Linking Executive Training and Institutional Innovation in Jordan

Typical executive training works under the assumption that sharing knowledge and skills in the classroom will improve job performance, productivity and impact. Whilst executive training may be well-suited to competitive business environments, these types of training models typically offer limited room for cooperation between participants from different organizations due to rivalry between them. Public governance and public service delivery are becoming increasingly complex and interconnected job environments that require a greater degree of cooperation and coordinated action among an array of different stakeholders. As such, executive education models geared to training professionals in these sectors need to be adapted to better suit these specific needs.

The Capacity Building program designed by the Earth Institute’s Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development (CGSD) for the Government of Jordan consists of two important components.

First, the Institute for Sustainable Development Practice (ISDP) Executive Training Initiative offers a collaborative environment for participants (in 2011 this included 193 participants from 26 organizations including Government Ministries and NGOs ). More than half of the training time is dedicated to group activities both in the classroom and at off-site locations to complement the classroom lectures. The teaching materials challenge participants to apply their individual strengths, and to work together on sub-topics of common interest (e.g., participatory approaches to development, monitoring and evaluation of interventions, project management, media outreach and fundraising).

Second, following the training program, many ISDP participants from a variety of organizations work voluntarily in small teams on similar challenges or topics of common interest within their professions. Together as a group or “task force” they work through these challenges and present their ideas to levels of government that previously would have been out of reach if had they each been working independently. To date five policy task forces are active and they are tackling complex policy problems ranging from alignment of donors’ interests with local needs, decentralization law, online collaborative platforms, teaching case-study methodology for Jordan and climate change. This offers proof that advocacy and institutional innovation can come not only from the Arab streets but also from within the Arab public governance.

These self-organized policy task-forces help to coordinate action among development practitioners at different governmental departments and NGOs. They receive coaching from Columbia University’s (CU) instructors through regular visits to Jordan and long-distance communication. The task forces are incubated at the Columbia University Global Center in Amman, Jordan (CUMERC) where they can leverage Columbia University’s brand to create greater impact. The increased levels of interpersonal and inter-organizational trust developed during the training experience and fostered among the task force teams serves to drive a collective sense of empowerment.

Ultimately, as ideas spiral upward from the individual development practitioners to policy-making arenas, they are evolve interactively through experimentation, tested, disseminated and many end up being adopted by the governing institutions.

The fundamental hypothesis behind this approach is that if conditions are created to help foster connectivity in public governance, shared ideas gain momentum that leads to institutional innovation.

André Corrêa d’Almeida is the coordinator of Executive Education for the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development, and serves as a professor and program manager for SIPA’s Master’s in Development Practice program at Columbia University.


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