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Thunderbird Trains Nonprofit Leaders

October 21, 2013

This year marked the third American Express Leadership Academy at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix, Arizona. Thirty emerging leaders from ten global not-for-profit organizations participated in the week-long training program in May of this year.

The Leadership Academy, led by Dr. Mary Teagarden and the Thunderbird faculty, provided participants with current management tools, leadership skill development and professional networking opportunities throughout the program. The participants also explored topics such as innovation, strategy, brand management and fundraising.

The goal of the American Express Leadership Academy at Thunderbird is to build leadership capacity among high potential emerging leaders in the social sector in global not-for-profit and NGO organizations. The program provides these leaders with practical opportunities to learn and build leadership skills, and it provides opportunities for direct interaction and networking with participating organizations and the use of live cases to develop solutions of major issues that organizations face.

Ten global organizations participated in the May program, including the International Medical Corps., Soukel, Mercy Corps, IDEX, Opportunity International, Digital Divide Data, Outreach International, Worldreader, Nature Conservancy and Plan International.

Common themes that were identified across all ten organizations included growth strategy, talent development and acquisition, developing a global mindset, managing relationships at the senior levels, strategy and vision linked to change management, strategy implementation and brand management.

As part of the program this year, presentations from American Express CEO Ken Chenault and Chief Marketing Officer John Hayes were live-streamed from a concurrent American Express Leadership Academy taking place in New York with the Center for Creative Leadership. This streaming provided an opportunity for the 48 participants in the New York Academy and the 30 participants in the Thunderbird Academy to interact with Messrs. Chenault and Hayes in a cross-country exchange of questions and ideas.

Evaluation by Academy participants was a critical part of the program. Overall, the Thunderbird program rated a score of 4.92 on a scale of 5.0. Other questions and ratings were:

  • Would recommend Thunderbird program to a friend or colleague: 4.96 out of 5.0
  • Overall usefulness of the program to participants in their current and/or likely future positions: 4.92 out of 5.0
  • Stretch strategic thinking about one's organization and leadership: 4.68 out of 5.0
  • Build strategic thinking and problem solving skills: 4.64 out of 5.0
  • Build leadership skills, toolkit and mindset: 4.68 out of 5.0
  • Enable networking among organizations in program: 4.76 out of 5.0.

Some of the verbatim comments taken from evaluations included:

  • "I will rave about this program back at work and only wish everyone in our organization could have this opportunity."
  • "This program will be incredibly useful to me in my current and future positions. I am almost overwhelmed with how many valuable concepts I have learned."
  • "Since my job description will change soon and is changing to a leadership role, I can see myself applying all of what I learned with this process. The transition will be smooth."
  • "It opened my eyes and inspired me to work on myself as a leader and be an inspiration to everyone on my team."
  • "It is both useful now in my role as a project manager and in future roles when I manage multiple staff."

These scores and remarks represent tremendous praise for the facilitators and faculty members at Thunderbird. We're delighted to have Thunderbird School of Global Management as a partner with us in this effort to train nonprofit leaders from global organizations.

If you have a comment or question, please let us know by clicking here. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and comment there. Thanks for reading and sharing CSR Now! with colleagues and friends.

P.S. Did you know that American Express is sponsoring a live stream session called "Small Business Decoded: Understanding the Affordable Care Act" on Thursday, November 7 at 2:00 p.m. and that it's open to nonprofit organizations as well as small businesses? This live stream session will be moderated by Scott Roen, vice president of OPEN Digital Marketing & Innovation, and Scott will be joined by three executives from Ernst and Young who will help business owners and nonprofit managers get the facts about key insurance reforms, understand the coverage options and implications for their organizations, and learn about existing resources. Viewers will be able to submit their questions via the site throughout the session. A video of the event will remain on the site for viewing at a later time. Visit for the full invitation details.


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