How one organization is taking a hands-on approach to developing its future leaders locally

A Marie Stopes team member in Zambia. Photo by: Marie Stopes International

BARCELONA — With the increased focus on local ownership, many global development organizations struggle to find the necessary talent and skills at the national level, and when they do, competition can be fierce. Looking ahead, some employers are investing in efforts to build expertise internally and, in turn, a pipeline of future leaders. The executive team at Marie Stopes International is taking a very hands-on approach to this and seeking to identify and develop its future leaders through an Accelerated Leadership Programme, which is focusing specifically on capacity-building at a local level and moving its people and skills from “south to south.”

The program, launched earlier this year, was the idea of CEO Simon Cooke and other members of the executive team. Cooke and the executive team were directly involved in delivering training to the first cohort of candidates in May. It is about taking a long-term view to people development, says Cooke, “as opposed to just hiring from the outside or hiring from the inside but without the skill development.”

One of the things that defines the Accelerated Leadership Programme is the focus on goals and results, and not process, he explains. “We want to add an element of performance development to the training, which is not always clear in global development organizations which are mission focused,” says Cooke, who has several years of experience in the private sector with firms such as Procter & Gamble.

Identifying local talent

As CEO, one of Cooke’s main interests is in developing strong local organizations in the countries where MSI work, as opposed to the tradition of bringing in expats for country director roles — which he says is “expensive and doesn’t necessarily develop the organization.” While there is often an impetus to promote local management, Cooke says there is not necessarily the skill development to allow it to happen. This program aims to find good local talent and help them become future leaders of the organization.

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About the author

  • Emma smith

    Emma Smith

    Emma Smith is a reporting and communications associate at Devex, based in Barcelona. She focuses on bringing the latest career and hiring trends, tips, and insights to our global development community. Emma has a background in journalism and, in addition to writing for news publications, has worked with organizations focusing on child rights and women’s rights in sustainable development.