Fellow Q&A with Pumla Maswanganyi, Strategist and Resolution Guide

Please introduce yourself!

I am Pumla Maswanganyi, a 26-year-old South African Resolution Fellow (Class 8) and Guide. I am also a strategist, existing at the convergence of art, globalization, and management; with the mission of building systems and solutions that elevate the lived experience (especially for those who experience exclusion).

I graduated from St Olaf College in Northfield MN with a B.A. in African Identities, Studio Art (concentrating in Management and Africa and the Americas), and I have also enrolled at Maastricht University, for an M.A in Globalisation and Development.

I have served as a C-Suite executive for an Africa-focused consulting company, and a Silicon Valley-based EdTech company. I currently consult for companies looking to build better organizational and impact strategies and lend my advisory expertise to international organizations that are leveraging innovation and investments, to build equitable systems. In this capacity, I serve as the Vice-Chair of the Board for One Planet Tours, the Chief Strategic Advisor of Jara, and Advisor for the Roddenberry Foundation.

What three adjectives would people use to describe you?

Faith-led, Bold, and (I’m cheating a bit with this last one) ‘Insatiable Appetite for Evolution.’

What inspired you to start your social venture, the Nimble Fingers Project?

A year prior to setting out on the project, my fellow co-founder and Resolution Fellow Precious Ismail, told me about a childhood friend of hers who had received a scholarship for her education (at a school founded by Precious’s mother). During the school year, the girl suddenly stopped attending school and was nowhere to be found in the community. Months later, Precious and her mom received a call from the girl, and she detailed how she had been married off to an older man, who then relocated her to the north of Nigeria. Precious’s countenance grew more sullen as she shared the chilling detail of how the girl was audibly afraid because she was told that she had to have a baby. She was only 14.

I recount the entire narrative because it is essential in understanding the complexity of child marriage, and how urgent the mandate for change is. Some of the world’s biggest organizations addressing the issue look to traditional education as the solution. Unfortunately, the real core of the issue starts with girls being considered a liability. We need to recognize a different kind of education that allows the girls to be economically independent while learning.

How has the Resolution Fellowship helped you achieve your goals?

I would like to say Resolution has been ‘helpful’ but integrity does not permit me to deliver that understatement. I owe a significant portion of my career trajectory to the support from the Resolution team and community. It was through Resolution that I landed my first work opportunity, and it is due to the Resolution team and supportive Fellow community that I have been able to elevate within my areas of expertise.

I believe that the two most powerful things in my life have been: access to opportunity and greater access to understanding my potential. While it’s usually easier to get one or the other, Resolution has been able to offer me both!

Why is it important for young people to focus on social impact?

My recent academic endeavors focused on life chances, and as a result, I believe that at a fundamental level it is important for us to focus on social impact; because in the same way, we inherited the world we live in, we have the responsibility to ensure that we can proudly pass the baton to future generations.

Secondly, it is imperative for us to engage in setting the tone for current and future livelihoods, as we have a unique viewpoint on the crises that are faced. Our world is increasingly growing smaller (due to globalization and digital technologies), therefore we have a greater window to other parts of the world than generations prior, and are well-positioned to make a lasting impact.

What are your goals for the future?

The overarching goal that encapsulates all my goals is: To build world-changing solutions and products that touch all corners of humanity.

In addition to being a Fellow, you are also a Resolution Guide. Why did you decide to mentor other Fellows?

Firstly, due to the brilliance that exists in this community, I was inspired by the fact that this will be a key opportunity to learn from another Fellow, and their incredible ways of creating impact. Secondly, as a Fellow myself, the impact that Resolution has had in my life also inspired me to be a Guide and ensure that I could be a part of furthering the organization’s efforts in my own small way.

What has been your most rewarding experience being a Guide to Eric Nehemiah from Countless Moves?

I think in addition to having a front-row seat to witness Eric’s ideas come to life, the most rewarding part is honestly (as cheesy as it sounds) the journey in the middle. It is easy to be inspired by the glamorous images of impact, and the stories of communities being uplifted, however with my understanding of the venture journey, I know that some of the most important work is the work that isn’t newsworthy. I get to be a part of those challenging days, as I do the highlight reel days, and it is rewarding to see all sides.

What was it like to visit the community where Eric is making an impact with his venture, Countless Moves?

A few months after starting as a Guide, I happened to be invited to a retreat in Nairobi, Kenya for the African Women Leaders Network, where I got to meet Eric Nehemiah. The time spent with Eric in Mathare, Nairobi, was incredibly rewarding as I not only got to meet him, but I got to see his impact in real-time. It was also such a blessing to witness his drive and energy, as well as the light embedded within the girls and young women he works with.

It was also amazing to host some of the young women from his photography program as the main photographers for the high-level UN and African Union event. All attendees witnessed Eric’s incredible efforts and leadership over the years through the work he does to help young women shine.

What would you tell someone if they were thinking about volunteering for The Resolution Project?

As much as volunteering is positioned as you lending your time and expertise to this mission, you will honestly gain so much more from the Fellow community than what you put in. Come in prepared to learn and to be incredibly inspired!