I ended up staying in the U.S. for work. However, I have always had an interest in figuring out how to use my skills, education and experience to address pressing issues in the Global South given the issues that I saw growing up. I see a huge potential for how global development and global health solutions can transform social norms for women.
Joining MWI gave me an opportunity to deep dive into the world of global development issues that I have always been interested in and allowed me to explore my passions with like-minded professionals.
What were you doing before the MWI?
I worked (and still work) at the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the leading voice to end domestic violence in Washington state, dedicated to improving how communities respond to domestic violence and working to create a social intolerance for abuse. During my time at WSCADV, I have advocated for reforms in the legal system, homelessness and poverty alleviation, and immigrant and farmworker justice. I find purpose in my work when I am solving these important issues affecting society while facilitating best strategies and solutions coming from local communities.
What did you do on your Experteering trip?
I worked with the Zambian Governance Foundation, a grant-making Civil Society Organization, to diversify their funding and reduce reliance on donor aid by creating a sustainable social enterprise. I worked the CEO on a private-sector engagement strategy in a social economy that is fragmented by issues and areas. In addition, I supported the staff with tools, training, and coaching to help them identify opportunities for more entrepreneurial and sustainable programs to create less reliance on grants.
What was the highlight of your Experteering trip?
Towards the end of my trip, I collaborated with a local staff member to lead a team meeting to discuss marketing strategies. Local staff were reluctant to meet as a group because they were worried about not having met their targets and being inundated with new tasks. Instead of imposing a marketing plan onto staff, I worked the with the staff members to facilitate an open and honest dialogue where staff shared their work processes, the challenges they experienced in the field, and then we worked as a team to identify new opportunities. The dialogue and synergy in that meeting – which rippled to subsequent meetings – created a positive, can-do attitude among staff that made our work easier, more fun, and more fulfilling. Empowering people to create their own solutions gives me the kind of joy that is impossible to express.
What was the highlight of the entire MWI?
Being in the field on my own project, but part of a cohort of professionals going through similar experiences was the best. I loved knowing that I have the MWI community that I can always rely on and problem solve with.
What was one thing you wish you knew before you went Experteering?
I wish I got to talk to the local staff and not just the CEO before I arrived. It would have better prepared me on the scope of the issue from the staff’s perspective, as well as do some preliminary organizational development research on resources and tools to support the Zambian Governance Foundation.
Editor’s note: Getting to know the organization you’re working with as well as that location is essential to a successful trip. Learning about your host country’s customs, culture, and history is a part of the MovingWorlds process and ensures your trip is as immersive and impactful as possible. To learn more, check out our region guide and this piece on how to build trust across cultures.
What advice do you have for people thinking about applying to the MWI?
The MWI experience is a highly individualized experience. I feel like this program allows you ground yourself in design thinking and build relationships to solve today’s issues. My advice to anyone who joins this program is to be a self-starter, and keep a positive can-do attitude.
For example, I met Akhtar Badshah, an MWI speaker and experienced corporate social responsibility professional and social enterprise educator, at the kick-off weekend. I immediately set a coffee chat with him, which led me to work with him to design his inaugural Accelerating Social Transformation course. I was willing to contribute and do whatever was needed. This experience gave me an inside-look on important industry insights and trends in the corporate philanthropy space, which in turn helped me form a better idea of what opportunities are available to contribute globally. By working hard and contributing, I have managed to develop strong relationships with many members of AST. Akhtar has been a fantastic mentor for me, and this was all because I took the initiative to proactively network, find ways to add value, and kept a positive, learning attitude.
What advice do you have for people thinking about Experteering?
Whatever reason you have to go Experteering, ranging from vacationing to making a sustainable social impact, when you get to your site do your best to truly be of service. Make it about the people, make it about the organisation, believe in their ideas, believe in their vision. Listen, listen, listen. If you listen well, you will see that they have the solution. Your role is to help them make it a reality.
Join Ankita in making an international impact by Experteering your skills in Africa, supporting economic development around the world, and applying to be a Fellow in the next MovingWorlds Institute.