As the head of a nonprofit organization, Maryana already considered herself a leader, but did not yet see herself as a leader in the civil society space. Then, as a participant in the Yetu Initiative, a community of practice that supports local organizations to mobilize resources, she was nominated to join an Executive Leadership course offered by the Aga Khan University’s Graduate School of Media and Communications.

Starting in March 2018, the three-month course, a partnership with Harvard University, came at the perfect time for Maryana and her nonprofit Missing Child Kenya, Kenya’s first advocate for missing children. Long after the course ended, she was finding new ways to apply its lessons.

One learning in particular stayed with her: Take time for a view from the balcony—meaning, to pause and reflect on the bigger picture.

For Maryana, it was essential, after cresting each new summit, to take a moment and look anew at the landscape.

“It struck me because we’re usually stuck in the day-to-day business, so you don’t come out to see the direction that will lead to growth,” she says. “That helped me to dream of a bigger legacy for my nonprofit.”


“The course chose to focus on measuring impact over numbers. That allowed my small non-profit to take part and really helped motivate me.”

The leadership challenge she raised with her cohort involved legislative advocacy. “I was just one voice trying to make sense of a new phenomenon,” she says. “What I learned was the importance of partnerships and alliances.”

She has kept in touch with her fellow leaders in the course, in Kenya and beyond. “If I have a question about legislation, I can call someone in Nigeria and ask, ‘What does your government say about this?’ What has encouraged me is the idea of continuous learning. Because we keep learning from each other.”

Maryana was deeply impressed by the Foundation’s dedication to leadership growth even for smaller organizations like hers.

“That allowed my small non-profit to take part and really helped motivate me.”

The course gave Maryana the perspective to launch a national toll-free line that missing children and people concerned for them can call for help. “We need eyes and ears in the community,” says Maryana. “The key is community participation.”