Anatomy of a Partnership

Strategic Management for Leaders of Nongovernmental Organizations in Europe

Matthew Kohut

Originally published in the Winter 2008 issue of the Kennedy School Bulletin

NEARLY TWO DECADES after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the civil society sector in the formerly Communist countries of southern and eastern Europe is experiencing growing pains. Nongovernmental organization (NGO) leaders now face the challenge of developing sustainable business models that will enable their organizations to mature.

The Strategic Management for Leaders of Nongovernmental Organizations Executive Education program, which will debut in March 2008, is designed to address the need for nonprofit executive education in the region. The program is an "only at the Kennedy School" partnership that resulted from two existing programs' focusing their efforts in a new direction. The Executive Education Program and the Kokkalis Program on Southeastern and East-Central Europe have worked together in Athens since the mid-1990s, but the NGO program marks a step into new territory.

"We saw a real need within the NGO sector for skills training in strategic management," said Kokkalis Program Director Elaine Papoulias. "The Kokkalis Foundation is committed to building NGO capacity in the region." She discussed these challenges with Executive Education Senior Associate Dean Christine Letts.

Letts, who also teaches nonprofit management as a faculty member associated with the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, saw an opportunity to bring Harvard's expertise to NGO leaders who would be unable to attend a program in the United States. "There is a huge demand for nonprofit executive education. Relative to other management education, it's a field that is still developing," she said. "Our goal is to bring the educational models we've developed to the local market, rather than delivering these models only in Cambridge."

She commissioned a study to validate that the need for NGO executive education in the region existed and could be served by the Kennedy School. "That level of analysis was necessary. It gave us great confidence to move forward," Letts commented.

This program is designed for open enrollment, meaning that any NGO leader can apply. "A NGO program that will bring together leaders -- from different sectors, from different countries throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East -- combined with the Harvard expertise and transplanted to Athens, is extremely powerful," said Papoulias.

Letts views this program as a way of extending the Kennedy School mission. "Our challenge is to figure out how we might provide educational resources to leaders who can't come to campus. Partnership is a key way to do this."

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