Chidi Koldsweat is an international development professional and the founder of Donors for Africa.
She is a recipient of numerous awards including CEO Global’s Africa most influential woman in management, business & public service (civil society category).
Chidi Koldsweat was also nominated amongst the 100 unseen women changing her world. Recently, she was appointed to join the board of CHEID, therefore becoming the only female board member
In this interview, Chidi talks about her personal growth, and how she’s designing solutions in the society through Donors for Africa.
Your achievements in the development sector are remarkable. What gaps do you see Donors for Africa filling in the years to come?
We are building the capacity of nonprofit leaders across Africa to implement their work successfully.
Within a year, we have helped nonprofit leaders go from confusion to clarity and then impact. We have helped then generate funds for their organizations and most importantly teach them how to.
We are designing solutions that allow African nonprofit leaders to build sustainable organizations for the long term. Ones that do not rely totally on external funding to do all their work.
If we empower nonprofit leaders and organizations, then they can be around for more years and in turn, their solutions are more lasting and impactful in the communities.
We are helping private sector companies launch affordable CSR activities. Also, we are saving them the cost and connecting them to social impact leaders who are making a world of difference with a fraction of the cost.
We are filling the gap between knowledge-developed organizations and donor opportunities. These are needs that will always be present.
You have a robust career portfolio, what strategies did you apply that young women can learn from?
You must constantly learn, the more you learn and apply what you have learned, the more opportunities are opened up to you. As the opportunities open up, you will find lapses and you will keep learning to fill those gaps. This is one way I have grown exponentially.
You must also be ready to do the work. If you desire to build for the long term and not fade away in the future, you must focus on developing roots.
This means, doing the work, being committed and focused, failing as much as you learn, finding your voice, matching passion with boldness. Learn to speak up and take up responsibilities.
Whether or not you can do it, sign up for projects that challenge you. Intentionally seek out global opportunities and apply! apply! apply!
These opportunities will introduce you into an ecosystem, where you can connect with other development leaders from other parts of the world and form the right connections. These connections will amplify your efforts in the future.
Above all, be mentored, directly or indirectly by women you admire in your sector.
- What sort of courses do they take?
- What meetings do they attend?
- What schools do they go to? How do they dress?
- How do they comport themselves?
Observing other women leaders will subconsciously teach you how to act and engage now and in the future
You pitched your business at the World Bank Youth Summit in one minute. What advice can you give to future applicants?
When I applied to pitch our project at the WBYS, my pitch wasn’t selected. However, when I attended the event, I got there on time, found a seat right in front and looked the part.
I made eye contact with the MC and was present during each activity when he asked if people were ready to pitch, I said YES and on the day of the event, I was invited to pitch as my passion and zeal were obvious from the very first day.
So my advice will be, ‘be prepared’. Always.
Find time to clearly define what you do and how you do it. Prepare and master your pitches, so that when opportunities find you, you are ready.
Any advice for women who are just starting out their careers in the development sector?
You must be intentional about your journey. Be ready to learn.
Do not let the desperation of this generation to be heard and seen deter you from also developing the content and character needed to keep you.
A career in development is hard; it comes with a lot of rejections. Don’t let it validate your self-worth. Keep creating. A career in development may not give you immediate results but it will in the future and the rewards are endless.
Do not turn down opportunities to lead where you currently work.
Irrespective the task, DO IT. Every single knowledge counts and will come in handy.
How can women distinguish themselves in any field of endeavor they find themselves in?
Simply by moving beyond being responsive to being proactive. We need to lead the conversations.
You distinguish yourself by building thought leadership. Challenging the status quo and proposing solutions you believe may work.
It is long and hard but soon your thought leadership on subjects of interest or national concerns at either the regional or international level will help you stand out.
You recently got appointed to the board of the ‘Center for Education, Innovation, and Development’. Being the first female to have this position, what does this mean for you?
It means a lot. Innovation and development are two things that are important to me.
Being invited to join other leading experts to craft sustainable practices that will revamp the educational sector through innovation further supports my passion to leave a lasting impact.
I also believe it will pave the way for other women and hopefully, we can have more women seat on the boards of leading organizations.
What are two life lessons you apply every day?
- Be honest! Be honest with yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses. This will help you clarify what areas you want to expend energy on and the things you have to outsource. It informs your character and your ability to do what you say you will do and apologize when you cannot meet those obligations
- Be authentic and true to yourself. Authenticity is slowly fading away. So many people are clamoring to be everyone else but themselves. Authenticity comes from a place of self-awareness and that self-awareness informs your every decision.
I constantly question my actions. Is this me being my authentic self? Is this my voice? or am I trying to mirror other people’s opinion.
Being able to stay true to my authentic voice has led me to stand out.
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