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 have on their teams, we want to share the story of Luminate and their experience with Atlas Corps Fellow Lorna (Class 43, Kenya).

Host Organization: Luminate

Luminate is a global philanthropic organization that aims to empower people’s lives by creating opportunities in their society, and encourage fair governance by making governments, corporations, and the media more accountable.

Fellow Supervisor: Laura Bacon

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

Name: Laura Bacon

Hometown: Weymouth, Massachusetts

Role at Organization: Director, Partner Support

Social Issue/Interest Area: Philanthropy—supporting
capacity strengthening and network-building amongst
social change organizations

Fun fact: I am a cellist.

Why did you decide to host an Atlas Corps Fellow?

I have seen many Atlas Corps Fellows in action at the donors’ collaborative, Transparency & Accountability Initiative (TAI). I found TAI’s Fellows to be interesting, enthusiastic, and great team players, and I learned more about the program and saw great potential for our organization. When I was asked to create Partner Support, a new program at Luminate, I knew I wanted to build a diverse and talented team to help achieve our vision. I’ve always loved working with young, talented social change leaders, and I knew that the Atlas Corps Fellowship would be a great match. Because I’ve had wonderful mentors and supervisors throughout my career—and I’ve been fortunate to participate in life-changing fellowship programs myself—I wanted to pay it forward to the best of my ability.

Why did you choose Lorna as your Atlas Corps Fellow?

Lorna is multi-talented and has a great skill set for our team. Her background at AISEC (a global youth leadership organization) strengthened her leadership, organizing, and strategic planning skills. Also, her experience at Yusudi (skills training for unemployed graduates) not only honed her project management skills, but also demonstrated her passion for capacity strengthening. Beyond my interviews with Lorna, I reviewed videos of her being interviewed on television about the program she led, and I was very impressed by her eloquence, knowledge, and passion.

How has Lorna developed professionally so far? How has her presence had an impact on your team’s dynamic?

Lorna has extensive professional experience in project management and capacity building. She desires to further hone these skills at Luminate and, as a result, Lorna has contributed a great deal. I can’t believe it’s only been 6 months! 

She helped us process 80+ coaching stipends for our grantee partners, and is currently undergoing an assessment of that initiative. She created, from scratch, a project management system for our team, which keeps us all organized and productive, and also helps us with our information management. She organized an excellent offsite strategy retreat for our team in Nairobi, and is now planning a second one for us in São Paulo. She coordinates our weekly team meetings, and designed a fascinating learning curriculum for us. She has also planned a curriculum for our entire organization–from peer learning sessions to external speakers–to improve everyone’s knowledge and ability to better support our partners. Finally, she’s always ready to roll up her sleeves and support projects our team is working on, from brainstorming sessions to designing slides and programs.

Lorna with her colleagues in Kenya

How will your Fellow’s contributions and insights impact your organization in the long run?

We will be using Lorna’s project management and knowledge management systems for the foreseeable future. Our program needed professionalization, and she has provided that. The insights that she will provide, based on her assessment of our coaching stipend, will benefit all of our programmatic staff. A new project she will dive into soon is helping to coordinate a collaborative of donors who work globally and have a capacity-strengthening/partnerships component. This community will be able to share best practices and collaborate in the years to come.

What has she taught you? Have you learned anything special about her culture?

I’ve learned a great deal from Lorna! I’m inspired by how she asks important and challenging questions, and also how she responds to obstacles and bumps in the road.

Especially due to our time together during our team retreat in Nairobi, I now have a better understanding of Kenyan holidays, politics, electoral history, independence, dynamics amongst ethnic groups, and underserved communities. For our retreat, Lorna took our team to a beautiful national park (where we saw animals I had never before seen in the wild), to glass-making artisan centers, and to a giraffe center and elephant orphanage. It was an experience I will carry with me forever.

Beyond learning about Lorna’s culture and country, I appreciate her enthusiasm for learning about new places and things. She’s passionate about traveling, watching documentaries, and attending museums and concerts. She’s also an amazing dancer! I enjoy our conversations, and I feel grateful to be working with her.

Lorna with her colleagues in Kenya

Fellow: Lorna (Class 43, Kenya)

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

Name: Lorna Kanyuga

Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya

Role at Organization: Project Management Fellow

Social Issue/Interest Area: Philanthropy, Education, Innovation

Fun fact: I have a twin!

What is your role at your Host Organization?

I work with the Partner Support team at Luminate, which provides additional support to Luminate grantee partners. My primary role is Project Management. I develop systems and procedures that enable us to manage the projects and information within the Partner Support team. I also manage specific projects within the team, such as organizing work retreats.

I also support the team with Monitoring Evaluation and Learning (MEL), which includes analyzing data and developing insights that inform future decision making. I also support the team director in other Learning and Insights related activities.

I manage capacity building for Partner Support. As we learn from our work, we try to share these learnings with the wider Luminate team through internal learning sessions, which I am responsible for organizing and managing. This includes Partner Support Team learning, so that we can continuously build our knowledge in the field and keep improving our programs. Finally, I provide operational support to the team in different areas, such as processing stipends.

How is your experience with your Host Organization impacting your perspective? 

Working at a funding organization has provided me insights into the philanthropy landscape and how grantmaking mechanisms work. I have enjoyed learning about the various efforts on shifting power (enabling a more equal footing with grantee organizations), the funder perspectives on supporting grantee organizational health, and the ways that funders can make grantmaking more effective.

Through my work in the Partner Support team, I have gained insight into the challenges that nonprofits face, especially regarding organizational health, and how funders can support them through these challenges. I’ve also learned the importance of peer learning and collaborating with organizations in the same field, which allowed our team to expand our knowledge on how to provide Partner Support and have gained insights that we continue to apply to our work.

It has also been eye opening to learn more about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ). In particular, I have learned about the nuances within America, the steps that organizations are putting in place to be more inclusive as well as the challenges around it.

Luminate’s work environment is also incredibly supportive. I have observed how giving people space and trusting them to get the work done can build a healthy environment where people are motivated to give their best.

Luminate Team Call from Kenya

How has your experience with your supervisor impacted your perspective? 

I’ve observed how Laura organizes her time so that she can make time for her family, teaching me a work/life balance from a working mom’s perspective. She also practices empathetic leadership while still holding her team accountable and pushing for high standards of work. It’s a great reminder for the importance of bringing kindness and openness to the workplace.

How have you grown as a social change leader through the Fellowship? How will you build upon the skills and knowledge gained during your Fellowship once you return to your home country?

I have experienced a lot of growth since the Fellowship began. I learned more about non-profits and funding, which has been an important aspect for me because I look forward to working more in this field after my Fellowship. I have also developed great networks with others in the Philanthropy field and through other Fellows who have expertise in a wide range of areas.

I plan to build on these skills and knowledge by continuously taking on challenging projects, maintaining my networks and seeking guidance from my mentors. For example, through the support of my manager, I am working on my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification which will improve my skills and better position me for Project Management roles that I will apply to in the future.

What is your most important career advice for young, talented social change leaders across the globe?

Take the leap and try new things, especially those that seem out of your comfort zone. If you’re interested in more than one area, see how else you can be active in those areas. You may discover a whole new career path!

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 1,200+ professionals from 112 countries who have served at 300 organizations.

Interested in becoming a Host Organization for an Atlas Corps Fellow? Fill out Host Interest Form.

Photos from Luminate’s archive