Business Schools Transform Nonprofit Leadership - IEDP
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Business Schools Transform Nonprofit Leadership

Business schools partnering with NGOs


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Amnesty International, the Red Cross, UNESCO—just some of the organizations that have become household names to many around the world. Indeed, the global “third sector”—comprised of private organizations set up to pursue public purposes without distribution of profits to shareholders and directors—has seen a massive increase in operations over the last decade. The term “NGOs”(nongovernmental organizations) is now a well-known one, especially in the developing world where their services have raised a massive amount of awareness of social needs in many countries.

Even in the West, “the sector often makes up 5–7 per cent of GDP,” according to Antonio Nuñez, Director of Public Management Programs at IESE Business School. Nuñez was involved in the formation of the school’s Strategic Management for Leaders of Non-Governmental Organizations program, taught jointly with the Harvard Kennedy School. Speaking to IEDP, Nuñez further explained that “the relevance [of the nonprofit sector] as a social agent in the promotion of the well-being and equality of individuals makes it very important… [and] it represents an important sector of the economy.”

Recently, it has become more common to see programs such as the IESE-Harvard Kennedy program being offered at the leading business schools. Custom programs for NGOs have been designed by many schools in the past; for example, Columbia Business School developed a one-week program for the King Khalid Foundation in Saudi Arabia, which in turn chose leaders from a variety of NGOs to attend the program. However, open programs are relatively newer and are now earning popularity; the IESE-Harvard Kennedy program, for example, was attended by more than 40 leaders from NGOs representing 25 countries, including the CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation, representatives from Kipred (a political think-tank from Kosovo) and the Qatar Foundation.

“There is a huge demand for nonprofit executive education,” says Christine Letts, the Academic Director of the Program from the Harvard Kennedy School. “Our goal is to bring the educational models we’ve developed to leaders worldwide.” Bearing this in mind, the IESE-Harvard Kennedy program teaches participants the critical tools necessary for taking effective strategic decisions in such set-ups through case studies and presentations adapted to their unique needs. In particular, the program is designed for executives from South East and Eastern Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle East regions.

Though this particular program is a new one, first taking place in May 2011, Harvard Business School has previously offered a number of open programs targeted towards representatives of the social enterprise sector. For example, their Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management program covers similar topics to the IESE-Harvard Kennedy program, and participants have included Mercy Corps and the American Cancer Society. They also offer a Governing for Nonprofit Excellence open program.

Similarly, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, ESADE Business School, Kellogg School of Management and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School all offer open programs designed for executives from NGOs too. These programs are attractive for these executives for a number of reasons; firstly, not all leaders of NGOs necessarily come from an MBA background, as many leaders in the business world typically do. So previously, where they would have to embark on a full MBA program to obtain the leadership skills necessary to run an NGO, the executive education option is a much more cost and time-effective one.

In terms of costs in particular, a number of business schools also offer help with tuition for these programs; as more schools begin to include the third sector is in their executive education offerings, this will certainly be a selling point giving one school the edge over another, as many newer NGOs often have limited budgets. At Stanford Graduate School of Business, tuition is determined by a sliding fee scale, based on the latest annual budget of the participant’s organization. A grant from the Stanford Center for Social Innovation then covers the remaining tuition. Similarly at ESADE, 45 per cent of the fees for programs for NGOs are funded by La Caixa (a Spanish banking and finance group) and 20 per cent by the ESADE Foundation. Participants are therefore only responsible for paying the remaining 35 per cent.

As well as the time and cost considerations, the participant mix of these programs is limited to those from very similar organizations, thus providing them with a unique networking opportunity. “The interaction with other classmates has been invaluable on a personal as well as professional level,” says Louise Belmont-Skinner, the Vice President of Exhibits and Education at the Chicago Children’s Museum. She attended an open program held at Kellogg’s Center for Nonprofit Management.

Undoubtedly, the social impact of NGOs worldwide has become an important one; some of history’s biggest humanitarian and environmental crises, for example, have been highlighted by NGOs. Business schools can now play a key role in advancing their impact by training executives from these organizations to become better leaders, and therefore help NGO’s develop an even stronger standing in society.




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