YALI Network 2015: What a Year It’s Been!


President Obama at podium, with young Africans seated and smiling in background (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

President Obama greets 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows at the Presidential Summit. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

Before the YALI Network says goodbye to 2015, let’s cast a glance back to see the distance we’ve traveled in the last 12 months. Our voice grew louder and stronger, adding almost 100,000 members and making us over 200,000 strong.

Here are five YALI Network highlights from 2015 we’re excited about:

1) YALI Network Online Courses: Some of the biggest news from the YALI Network’s 2015 was the continued growth of the free YALI Network Online Courses and the launch of #YALILearns, the initiative that encourages Network members to share knowledge and learning in their communities and beyond. At the Mandela Washington Fellowship Town Hall, President Obama said, “Last year, I said we’d launch a new set of tools for our YALI Network. So today, we’ve got more than 30 online lessons available on everything from public speaking to how to write a business plan, mentoring, new ways to network across Africa, around the world, new training sessions, meetings with experts on how to launch a startup. And we’re launching three new online Mandela Washington Fellowship Institute courses so that all members of the YALI Network can access some of the great ideas that you’ve been sharing.” This year, 25,000 YALI Network members earned more than 50,000 certificates by completing online courses.

2) #Africa4Her: In March, more than a thousand YALI Network members from 47 countries pledged to work to increase girls’ opportunities in the classroom and women’s opportunities in the workplace, while countless others pledged through Twitter using #Africa4Girls, including first lady Michelle Obama.

3) #YALIGoesGreen: The end of 2015 saw the launch of #YALIGoesGreen, in which YALI Network members committed to taking action on climate change. More than 9,000 people took the first step and earned their certificate in “Understanding Climate Change.” Then 300 more network members shared highlights from events in their countries to support efforts to address climate change, thereby earning a #YALIGoesGreen Green Champion certificate.

4) #YALIVotes: In a year of landmark elections in Nigeria and Burkina Faso, the YALI Network reached out to its members in nations with upcoming votes to find out how they planned to inspire their communities to ensure free, peaceful and fair elections.

With citizens of several countries — including Benin, Niger and Uganda — heading to the polls, we’ll be encouraging Network members to post to Facebook and Twitter to share why they think voting and civic engagement are important, using the #YALIVotes hashtag.

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Group of young Africans posing for camera and smiling, with some holding up a “YALILearns” sign (Courtesy U.S. Embassy Abuja)

YALI Network Members at a #YALILearns session on fundraising in Abuja, Nigeria. (Courtesy photo)

5) This year we introduced YALI Network Face2Face, a place for YALI Network members around Africa to share ideas and plan in-person meetups. So far, more than 4,000 of you have attended Face2Face events, with many more to come in the next year.

YALI Network members also shared their own experiences and insights on social media and through the YALI Network blog. These included an activist from Burkina Faso describing her country’s struggle toward more open elections, the president of the African Green Movement explaining smart agriculture and how something as simple as banana stems can be used to mitigate the effects of climate change, a poet from South Africa sharing her pledge for #Africa4Her, a young scientist from Uganda checking in from the historic COP21 climate summit in Paris,and more.

We look forward to more robust engagement from the YALI Network in 2016 as our growing numbers increase our reach and our ability to foster positive change.