What you'll learn

  • Key concepts of governance as leadership
  • Identifying and responding to practice challenges
  • Case study simulation of a difficult board situation
  • The challenge for executive leaders

Course description

Part of the Executive Education Online Leadership Series at Harvard Kennedy School, a series of unique online programs where participants work in groups, engage in live classes and office hours, and complete assignments by applying the concepts and frameworks they learn to their own organizations. Participants are able to utilize techniques and faculty feedback in their work as they progress through the programs and achieve immediate impact.

Mobilizing Your Nonprofit Board is a 8-week Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education online program designed to help executives of nonprofit and non-governmental organizations engage their boards in more consequential and meaningful work that produces greater value for their organizations. The program curriculum focuses on four modules:

Key Concepts of Governance as LeadershipIdentifying and Responding to Practice ChallengesSimulation: Case Study of a Difficult Board SituationThe Challenge for Executive Leaders

For each module, participants will be introduced to a set of frameworks in a case and/or reading. Participants will then have the opportunity to consider the framework’s relevance for their organizations by taking part in online discussions with their colleagues and using electronic workbooks designed specifically for the program. During each module, Faculty Chair William Ryan will hold a live online session with program participants.

Course outline

  • Understanding Governance as Leadership

    We will explore a conceptual framework that proposes an approach to consequential and meaningful governance, starting by distinguishing a board’s ‘steering’ from its ‘rowing’ contributions.

  • Principles and Practices for Effective Governing

    In this module, we will consider how to create the conditions for good governing in the boardroom, and continue building our conceptual understanding of governance as leadership by exploring the case of Gallaudet University.

  • Leading While Governed, Part I

    In the first two modules, we focused on what your board can do to govern in a more meaningful and consequential way. In this module and the next, we focus mostly on the types of leadership you as an executive can exercise in order to help your board govern more effectively. We will also continue exploring governance as leadership, this time by returning to Gallaudet University as it prepares to hire a successor to its first-ever deaf president.

  • Leading While Governed, Part II

    In this module, we will consider the executive challenges of leading alongside an engaged board, including the idea of ‘danger and opportunity zones; and prepare an action plan you can use to begin applying the lessons and insights you have found most important to you during the course.


  • Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Hauser Institute for Civil Society
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