At the Center for Creative Leadership, we care deeply about advancing societal interests around the world. Increasing our impact in the social sector and improving wider societal conditions are central to our mission. That’s why our Societal Advancement initiatives, with numerous longstanding partnerships across the world, are designed to make leadership and empowerment tools more accessible to more people.

In the spirit of #GivingTuesday, and in honor of CCL alumna Dr. Margaret Waddington who recently left her estate to CCL, we’re illuminating 10 examples of our efforts to give back around the world—highlighting people and partnerships whose dedication to the greater good is among the things we’re thankful for this year.

And we want to extend a special thank you to all of the donors, foundations, and funding partners who have made all of this possible! You, too, can make a gift to support building a better world through leadership.

1. Opening the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia office

The scope of CCL’s work in Ethiopia is so considerable that it could constitute a list on its own, from programs aimed at reducing child labor to Debate Clubs for young women at 8 different area universities.

That’s why USAID named us among the world’s Top 5 youth leadership development programs in 2015. What’s more, it’s only a part of our much broader work in east Africa.

There’s plenty that could be said about our Social Innovation Mentors Program in Ethiopia or our work to help women develop self-confidence as emerging community leaders in an educational arena dominated by men. Additionally we’ve offered direct trainings and self-paced learning toolkits that reached 20,000 Ethiopian youth this year alone, with creative programming such as podcasts and radio dramas.

Our first office on the continent, in Addis Ababa, is accurately described as a scrappy startup and came together by partnering and co-locating with existing organizations on the ground. The capital city office is now staffed by a majority-millennial team that is responsible for a cross section of societal advancement efforts focused on underserved groups including women and girls.


2. Training non-profit leaders

Every year, emerging leaders from nonprofit organizations such as Harlem Children’s Zone, Habitat for Humanity, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund come together for a week-long training in New York.

The American Express Leadership Academy is a customized program for rising leaders who hold manager-level positions, show strong career motivation, and who are dedicated to a nonprofit sector career.

Since 2008, more than 850 people have attended the #AmExLeads Academy, which includes training from American Express senior executives in career development, business strategy, customer service, brand management, and marketing.

Leaders representing dozens of organizations have participated, including the aforementioned as well as Teach for America, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Red Cross, the American Cancer Society and AmeriCorps.

There are several more things that stand out about the American Express Leadership Academy, but one in particular deserves recognition; in association with the Academy, our CEO John Ryan presented on the keynote panel for the White House Conference on Nonprofits.


3. Transforming education for a whole school

 Often leadership development work focuses on a specific part of an organization or group, such as frontline leaders or executive nurses. But what’s exciting about our partnership with Ravenscroft — a school of more than 1,100 students from pre-K to 12th grade in Raleigh, NC — is that it’s systemic.

The #LeadFromHere initiative focuses on personal and community change for all of the school’s students, as well as its teachers, administrators and parents. In that sense, it’s a holistic approach that is woven into the fabric of the school, ranging from professional development for teachers to teaching leadership competencies at a very young age.

Lead From Here isn’t just concerned with personal development, but instead explores how each child can exercise citizen leadership.

It’s an evolving and co-created program, rather than a stagnant model, and is incorporated into the everyday life of Ravenscroft at all levels.


4. Equipping executive nurses


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program is a world-class leadership development experience designed to enhance the effectiveness of nurse leaders to improve health and healthcare in the US.

Thanks to funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — the country’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health, which has invested more than $10 million in this program at CCL—nurses are transforming healthcare at the local, state, and national level.

In this 3-year fellowship program, fellows complete an 18-month Action Learning Project on a topic with national scope, an individual leadership project to create change within their own organizations, and 7 intensive leadership development sessions to enhance their leadership capabilities.

The participants are all executive-level nurses from health services, scientific and academic organizations, public health and community based organizations, or professional, governmental, and policy organizations. They help fulfill the program’s aim of creating a network of nursing leaders with enhanced leadership capacity, using their training as a platform to catalyze expansive improvements in health and healthcare.


5. Inspiring Girl Scouts with confidence

Building on a 2009 pilot program with the Peaks to Piedmont Council — a 24,000-member Girl Scouts organization covering 40 counties in North Carolina — we developed customized programming for 100 middle and high school-aged girls called the Young Women’s Leadership Institute.

The partnership with local Girl Scouts focused on themes of authenticity, self-clarity, connection, and agency using experiential learning. It also connected students with role models.

Studies show that girls experience a dramatic drop in self-confidence at the onset of adolescence, including a loss of voice and a confidence gap that is particularly evident in the classroom. The Young Women’s Leadership Institute was designed to empower girls by boosting their sense of self, teaching them leadership skills and providing inspiration and sisterhood.


6. Preventing political and ethnic violence in Kenya


The peaceful transfer of power isn’t always a given, especially in countries that recently adopted democratic processes. Elections in particular can prove challenging, with the potential for conflict high in nations with a history of political violence.

That’s part of the reason that CCL implemented the Youth Leadership Development for Reforms Project in Kenya, alongside the Center for Transformational Leadership.

