Accelerator for beginner NGO leaders

29. Feb 2024

One of the roles of the NENO is to support the capacity building of NGOs. However, it is not enough to support the capacity of the organisation itself, if it does not pay attention to NGO leaders so that they are able to seize opportunities for development. Our leadership development activities are based on the NGO Leadership Competency Model. The competency model has been developed in partnership with NGO leaders to create a vision of an effective, capable, sustainable and trustworthy NGO leader and civil society influencer, and to define and describe the key leadership competencies for success. Last year, the competency model also underwent a revision to respond to new expectations in the work organisations that emerged during the period of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Leadership Competency Model is also the basis for the Accelerator for beginner NGO Leaders, which is now half-way through the programme. Let’s look at how the programme came about, what has happened so far and what participants have already learned.

The idea of the beginner NGO Leaders’ Accelerator was born at the beginning of 2023 at our Leaders’ Winter School. We surveyed participants about their expectations and needs, and a key observation was that leaders feel alone in their role. It was found that NGO leaders in particular lack access to the previous experience and resources of other leaders, or have to make a great effort to familiarise themselves with the information they need and find examples of best practice. Often, this means that new managers have to dig through all the pitfalls themselves and invent the wheel, at the risk of getting burnt out.

The aim of the accelerator is to provide fresh leaders who have been active for up to two years with the opportunity to learn from the best in their field and then consolidate their learning with their peers. Each meeting is divided into two parts: a presentation by a guest speaker and a peer-led covision to address current challenges in your work. Participants in the accelerator include people who have just taken over the management of an existing NGO, are starting a new NGO or are relaunching a stagnating NGO. By the end of the programme, participants will have gained new knowledge in self-management, strategic management, people management, advocacy management, communication management and financial management. The Accelerator for Beginner Leaders started its meetings in November and the last meeting will be held in April.

To date, we have completed four out of the six themes of the programme. Halfway through the programme, we asked participants to reflect on their experiences so far and made a small summary.

What has been the most surprising or unexpected insight of the programme so far?

Organisations focused on a specific activity can bring more benefits in the long run. Trying to constantly give 100% on several fronts ends up with half of the activities not getting done. It’s important to build a team that can be resilient when needed and where every team member is valued.

What advice would you give to other aspiring leaders?

Set yourself a clear goal and focus. Rather do a little at a time, but do it very well! It is also important to find the right network, mentor or support group for you, as the bicycle has often already been invented. You don’t always have to know and do everything yourself, it’s OK to support your team or support network and trust others. To do this, however, you need to have a good team with whom you can share responsibility and where you trust each other. Take time to analyse – this will help you to see the big picture in your field and keep your focus clear, both for yourself and for the organisation.

Inspired by the programme, participants are:

  • redesigned the organisation’s three-year action plan and, in cooperation with the Board, drew up a list of priorities in order of importance;
  • relying more on the competency model to map out their development priorities;
  • applied the ideas from the covision to address the organisation’s challenges;
  • taken on new challenges to continue personal and organisational development.

Keep an eye on our website, as you will soon be able to read interviews with two of the accelerator participants!

The implementation of the accelerator is supported by the Active Citizens Foundation.