On 9 September 2021 ALA alumnus Okong’o Kinyanjui ’14 was announced as an Echoing Green Fellow.
Selected from a global pool of nearly 1,500 applicants in 100 countries, Okong’o is amongst the 18 best-in-class leaders to be supported by Echoing Green’s Racial Equity Philanthropic Fund.
The Echoing Green’s 2021 Fellowship class is the first to be supported by the organization’s REP Fund, launched in July 2020. It was created to ensure that the social innovation field is an essential factor in the longstanding racial justice movement.
As the co-founder and executive director of the Queer African Network (QAN), Okong’o is facilitating meaningful social and professional connections for LGBTQI+ persons of African heritage.
QAN supports its members by creating personalized opportunity recommendations and an accessible database of verified mentors. Its marketplace facilitates the flow of global resources to help LGBTQI+ Africans move closer to financial stability and its publishing service amplifies artistic expression.
Growing up in Kenya, Okong’o experienced first-hand the life-threatening isolation that comes from battling daily systemic oppression. Virtual networks sustained him until he found acceptance in his immediate environment. His desire to extend this lifeline to others led him to establish QAN and motivated him to establish global networks of solidarity with LGBTQI+ communities of African heritage in Nairobi, Johannesburg, Vancouver, San Francisco, and New York, all while studying and working for the TED Fellows program and the feminist consultancy Kore Global.
“ALA helped a lot,” says Okong’o “…especially the ability to run your own initiative as a student. Just understanding how to organize finances and how to plan for events, ALA definitely allowed me to do that and at the same time excel in my classes.”
Okong’o received the Strangway Award for Excellence (full academic scholarship) to study at Quest University Canada, where his thesis (which inspired QAN) received the showcase award. QAN thereafter received the Young Feminist Award and Okong’o presented at the NGO CSW65 Virtual Forum at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Okong’o previously received the Allan Gray Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurial Thinking and was selected to the Bezos Scholar Program.
He joins ALA alumnus and founder of Education Bridge, Majak Aniyeth who won the fellowship in 2017 and our own ALA founders – Fred Swaniker and Chris Bradford – who won the fellowship in 2006 which propelled their plans to launch ALA.