As a way to promote the incredible work our Host Organizations are doing and to spread the word of the substantial impact Atlas Corps Fellows has on their teams, we are sharing a short feature on Charter Cities Institute and their experience with Atlas Corps, and our Fellows from Class 39, Emmanuel (Nigeria) and Heba (Egypt).

Host Organization: Charter Cities Institute

Charter Cities Institute Founded in 2017, the Charter Cities Institute is a nonprofit dedicated to creating the ecosystem for charter cities. Charter Cities Institute believes that charter cities are the future of development in emerging economies.


Fellow: Emmanuel (Class 39, Nigeria)

At Atlas Corps, we have a tradition of stating our “Five Facts” when introducing ourselves to new people. What are your five facts?

Name: Emmanuel Olawoye

Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria

Role at Organization: Operations Manager

Social Issue/Interest Area: Economic Empowerment and Environmental Sustainability

Fun fact: I am Left-Handed and I like to act

What is your role at your Host Organization?

At CCI, I manage some day-to-day operational activities and provide support to all the other teams in handling operations and administrative duties. My role is to ensure all other departments can function seamlessly without any administrative hiccups. Some of the admin functions include managing the team’s digital tools (ensuring everyone has the required access and troubleshooting when required), financial administration (working with the company accountants), planning internal events (e.g., retreats), etc. I also manage some human resources functions including recruitment, payroll administration, new hire onboarding, Internships, fellowships, and other special programs. and some special programs including the CCI internship & fellowship.

How has your experience with your Host Organization impacted your perspective? What has the organization taught you?

Working with CCI, I have learnt a lot about international development and how to design projects and communicate within the space. Working with a small yet diverse team, I have come to understand many more cultures. These experiences have shaped my mindset about the world at large and how to work with people from different backgrounds. I have learned to speak up more and to be more confident in presenting my ideas. I have also learnt the integral aspects of managing a non-profit including fundraising, communications, and operations.

How has your experience with your supervisor impacted your perspective? What has your supervisor taught you?

My supervisor has given me a fresh perspective on leadership; he manages the team in a way that gives everyone a good level of autonomy yet ensures the team stays highly productive. As a growing organization, there are many things that are constantly evolving; having the ability to keep all things going with minimal failures requires an exceptional level of leadership which Mark displays every day. At CCI, we have built a culture that prioritizes results and allows people to be their whole selves every day, learning how this has been done will be very impactful in my career and as I build my own organizations in the future.

How will you build upon the skills and knowledge gained during your Fellowship once you return to your home country? How will your experience in the United States help you pursue your goals in the future?
I am grateful for the experience of living and learning in the US, my goal is to take the various learning about the culture, work ethic, and planning back into my work in my home country. I have learnt new skills about organizational management, communication, fundraising, and networking. All these are skills that will be vital to the future of my work in my home country and I look forward to the challenge of transferring this knowledge to my local work.


Fellow: Heba (Class 39, Egypt)

At Atlas Corps, we have a tradition of stating our “Five Facts” when introducing ourselves to new people. What are your five facts?

Name: Heba Elhanafy

Hometown: Alexandria, Egypt

Role at Organization: Urban Researcher

Social Issue/Interest Area: Urban Development

Fun fact: I have lots of useless facts memorized

How has your experience with your Host Organization impacted your perspective? What has the organization taught you?

My work for the past number of years has been very community-focused. Most of my work focused on urban-based community development, a very bottom-up project. I truly believe that urban change requires bottom-up and top-down approaches to planning, and CCI provided me with just a lot of knowledge on top-down policy thinking. CCI work on the governance of new cities and I learnt and keep learning so much.

How has your experience with your supervisor impacted your perspective? What has your supervisor taught you?

Since I and my supervisor come from different backgrounds (planning and political science) I have learned a lot on how to approach challenges differently and even look at the world differently; the importance of politics and economics in shaping our cities. Also, I have learned a lot through his feedback on how to voice my opinions better and louder and how to introduce my very creative ideas in a convincing manner to other disciplines.

How will you build upon the skills and knowledge gained during your Fellowship once you return to your home country? How will your experience in the United States help you pursue your goals in the future?
It already changed my approach towards planning. Understating different factors, like laws and markets and how they shape cities I think is crucial to my growth in the urbanism field. This holistic understanding of cities that I have will differently help me a lot, but also, the skills I gained whether communications, work ethics, or entrepreneurial skills will carry whatever project I decide to work on in the future.


Fellow Supervisor: Mark Lutter

At Atlas Corps, we have a tradition of stating our “Five Facts” when introducing ourselves to new people. What are your five facts?

Name: Mark Lutter

Hometown: Washington, DC USA

Role at Organization: Executive Director

Social Issue/Interest Area: International Development, Charter Cities

Fun fact: I’m color blind and really proud of my Dutch heritage.

Why did you decide to host an Atlas Corps Fellow?

We were recommended to host at one of our events hosted here in DC. An attendee mentioned the Atlas Corps Fellowship to me, and the opportunity seemed like a great fit for CCI.

Why did you choose your Fellow?

Well, CCI was lucky to find two great Fellows who we ultimately selected to do two very different roles. Emmanuel was selected for an Operations Manager role. His background and calm, cool, collected, and organized demeanor suggested he’d do great at bringing order to chaos in a quickly growing organization. Heba was selected for an Urban Researcher role. Heba’s passion shines through whenever she talks about cities, and she sealed her selection when she went on a long rant about the failures of Le Corbusier’s urban planning paradigm.

How has your Fellow contributed to your team? How has his presence had an impact on your team’s dynamic?

CCI has almost tripled in size since Emmanuel started. With this growth often comes organizational kinks and growing pains. Emmanuel has helped institute systems and processes to ensure that nothing is falling through the cracks. We’ve also instituted more regular performance reviews under his guidance, and greatly enhanced the benefits package we offer to our employees.

Before Heba, CCI consisted almost entirely of economists and political scientists. As CCI is an organization focused on cities in emerging markets, obviously it’d be a big help to have somebody on staff whose background is centered on cities and urban planning in emerging markets. Heba fit the bill. Since starting she’s launched several research projects that more closely connect CCI to the urban planning world, including Planning Guidelines, a Charter Cities Atlas, an Urban Fellowship, and a City Infrastructure Guide. This is in addition to speaking and giving invited talks at several webinars and speaking events, including the Center for Strategic and International Studies here in DC. On top of all this, Heba brings a great appreciation for the aesthetic style that has transformed a lot of our content/output from mundane to visually arresting.

What has your Fellow taught you? Have you learned anything special about their culture?

From Emmanuel, I’ve learned that Nigeria’s federation is held together sometimes by pretty precarious threads. I’ve also learned that chickens in Nigeria don’t care if you’re on a Zoom call before cuckadoodle-doo-ing.

Frome Heba, I’ve learned that Heba has very strong opinions about Egypt’s track record when it comes to building new cities. And if you like watching passionate diatribes, you have only but to bring up this topic to Heba and sit back and listen.


More about Atlas Corps

Atlas Corps partners with mission-driven organizations (nonprofit, private, and government) to facilitate a professional exchange program for the world’s best emerging social change leaders to live and serve in the United States for a 12-month Fellowship. The Atlas Corps network currently includes more than 1,000 professionals from 105 countries who have served at 300 organizations.

Interested in becoming a Host Organization for an Atlas Corps Fellow? Contact Brittany Gropp at brittany@atlascorps.org.