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American Express: Investing in Social Impact through Leadership Education

Tuesday, Dec 15, 2015 Category Education

American Express: Investing in Social Impact Through Leadership Education
By Timothy J. McClimon

Ranking second only to low compensation, half of the respondents in Bridgespan's new study on nonprofit leadership cited lack of development and growth opportunities as a reason that leaders leave their organizations. Revealing the sector's issues with successi​on planning and high turnover among organizations, the study has prompted the group to announce 'a leadership development deficit' during a time when the sector needs capable leaders more than ever. ​

While these alarming statistics do not come as a surprise, we are excited by the study's call to action - engaging stakeholders, partners and funders. We are also very proud to be at the helm of creating solutions as we partner with the Presidio Trust to launch, a new online leadership development platform for social purpose leaders.

In 2011, the idea for this 'first of its kind' platform was developed when representatives from American Express, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Independent Sector, Common Good Careers, the Aspen Institute, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and Public Allies determined that a bold solution was needed to galvanize support for human talent development in the social sector.  To advance the work, we sought out and partnered with other like-minded institutions to hold the first White House Forum on Nonprofit Leadership. The event was hosted by the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation; and held at the American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington, DC. ​

The daylong event brought together tri-sector leaders, who heard from key White House staff members, as well as corporate and nonprofit leaders interested in developing the social sector's human capital.  Following the White House Forum, nearly 200 additional stakeholders further refined the goals and strategies through a series of webinars. Through the Initiative for Nonprofit Talent and Leadership, a core group of leaders prioritized what was heard and produced a blueprint of recommendations. 

One critical question that came out of both the Forum and the Initiative was:
Given the sector's tremendous need for leadership training, how can we scale leadership development to meet the needs of the social sector? 
Through the creation of Leaderosity, the Presidio Institute has stepped forward and taken on this challenge!

We believe Leaderosity has the potential to become a bold, game-changing opportunity. Unlike traditional online learning environments, Leaderosity is interactive and can be tailored to a participant's preference and pace. Participants may work through unique learning modules at their convenience. Additionally, peer-to-peer interaction allows learners to challenge themselves – and each other – to become more adaptable and collaborative leaders. These interactions also provide the opportunity to build lasting, local, national and international relationships through an interconnected community of like-minded emerging leaders.

Leaderosity, which was initially supported by American Express, with $1 million in grants, as well as by the Kresge Foundation and theAnnie E. Casey Foundation, features inaugural courses by the Presidio Institute and the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance (NLA), the only workforce development organization that certifies diverse, work-ready talent for the nonprofit sector.  Building off a successful launch of Leaderosity at the 2015 Independent Sector Annual Conference in Miami, the Presidio Institute will leverage its learnings by continuing the development, on-boarding and testing of content with key partners and stakeholders. The goal is to launch 35 learning modules by the end of 2016. 

We hope nonprofit leaders across the sector will take advantage of this exciting new opportunity and we invite other funders and stakeholders to get behind this vital issue. Together, we can ensure there are effective and prepared nonprofit leaders that will help change the world. ​

​​​​​Timothy J. McClimon is President of the American Express Foundation and Senior Vice President for Corporate Social Responsibility, American Express Company.  In this role, he directs all of the American Express Company's global social responsibility, philanthropy and employee engagement programs. Mr. McClimon has been recognized as one of the The NonProfit Times' Top 50 nonprofit leaders, both in 2013 and 2012. He also writes a weekly blog on corporate social responsibility called CSR Now!