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AFRE 2020

2020 Programme Application

AFRE 2020


Based at New York’s Columbia University and the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity (AFRE) is a fellowship programme that brings together accomplished changemakers from diverse backgrounds to fuel new strategies for racial equity in South Africa and the United States.

Our mission is to build an enduring transnational network of leaders across issues, approaches and geographies to challenge anti-Black racism and build the policies, institutions and narratives needed for a more equitable future.

We are part of an international community of Atlantic Fellows programmes seeking to enhance global learning and action for fairer, healthier and more inclusive societies. Through leadership skills development, community building and narrative change, we support both the personal development of social change leaders and the broader social change activity required to achieve racial equity.


South Africa and the United States are shaped by and connected to a complex legacy of anti-Black racism and racialised exploitation and violence. Over the last two centuries, advocates in the two countries have learned from and inspired each other in the struggle to achieve full equality. AFRE builds upon this rich history of exchange by creating a transnational space for leaders to come together to explore, imagine, experiment and build long-term solutions for impactful change.

Each cohort of Fellows consists of 20 high-impact change-makers from South Africa and the United States who participate in a year-long, non-residential programme that builds knowledge and capacity to effectively address the causes of racial inequality.

Fellowship in AFRE is about building community that is grounded in a deep respect and appreciation for diverse experiences and perspectives and what we can build collectively. The experience is immersive and dialogue-based, with substantial international travel. Fellows participate in four 5-day Modules during the year where they learn from each other, examine the histories and trends in the two countries, deepen their leadership skills, develop innovative projects, and collaborate to push forward each other’s work. Fellows further their understanding of race and equity through three video/teleconferences and a 4-day Learning Institute. In addition to these activities, Fellows interact with AFRE’s growing transnational community of Atlantic Senior Fellows and meet Fellows from the global community of Atlantic Fellows programmes.

The AFRE fellowship programme is led by a transnational team of staff and facilitators from Columbia University and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. During the year, Fellows also engage with leaders of diverse organisations that include: Community Change; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Nelson Mandela University; Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California-Berkeley (Formerly HAAS Institute); and the Public Affairs Research Institute.



AFRE supports Fellows’ participation and leadership development through:

  • International travel and accommodations in South Africa and the United States

  • Professional coaching and mentoring to advance projects in their communities

  • Communications services for public identity-development, including a headshot, bio, and media training

  • USD $10,000 in funding to cover personal costs associated with participation

  • Networking opportunities and financial resources to proto-type new ideas for advancing racial equity

  • Columbia University coursework upon graduation

  • Connection to a global community of Atlantic Fellows working for change


Attendance at all fellowship activities is required to maintain the integrity of the programme experience. Fellows who miss a session will be asked to leave the programme.

Key dates (not including travel time):

  • Module 1, Johannesburg, South Africa: 10 – 14 August 2020

  • Module 2, New York, United States: 26 – 30 October 2020

  • Module 3, South Africa: 8 – 12 February 2021

  • Module 4, United States: 26 – 30 April 2021

Dates of the webinars, Partner Learning Institute and other events will be provided at the interview stage.


This programme is for individuals who are committed to achieving equity, have a track record of significant impact, and deeply value dialogue with, and learning from, diverse perspectives and voices as a critical step towards achieving societal transformation. There are no academic qualifications required to apply.

Our Fellows share the following characteristics. They are:

  • Experienced in their field of work with a track record of impact in furthering racial equity

  • Proposing work with the potential to significantly advance the development of new policy, institutions and/or narratives for greater equity

  • Willing and able to navigate and learn from diversity and complexity on a local and global scale

  • Committed to working with and supporting others to achieve individual and collective impact.

Successful applicants share our values of justice, ubuntu, integrity, imagination and transformation. They are individuals who are seeking spaces safe enough for meaningful and effective negotiation of sustainable solutions to critical social problems. They bring an interest and openness to deep listening and disruption of presuppositions and perspectives. They are willing to engage in building connections, vision and strategy with others from different racial and ethnic backgrounds and who have different political perspectives and beliefs regarding how to advance social change. They are solutions oriented.