For the past two decades, Kenya has suffered from inter-ethnic violence that often erupts after general elections. The violence left more than 1,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes in 2007 and 2008, according to the Waki Commission Report.

In response, the Kenyan government instituted wide-scale reforms to address some of the country’s longstanding issues. Youth development was one of the key reform areas, in part because young people made up 50% of the nation’s population at the time, and our Youth Leadership Development for Reforms Project played a role in that societal transformation.

Students from Egerton University and 10 high schools participated directly, and the project reached more than 2,000 young Kenyans. (Read more here.)


7. Nurturing high schoolers through Rotary Youth Leadership


As part of a 4-day experiential learning program, dozens of rising high school juniors and senior participate in the same leadership training that CCL also applies to global executives and policy makers.

The Rotary Youth Leadership program teaches students how to enact relevant and meaningful leadership skills at the Catawba College-based program covering west-central North Carolina. Students come away with a better understanding of non-verbal communication, how to give and receive feedback, self-assessment skills, and how to increase emotional intelligence and reflection.

The program has run for decades, and has naturally changed some during its tenure, with added toolkits and greater ownership for the Rotary in the program. The partnership and four-day program are just one of the ways that CCL exhibits our commitment to early leadership development, and it’s also one of the more rewarding to witness.

And it’s actually one of 2 CCL partnerships with local Rotary districts — we’ve also done similar work with Seminar for Tomorrow’s Leaders in Charlotte, NC.


8. Empowering principals in Kentucky & Vermont


Imagine if all school principals — new and experienced, at both public and private institutions — could all receive leadership capacity training. That’s what the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and our Education & Nonprofit Sector did 5 years ago by launching the Kentucky Leadership Institute for School Principals.

Designed for all principals in the state, the institute provides a chance for educators to work on their own leadership skills, effectiveness, and communication techniques. Participants identify their strengths and needs, and learn conflict management skills as just one element of the training.

An overwhelming 91% of principals who took part said that their participation made them more effective at influencing others to ensure student success. That’s just one measure of the way this institute improves the lives of all students throughout Kentucky by developing stronger leaders in the state’s school systems.

Thanks to the generosity of CCL alumna Margaret Waddington, we are partnering with the Vermont Principal Association to replicate this initiative program in the state of Vermont.


9. Developing leaders with colleges & universities

Picture a group of 260 business-school students spending 7 months coming up with real-world social innovation projects, tackling everything from clean water to traffic management. Picture it happening in India, and at two different schools.

We worked with Design Impact and Welingkar Institute of Management Development — or WeSchool — in Mumbai and the Institute for Future Education Entrepreneurship & Leadership — or iFEEL — in Lonavala to develop the Global Citizen Leaders Program.

Students were challenged to apply what they learned to design projects that would help people around rural entrepreneurship, education, and healthcare access, among other issues.

The program saw ideas to completion, moving from initial leadership development and cultivation of innovation skills to actually enacting social impact. Collaborating with small groups and with the guidance of a faculty mentor, students put their concepts into practice, and one group even set up two health clinics in rural India, providing care to about 700 people.

A whopping 92% of the students said the Global Citizen Leaders Program increased their awareness of social issues, and 89% said it improved their ability to generate new ideas and vision. Faculty members cited enhanced confidence and improved relationships with other faculty as the best and biggest results of participating.

We have also partnered with engineering and law schools in the U.S. on aligned efforts to give students the soft skills needed to lead and improve their capabilities and self confidence, part of our larger commitment to equip others to make a difference.

We’ve worked with senior leaders at numerous other higher learning institutions as well, including Cornell University, Princeton University, three UNC schools, Virginia Tech, Northwestern University in Illinois, North Carolina A&T State University, Texas A&M Commerce, Forsyth Technical Community College, and the University of Alaska.


10. Advancing Women’s Leadership Series


We are dedicated to women’s leadership and empowerment. That commitment informs our work with Girl Scouts in North Carolina, a training-the-trainers program in Myanmar, and our women-led initiatives in Ethiopia, among others.

But one of the cornerstones of these efforts is the Advancing Women’s Leadership Series, based on Marian Ruderman and Patricia Ohlott’s book Standing at the Crossroads: Next Steps for High-Achieving Women.

It’s constructed to help professional women move their leadership to the next level, emphasizing self-clarity, authenticity, agency, and wholeness. The program is designed for women aged 18 and up who are seeking clarity on the essential components of leadership development, provided through a 5-part experiential workshop series focused on change over the course of 2-hour sessions.


Support Our Work

Our mission compels us to improve the understanding, practice, and development of leadership for the benefit of society worldwide at all levels—individual, team, organizational, and societal. It’s why our driving question asks, “What would the world look like if all people had access to leadership development?”

These 10 examples of our societal advancement work are just a portion of that answer. None of it would be possible without the generosity of individual donors, partner organizations, committed foundations, CCL alumni, our dedicated staff, and others who give all they can to implement our vision and mission.

We’re so grateful to all of our partners who help make this work possible. And on #GivingTuesday, we want to invite you to be a part of these efforts to give back. Please make a gift to CCL to join us in our commitment to societal advancement through leadership!

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