RCLA and Institute of International Education Launch Leadership Program Evaluation

RECENT NEWS reports have highlighted the first significant decline in decades in the number of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth each year – a remarkable sign of progress in family planning and reproductive health services. Yet much remains to be done, and the health and well-being of women and families continues to be a global leadership challenge.

Since 2001, the Institute of International Education West Coast Center’s Leadership Development for Mobilizing Reproductive Health Program (LDM) has helped develop and sustain leaders working on the front lines of family planning, HIV/AIDS, adolescent reproductive health, gender-based violence, and improved maternal health care.

With support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the LDM program has supported over 1,200 emerging and established leaders in developing the vision, commitment, knowledge and skills to make systemic improvements to reproductive health options and the overall quality of life, especially for vulnerable people. Currently, LDM focuses on institutionalizing strong in-country leadership programs, building and sustaining networks that are platforms for learning and action, and offering leadership development programs, especially for women and youth.

LDM leaders work in the poorest regions of countries in greatest need: Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the Philippines.  According to the new study on reproductive health in the medical journal The Lancet, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Ethiopia are among the six countries that accounted for more than half of all the maternal deaths in 2008.  That makes the LDM’s work with leaders in these countries and the Philippines all the more urgent.

In order to evaluate and document the impact of the program, RCLA is collaborating with the IIE West Coast Center and the Packard Foundation to conduct an evaluation utilizing action research and participatory methodologies. Amparo Hofmann-Pinilla, deputy director of the Research Center for Leadership in Action, and RCLA consultant Judith Kallick Russell will be the principal evaluators. The participatory process will draw on the insights of LDM fellows, staff from IIE and other key stakeholders to examine key components of the programs, assess gains over time and lessons learned, and determine together how to develop future initiatives.

“The LDM program has provided many opportunities for fellows and key stakeholders to connect, collaborate and learn from each other. The evaluation will support this effort by integrating findings from different countries, validating the experience of the fellows and LDM program staff and enabling us to envision possibilities for the future,” said LDM Program Director Cheryl Francisconi.

The nine-month evaluation process begins June 13-15 with an international gathering of IIE staff, national evaluators and country program managers in Manila, Philippines. The meeting will provide an opportunity for participants to get to know each other, learn more about the LDM program and context in each country; introduce and discuss the inception report and the diverse methodologies, and finalize initial research questions.

“We believe that this evaluation will support LDM program goals by infusing the collective work with a deeper understanding of the role leadership development can play as well as new lessons from program results. The participatory approach will also further strengthen leaders’ ability to continue advancing reproductive health and social change in their organizations and communities,” said Amparo Hofmann-Pinilla. 

The Time is Ripe for Leadership Diversity

By Bethany Godsoe

THE RECENT DEATHS OF ACCLAIMED CIVIL rights leaders Dorothy Height and Benjamin L. Hooks call for a moment of reflection on our nation’s history, the persistent and dismaying disparities confronting us, and the role we can each play in realizing a vision of a more just world. 

The National Urban Fellows Call to Action Summit on Diversity in Washington, D.C. on April 21 was just such a moment. An extraordinary group of people came together to discuss efforts to ensure that the highest levels of public service reflect and include the diverse people and voices that give our country its vitality, ambition, commitment to human rights, and creative spirit.

It was also a chance to share a key lesson from the work of NYU Wagner’s Research Center for Leadership in Action:  The bravado of heroic leadership has gotten us into trouble as a society. It has been our downfall in multiple arenas, from foreign affairs to financial services. The time has come to find a new model that will advance our nation toward greater opportunity and prosperity. Leadership diversity is that new model.

Leadership diversity is not about getting new faces into old roles. It is about radically shifting our understanding and practice of leadership. It is about opening ourselves to the possibility that effective leadership can take many forms and look very different from one context to the next. It is about taking up the work of leadership as a collective endeavor that taps the talents of people at all levels of organizations and across all sectors of society. Creating this openness to new forms of leadership both demands and supports the advancement and contributions of previously underrepresented groups from people of color to women to young people.

As we seek to promote the dominance of leadership diversity in our national discourse and practice of leadership, we must get past our pursuit of getting past our differences. Finding common ground is not the way forward. It is the way to limit our possibilities. Let’s use this call to action to lift up our differences and make them known. Let’s start living in the tensions those differences create. Let’s work with our differences to produce breakthroughs in how we take up the work of public service leadership.

This is not something that can wait for the next generation to resolve – the moment for change is now.  As Dorothy Height was known for saying, “If the time is not ripe, we have to ripen the time.”

(Bethany Godsoe is the Executive Director of NYU Wagner’s Research Center for Leadership in Action,)

Continue reading