Applications can be completed in any of the following languages:

  • Afrikaans

  • English

  • Spanish

  • isiNdebele

  • Sepedi

  • Sesotho

  • Siswati

  • Xitsonga

  • Setswana

  • Tshivenda

  • isiXhosa

  • isiZulu


Applications are due by 11:59pm SAST / 4:59pm EST on the 27th January 2020.  

If you have any problems completing or submitting your application and supporting materials, please contact us at AFREapplication@atlanticfellows.org. The programme is delivered in English, but we will do our best to assist those who require specific accommodations. Please note that we welcome (but do not require) supplemental YouTube video submissions to support narrative questions. These videos should be “unlisted”, which means the video can only be accessed through the direct link.

Applicants to the programme must participate in a 30-minute Information Session. Sessions will be held via video conference on the following dates.

  • 4th December 2019

  • 11th December 2019

  • 8th January 2020

  • 15th January 2020

  • 22nd January 2020

All sessions are at 6 pm SAST (South Africa) / 11 am EST / 8 am PST. To sign up for a session, please visit our website at racialequity.atlanticfellows.org. A confirmation email will be sent with details on how to join the session.

Applicants who have not participated in the information session will not be considered for the programme.

Semi-finalists will be notified in late March or early April 2020.

Semi-finalist and finalist interviews will be conducted in April and May 2020. Semi-finalists will be interviewed by video and/or phone (depending on internet access); finalists will participate in in-person interviews in New York City for US candidates and in Johannesburg for South African candidates.

Successful candidates will be announced in late May 2020. 

Thank you for your interest in AFRE and your participation in the application process.


Please enter your information in the boxes below. Please note that your responses are restricted by a word limit.


We encourage you to self-identify, but demographic information is not required.



Applicants are not required to be a part of an organisation to apply. Where applicable, please complete the information below.




The following section provides an opportunity to introduce yourself to members of the screening committee. We want to hear your authentic voice and appreciate all forms of style and delivery. The content should convey your background, what brings you to your work, and your interest in AFRE. Please be concise and consider word limitations in your response.

To upload supplemental YouTube video response(s) please see the instructions


Your Work and Contribution to Long-Term Social Change



You are welcome to share up to (5) work samples in one of these formats (PDF or LINK). 

Please upload .pdf attachments or share a link below. When emailing your application, please be sure to include all work sample attachments (as .pdf files) or to send your links via email.

Provide the name and brief description of each work sample you submit, and the link (if applicable). All links/attachments are due when you submit your application.


Please provide contact information for two people who we can reach out to learn more about your work and track record in advancing racial equity and justice.

Reference 1


Reference 2



We view our work as supporting your personal growth as a leader while supporting your participation in a diverse network of leaders engaged in powerful action for racial equity across communities, sectors and disciplines.

This experience is intentionally designed to challenge your thinking by exposing you to people, places and points of view that you may disagree with, and by providing you with opportunities to build relationships across difference that increase your capacity to work in solidarity with others.

All members of our community are expected to bring an eagerness to learn from peers, speakers and invited guests and to actively engage in processes of deep dialogue, learning and reflection. We know that care and intentionality are required to build our community, and our engagement with each other will deepen as we build trust, expand our capacity, deepen our practices, and sharpen our analyses.

AFRE is a multi-racial and multi-ethnic space. All Fellows participate in formal programming without exclusion. We do however recognise the value of autonomous spaces and offer self-organised time for Fellows to convene and network.

To join our community, each community member (applicant) is expected to commit to engaging fully in programme activities with openness, curiosity, compassion and respect for the dignity of others.




If you have any questions about the application process, please contact us at: afreapplication@atlanticfellows.org