Using Online Learning to Leverage Nonprofit Leadership Development

by Brittany Whittemore | July 16, 2018

Estimated time to read: minutes

John Leh at Talented Learning interviewed Meera Chary of The Bridgespan Group about how that organization has leveraged online learning to reach a broader client base for their consulting services. You can listen to the podcast here, or continue reading for a brief recap.

The Bridgespan Group is a nonprofit that provides management consulting and leadership development services to other mission-driven organizations. To date, Bridgespan has helped hundreds of such organizations operate more efficiently and effectively.

However, there were limits to Bridgespan’s reach as a provider of in-person advising and training. They wanted to do more — and thought online technology could be the “lever” that would broaden their audience and make their consulting services available to a far greater number of organizations. In addition, these organizations could be located anywhere around the globe with internet access.

In the podcast, Chary describes the development of the first module of their Leadership Accelerator program. The program is designed to “help nonprofit teams build strategic management skills and apply them in real-time in their own organizational settings.” The first module, Investing in Future Leaders, gives nonprofit executive teams the tools they need to implement effective talent development in their organizations.

Investing in Future Leaders moves a team along the leadership development journey through a series of milestones, each of which is completed in two steps:

  1. Classic e-learning, where senior leadership works on its own to learn key concepts of leadership development and complete individual prework for that milestone
  2. A joint “Team Summit” in which senior leadership comes together — either in person or remotely — to interact with each other and the platform, which guides them in discussions and decision making

During the Team Summit, the platform takes the place of a live consultant, effectively leveraging Bridgespan’s services. Participants can be “anywhere in the world at any time that’s convenient for them.”

Locally, each team has a Project Lead who plans and facilitates the meetings, keeps communication flowing, and ensures the effort stays on track. Bridgespan provides additional training and support materials for the Project Lead, whose responsibilities include using platform tools to consolidate polling and survey responses as well as tracking decisions and setting up action plans for future accountability.

The resulting twelve- to sixteen-week experience isn’t exactly e-learning, and it isn’t exactly consulting either, according to Chary. It’s something in between, something altogether new, and that’s what makes it so exciting.

Keep Learning

How do nonprofits and associations build successful online learning experiences?

Extension Engine and John Leh, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning, hosted a panel discussion with experts who have developed successful online education programs based on highly customized learning platforms.


Brittany Whittemore

Brittany Whittemore is the former Director of Marketing at Extension Engine. While at Extension Engine, she oversaw the brand, marketing strategy, and operations. Prior to that, she worked at Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America and Berklee College of Music. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s degree in higher education administration.

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