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 Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI) and their experience with Atlas Corps, and their Fellows, Edith Mecha (Kenya) and Mavra Zehra (Pakistan).

Host Organization: Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI)

TAI is a donor collaborative working toward a world where citizens are informed and empowered; governments are open and responsive, and collective action advances the public good.


Fellows: Edith Mecha (Kenya, Class 31), Mavra Zehra (Pakistan, Class 34)

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

Name: Edith Mecha

Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya

Role at Organization: Communications Fellow

Social Issue/Interest Area: Empowerment of vulnerable groups

Fun fact: I like trying different recipes to prepare “chapati.”

Name: Mavra Zehra

Hometown: Pakistan

Role at Organization: Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Fellow

Social Issue/Interest Area: addressing issues of discrimination and extremism. And now expanded into Transparency and Accountability

Fun fact: I was offered to become a weight trainer before moving to the U.S

What is your role at your Host-Organization?

Edith:

I lead and shape TAI’s communications, advocacy and reporting across its four workstreams of data use for accountability, taxation and tax governance, strengthening civic space, and learning for improved grantmaking.  I write the TAI Weekly newsletter and our new TAI Monthly update for our members and the public. Am also in charge of social media and website content management, strengthening relations with member donor and grantee communications, researching innovative ways to present our research findings, and knowledge management.

Mavra:

At TAI, I am serving as the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Fellow. I am helping to implement and refine TAI’s internal MEL system and practices. This is also an opportune learning moment for me to join TAI as the organization enters a mid-term evaluation period for the strategy, which includes a review of the current results framework and outcome-level data collection efforts.

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

Edith:

Working with the wonderful TAI team and with our members has helped me sharpen my organization and communication skills, order and efficiency. I have learned to be sensitive to preferences, orientations, rights of my colleagues, transparency in communication, and how to accommodate each other in respect of the varied aspects of human nature. It has also helped me understand and respond appropriately to customers and development partner needs.

Mavra:

In the past, I have been doing M&E with more focus on the monitoring aspects. This role at TAI comes with an active learning component, so I am constantly learning – both from a thematic perspective and the expertise in M&E.

Also, TAI is a part of the co-working Open Gov Hub which houses several different organizations. I am learning how to be a part of a broader network and share knowledge resources effectively.

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

Edith:

Michael is a leader by example. A wonk in his area of mastery: transparency, accountability, and open governance. In him I found a mentor to look up to in my professional growth. He has taught me always to be inquisitive, curious, learn more and do my work with excellence. He has helped me gain a deeper perspective on issues around transparency and accountability through our Weekly newsletter, publications and communications with our donor members.

I’ve learned that it’s possible, in areas of transparency, accountability and open governance, to teach and practice the same.

Mavra:

I have only spent a few weeks at TAI. My Supervisor is guiding me in understanding the M&E systems in place and the Learning component associated with it. I was introduced to the various platforms used for reporting/ documentation, and project management. My team is constantly sharing knowledge resources to further my understanding of the TAP field (Transparency, Accountability & Participation).

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?

Edith:

The Fellowship has prepared me for an opportunity to stand out for job opportunities and or promotions in my area of specialization. It has also given me a chance for a very wide cultural interaction not only with Atlas Corps community but also with the TAI team who are drawn from a global background, therefore, improving my cultural competence and awareness. I have learned new perspectives of my professional performance, sharpened my skills, career-related innovations and technological advancements which I will use back in my country to advocate for social change. TAI has also given me a chance to travel and widen my international exposure that has greatly changed my viewpoint on several key issues.

Mavra:

As a Fellow who just started her traineeship, it is difficult to fully reflect on this question at this point, but the current government in Pakistan is committed to improving transparency, accountability. I hope with what I learn here, I can effectively contribute to producing research literature on the subject. Also, I plan to utilize my M&E skill set in the various donor-funded projects that go on in Pakistan, by joining as a core member of the M&E/Research Unit.


Fellow Supervisor: Michael Jarvis

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

Name: Michael Jarvis

Hometown: Guildford – not too far from London

Role at Organization: Executive Director

Social Issue/Interest Area: Transparency and accountability enterprise

Fun fact: I was once chased by a crocodile

Why did you decide to host an Atlas Corps Fellow?

We are a small team, but supporting organizations acting globally, so it is important that we bring in diverse perspectives and talents. The Fellowship is a wonderful way to gain those, while also providing new experiences and skill building in return. We very much like the ethos of Atlas Corps.

Why did you choose your Fellow?

There are so many great candidates from the Atlas Corps pool of applicants, but Edith and Mavra stood out for combining expertise relevant for our needs (on communications and on monitoring and evaluation respectively) with the right personality fit.  They bring great energy to the team.

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

Given we are a small organization, Edith and Mavra’s contributions make a huge difference – they offer new insights into the design of our programming, they ask questions that prompt us to consider not just what we are doing but why, and, above all, they allow us to do so much more – to punch above our weight. They are both “doers” as well as “thinkers” have become essential members of our team.

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

Our Fellows are changing how we work.  The systems they are helping build – be it on launching new knowledge products or our data collection – make us more effective in the long term and we will continue to see the benefits long after Mavra and Edith return home. They are spotting opportunities we would otherwise miss. We are lucky to have them both!

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

I enjoy and value the chance to gain insights into Mavra and Edith’s home cultures – to compare notes on how things are done here in DC vs Nairobi or Lahore. Our different backgrounds are making us more effective work-wise, but also enliven office life – not least in trying different foods. I can’t wait to try real paya or the best ugali!

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