How might you act so that we go farther?

New Year’s eve is usually a quiet moment for me. At home or with limited company waiting for the transition to a New Year. A few hours before midnight on 31st December 2015, I received an email from Aspen New Voices confirming my selection as a Fellow for the Class of 2016.

Aspen New Voices Fellow Class of 2016

I did not know what the experience would be and how it would shape the person that I am. I have seen the impact it had had in my ability to share ideas and stand on a stage. The learning continues and it has become a lifetime commitment to contribute to the transformation of the world with an African perspective, using the power of words and ideas.

A few months later, I have just started to emerge from the possibilities that lie ahead. I am present in the conversations, not always on stage but never too far from it. I tell my kids that becoming an Aspen New Voices Fellow was a blessing. It materialised in the ability to get farther than I had ever thought, in a shorter space of time, without taking any shortcuts.

Aspen Spotlight Health 2017 (courtesy Holly Kearl)

Growing up in Abidjan where English was not the medium that I was accustomed to, I did not anticipate that I would be able to cross into a world of policies and ideas often limited to academics. I appreciate the value of the gap year in Harare, learning English then aiming at mastering it. Mastering English became a critical part of my journey to become a part of a growing community shaping the conversation and charting pathways for “ideas worth spreading.”

I attended my first TED Global in Arusha. Ten years ago when the world congregated in Arusha for the first TED Global in Africa, I was living and working in Kinshasa. I had never heard about TED, I had never listened to any of the talks and did not fully grasp the power of ideas spread, mainly in English, across the world. A world I did not know and I was yet to understand.

TED Global Arusha — 2017

Getting to Arusha was neither the objective nor the destination. There were no fine prints that I had missed. All that Aspen New Voices Fellowship promised, it delivered. Stellar training and exposure to appreciate the world as it is and challenge with ideas condensed in an oped.

Looking back, the timing was perfect. I was at a point in my career where too many ideas sat idle in my notebooks without the breathing space of a world that might have had an ear for them. I found that releasing the tension in my head through 700 word pieces was a powerful medium. This injection of African ideas to the world would not have been possible without the generosity of the team at the Aspen Institute New Voices program.

The team trusted me with a spot. I kept my promise to write and share. I joined a platform that allowed me to weave my ideas into Africa’s and the world’s narrative of hope and transformation.

As I stood in Arusha, listening, engaging, observing and absorbing the power of ideas. I thought back to my friend Ndanga who had sent the recommendation to Aspen. She believes in me. Her recommendation set in motion a process that has not yet fully blossomed.

I am an Aspen Institute New Voices alumni. I am just getting started.