The World Bank

What's the best way to build a cohort of change agents with the knowledge, skills, and experience to lead the next generation of early years research, policy, and practice in Africa?

A large multi-lateral development bank, The World Bank has 189 member countries. With extensive operations around the globe, they routinely draw on local consultants to assist with in-country work. However, in certain sectors the demand for qualified consultants outpaces the supply, as is the case for early childhood development in Africa. Governments in African nations are interested in developing early years policies and programs and yet The World Bank didn’t have the local capacity to provide the necessary expertise in this area.

The World Bank Early Years team and The Studio collaborated to design a best-in-class fellowship program to build the knowledge, skills, and experience of mid-career professionals in Africa. Most of whom, were transitioning into the early years from other professions and sectors. We worked closely with The World Bank Early Years team to clarify the goals of the fellowship program, develop a clear and compelling theory of change,  interview leading fellowship programs around the country to explore what makes for a highly successful program (and what doesn’t!), and talk to the incoming Fellows to better understand their expectations and goals.

 Mindmaps and other frameworks mapping insights gathered through the discovery phase.

Mindmaps and other frameworks mapping insights gathered through the discovery phase.

We heard from a number of leaders of fellowship programs about the dreaded 3-month cliff: the moment when the adrenaline from starting the program starts to wear off and Fellows are confronted with all the challenges of the work ahead. We also heard from WB local staff that they were hoping Fellows kickoff the program balancing being proactive and patient.

Having discovered these insights, along with the WB goals for the program, we were able to craft a series of experiences that were specifically intended to make Fellows feel supported, excited, and capable in the first few months of vulnerability and ambiguity.

In May 2017 we welcomed 17 Fellows to Washington, D.C. to kick off the program with two weeks of cohort- and capacity-building programming. They returned home to their countries of residence to begin their work placement with their local World Bank office and Fellowship program comprised of a mosaic of multi-modal learning opportunities, peer-support mechanisms, and expert mentorship.