SOLES Hosts Strategic Planning Workshop for NGO Leaders

Room 211 seems like a normal classroom within Mother Rosalie Hill Hall, which is home to the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences. But for three hours on March 7, it was a vibrant space for informative teaching and learning for 25 visiting non-governmental organization leaders from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe.


This group of men and women who’ve traveled across the United States since Feb. 22 as part of the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, were in San Diego March 3-8. It was the next-to-last stop before they returned to their respective countries on March 11.

The visit to SOLES was a great opportunity for them to absorb, to question and engage in best practices on strategic planning methods. Hans Peter Schmitz, PhD, an associate professor in SOLES’ Department of Leadership Studies led the workshop. He was joined by Laura Deitrick, the interim director of SOLES’ Institute of Nonprofit Education and Research, and Amy Schmitz, director of marketing and communications for USD’s School of Business.

“How can I make my organization better tomorrow?” stated Hans Schmitz, “That’s what they want to understand. That’s what strategic planning is all about. These people are really on top of their game, that’s why they are here. They were selected because they already stand out in their countries. You could see that in the room, they were participatory, very active. They’re all leaders.”

SOLES’ exemplary graduate program in Nonprofit Leadership and Management helped USD’s case for hosting the workshop as the session topic and the group’s makeup made for a good fit. “These were more seasoned people and some who came not from the nonprofit sector, but from the government and they work with nonprofits so they also want to learn how they can strengthen the nonprofit sector in their country,” he said.

The three-week U.S. visit took the group from Washington D.C. to Baltimore, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Albuquerque, Reno, San Diego and New Orleans. Each city had a designated theme that would help in some way shape three main objectives that the State Department had outlined.

The San Diego itinerary focused on NGO support for refugees and immigrant communities, innovative association management techniques, social entrepreneurship and SOLES’ workshop, which had discussions on leadership, nonprofit issues and the effectiveness of social media.

Schmitz, who has experience working with international NGOs, said the workshop enabled him to connect through familiar examples he knew would resonate. But he also wanted to maintain a balance — that it’s about what he knows what works best and to help facilitate the conversation amongst the group, “because that's how learning happens.”

“I have a sense of what their experience is like … but the first thing I always ask is ‘what's the main challenge to your effectiveness as an organization? What’s the main problem you're facing?”

As the group parted Room 211 and walked to a waiting bus to take them to the next stop in San Diego, there were smiles and encouraging back-and-forth talk about what had been learned. Schmitz said he thought the chance to work with NGO leaders was a great opportunity.

“We get more and more international applicants for our master’s program in nonprofit leadership and management. More and more people want to get an education in the U.S. If they want to learn how to govern nonprofits or to be more effective, this is a great compliment. We want it to be a more of a visible entity across the world.”



Azerbaijan: Mr. Ilyas Safarli, Executive Director , Uluchay Social‑Economic Innovation Center

Burma: Ms. KD Mary Tawm, Director, Wunpawng Ninghtoi (WPN)

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Mr. Samson Mwanze, Logistic Assistant for EL Fellow Program ‑ Congo American Language Institute

Egypt: Mr. Mostafa Abbas, Lawyer, Oyoun Misr Association

Ghana: Ms. Onallia Osei, Project Manager, Development House University of Ghana, Legon

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region:   Mr. Tin Lai Ko, Assistant to Legislative Councilor, Legislative Councilor Office of Hon. Kenneth Ka Lok Chan

India: Ms. Sachi Singh, Founding Director , Ehsaas NGO

Israel: Mr. Eran Schwartz, Founder and Director, Biet Igal Allon NGO

Macedonia: Mr. Arijanit Djaferi, President, Eco Guerilla

Morocco: Mr. El Mahdi Benabdeljalil, Program Manager, El Baraka Angels, Casablanca

Namibia: Ms. Sibeso Mudabeti, Executive Director, National Social Marketing Organization

New Zealand: Dr. Lance Osullivan, Executive Director, Navilluso Medical Ltd

Nigeria: Mr. Gordson Jim Dorgu, Founder and CEO, MAC‑JIM Foundation

Norway: Ms. Nassima Dzair, Founder and Managing Director, Interbridge

Poland: Ms. Marta Wytrykowska, Head, Development Cooperation Programming Division, Development Cooperation Department,  Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Portugal: Mr. Goncalo Silvaceo, Gap Year Portugal (NGO)

Saudi Arabia: Ms. Reem Bakheet, Founder, Future Experts School, Future Experts Training Center

South Africa: Mr. Moleko Phakedi, Deputy General Secretary, Food and Allied Workers Union

Tajikistan: Mr. Erkinzhon Latypov, Vice President, National Taekwondo and Kickboxing, Federation of Tajikistan

Thailand: Mr. Noppon Archamas, Data Officer, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights

Turkey: Ms. Saime Mecikoglu, Partner and Financial Manager, Turtalya Motor Vehicle Inspection Inc.

Uganda: Mr. Isaac Ssemakadde, Executive Director, Legal Brains Trust

Zambia: Mr. Godfrey Malembeka, Executive Director ‑ Prison Care and Counseling Association (PRISCCA)

Zimbabwe: Ms. Michell Biriwasha,Programs Coordinator, Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust (ZIMCET)


— Ryan T. Blystone


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