Better managers for closer Sustainable Development Goals

Success stories from EMMIO Alumni


Management must be a constant priority if organizations are to work well, not a solution for times of crisis.” This may seem obvious, but it is vital to keep in mind that the international development context where international organizations operate – the UN, international NGOs, financial institutions, intergovernmental and supranational institutions – demands both strong technical skills and managerial ones, in the most complex and advanced sense of the term. “We face big challenges and therefore need strong, forward-looking, decisive and innovative thinkers and leaders”. These are the words of Stefanie Garry, who has been working at the UN Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva for 13 years and who attended the Executive Master in Management of International Organizations - EMMIO in 2020-21.

As EMMIO Program Coordinator Alexander M. Hiedemann points out, “Participants invest both in their own professional development and in the advancement of management practices in their organizations. We see this every year”. Again in Stefanie’s words, “in this program, top-level academic research merges with the most advanced business practices to address the emerging managerial questions.”

This is embedded in the structure of the Executive Master. A personalized executive coaching journey with a certified coach practitioner is among its pillars, to support individual development goals. Another pillar is the so-called capstone project that every participant develops throughout their learning journey: it often concerns the organization they are working for, and enables them to apply what they are learning straight away. These pillars combine with on-campus and distance-learning activities to allow participants to “work full-time while attending a high-level Executive Master, and carve out quality time to take full advantage of it,” Stefan Jansen, Country Director Nigeria of the Norwegian Church Aid Joint Country Programme, points out, to the unanimous approval of his fellow alumni. “But most of all your capstone work often implies collaboration with your organization. It immediately challenges you at a hands-on level, but with the stimulus and safety net provided by professors, fellow students and your coach.”

“While drafting my projects, I often find myself going back to slides or notes from EMMIO to source frameworks or strategies. Not only has the Executive Master been inspiring; it has provided me with a practical toolbox on a daily basis. On the other hand, it has given me an overarching perspective, systematically looking into different aspects: financial, humane, institutional, a method for any work in the future”, Stefanie continues.

Koffi Kouame, UNFPA Resident Representative to Madagascar & Country Director for Comoros, Mauritius & Seychelles, talks about the impact that the Executive Master has had on his work coordinating teams: “EMMIO enhanced my strategic thinking, and made me understand that both I and my reports need to improve personally in order to do a meaningful work together. Listening carefully, with a view to understanding, builds trust and eliminates conflict. After attending EMMIO, I have become better at coaching, and could persuade, influence and mobilize others positively. I am proud to say I have become a better leader. In addition, my EMMIO capstone contributed to the structural development of my region as it allowed me to better manage the process of decentralizing offices.”

Another key element for development that has been highlighted by all of the alumni is the contribution of other participants: serious and motivated, they come from different International Development contexts. They “teach you things you would have never come across otherwise”, Stefan recalls. “They help you build yourself, allowing you to break silos, open horizons and come away with alternative ideas (besides being good mates for some evening out in Milano)”– this is another alumna from 2020-21 speaking, also from Geneva, The Global Fund’s Public Health and Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist Sarah Hoibak. In short, one grows not only through acquiring new tools and strategies to tackle the challenges posed by the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, but also through discussion and feedback on real projects.

And results are also tangible in the lives of participants outside their organizations. Sarah proudly retraces the story of Cuisine Lab, a Swiss non-profit organization focusing on helping refugees integrate in local communities and achieve financial independence. “Set up by volunteers in 2016, it needed structure. My EMMIO capstone helped improve our communication skills, as well as boost fundraising and partnerships. We all learned about negotiating, strategic planning, stakeholder mapping as well as human resource management, and we are now recruiting head chefs a well as refugee chefs for our new restaurant, which is opening in June. In the middle of the pandemic, we won a bid for the restaurant venue and fundraised over 1 million Swiss francs. We have collaborations with some of the best restaurants in the world, and we had the honor to cook for the President of the Swiss Confederation and 35 high-rank dignitaries”. Here is again one of the success stories that come from planning and networking abilities, two skills that the alumni often mentioned among their Executive Master’s takeaways.

Amongst EMMIO alumni there are also those who have completely transformed their lives through the Executive Master. Like Anna Juricic, now a Corporate and Executive Coach with a focus on female leadership development. After 18 years as a flight attendant, with a degree in sociology and her third child on the way, she decided to make a change, to take a leap of faith and enroll in EMMIO. The sense of freedom and discovery that guided her in the early part of her working life has evolved into an ability to help others discover how to make their careers fly with all the creative imagination that the current environment demands.

“We look for different types of people, regardless of their experience, as long as they are committed to driving change, both in themselves and in their organizations. Together we identify their motivation and the points of contact with the values and principles that underpin our training,” EMMIO Director Greta Nasi comments. Stefan Jansen agrees: “EMMIO helps you identify what is strategic to the career progression that you envisage”. Another facet of an all-round synergetic work to look both inside yourself and around you, and activate your creativity and initiative to the full.

SDA Bocconi School of Management


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