PHL Frequently Asked Questions


1. Which organizations are behind the Program on Humanitarian Leadership?

PHL is managed by a consortium led by Concern Worldwide. Concern’s partners in the consortium are International Medical Corps and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, with technical support from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. The program, funded by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, brings together a unique combination of operational, pedagogical, and technical expertise with a deep understanding of the international humanitarian architecture and the NGO community. Together, the consortium has operations in over 43 countries covering practically every major humanitarian context.

2. By participating, what will I learn and what practical experience will I gain?

The PHL curriculum will focus on three key areas that have been identified as critical to successful humanitarian programming: Leadership, Coordination, and Strategic Vision. The Leadership component will focus on individual competencies, such as strengthening decision-making abilities in emergency settings or negotiating during conflict. The Coordination component will cover why coordination matters to humanitarian response as well as how to participate in and strengthen existing networks, and will emphasize the importance of operational leadership in the field. The Strategic Vision component will focus on one’s capacity to develop and effectively articulate a clear strategic vision that is linked to concrete objectives.

Concern's Vicki Wall and Jennifer Nolan with community members at Zabout health outpost, Goz Beida Subprefecture, Sila Region, Chad.                                                Photographer: Oli Cohen, June 2014, Chad

Concern’s Vicki Wall and Jennifer Nolan with community members at Zabout health outpost, Goz Beida Subprefecture, Sila Region, Chad. Photo: Oli Cohen

All 2017 participants will engage in a blended learning program, including in-person and online distance learning. The experiential component requires two “Field Assignments,” to be completed by the end of the program, and online learning through a Community of Practice. Potential “Field Assignments” could include in-country experiences, such as attendance at cluster meetings to understand coordination mechanisms, and explore feedback mechanisms, in place for affected populations, and to inform program design. Distance learning will provide additional training on subjects, while online forums will replicate the open conversation that occurs in a classroom and provide an environment for discussing, questioning, and collectively brainstorming solutions to challenges in the field.

3. Once I complete PHL, what official qualification will I have gained?

By the completion of the program, participants will have gained key competencies around self-awareness, motivating and influencing others, adaptive leadership, critical judgment, and operational planning, decision-making and risk management skills that will help them to become efficient leaders in humanitarian response. All participants who complete the course will receive a certificate of participation.

4. How many PHL courses will be offered?

PHL is a two-year project funded by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance that began in October 2015.

  • The pilot PHL course was completed in November 2016.
  • The 2017 PHL course will commence in March 2017 and conclude in September 2017; this is a blended learning program, combining in-person and online training.
  • The PHL E-learning course will launch in late 2017 and will be an online distance learning course. Since the in-person courses only allow for a limited number of participants, part of the program will also be available online, thereby enabling increased access to the course. The anticipated launch of the online course will be late 2017.
Severely acutely malnourished 12 month old boy getting his arm circumference measured with his mother

12-month-old Gatlit Matiek has his upper arm circumference measured at one of the Concern nutrition centers in Bentiu Protection of Civilians (POC) site in Unity State, South Sudan. Based on weight and height calculations, he is severely acutely malnourished.

Additional Training Opportunities

5. If I applied for the 2017 PHL training, when will I be notified if I was accepted into the program? When will the next PHL training be offered?

PHL received more than 1,500 applications for approximately 35 spots. It was an incredibly competitive process and we thank all the applicants for their interest in PHL. PHL will email successful applicants in early February. We regret that we cannot notify those who were not selected for the program this year.

We look forward to offering the PHL e-learning in late 2017 or early 2018.

6. Are there other training programs for humanitarian professionals?

If you would like to learn more about other training opportunities please click here for a reference list which highlights a range of training opportunities for humanitarian and development professionals. This list is not exhaustive and is only meant to provide a sampling of some other online and in-person courses available. Any questions about these training programs should be directed to the programs themselves, not PHL. The Program on Humanitarian Leadeship is not affiliated with the programs listed and has only provided this list as a sample of other training resources publicly available at the time of posting.

Program Practicalities

7. What is the time commitment for PHL?

PHL is a blended learning program, which requires an in-person as well as a remote time commitment. Successful applicants will be required to:

  • Travel to Nairobi for approximately five days for the in-person course, May 1-5, 2017 (dates to be confirmed).
  • Complete course pre-requisites and participate actively in all distance learning activities, tentatively scheduled for mid-March through September 30th. We expect an average time commitment of 1-2 hours each week. Please note that participants who do not engage in the distance learning environment will not be invited to the in-person course in May and will not be able to continue with the program.
  • Participate in a mentorship program; each participant will be assigned a mentor who will provide mentorship for four months.
  • Optional: Participants may also have the opportunity to be placed with Concern or the International Medical Corps for additional field learning. The Field Placements coincide with the distance learning components of the program and would require an extended leave of absence from your home organization, tentatively scheduled from June through August. The exact length of time will be agreed upon by the host organization and the participant’s employer.

8. What will it cost me to participate in PHL?

PHL covers all costs associated with the in-person training (i.e., course fees, round-trip flight to Kenya, accommodation and meals during the in-person training only). Please note that any incidental costs are the sole responsibility of the PHL participant (i.e., visa fees, telephone usage, additional food expense, etc.), and PHL does not provide a per diem.

Brainstorming discussion among participants from  PHL's kickoff year.

In-person brainstorming discussion among participants of PHL’s 2016 program.

For those participants engaged in field placements with International Medical Corps or Concern, these field placement costs (i.e., round-trip flight, stipend, lodging and meals as applicable) will be covered by PHL. Please see the Question 18. for more detail.

9. Will I be responsible for securing my own visa(s) for travel to the in-person leadership training in Kenya and to another country for the field placement?

Yes, but PHL will assist with other logistical aspects (e.g., invitation letters, etc.). Please note that all participants must be in possession of a passport that is valid for at least six months after the date of the course. Costs of obtaining a visa, and costs of obtaining or renewing a passport will not be covered by PHL.

10. What are important PHL dates?

  • PHL Applications may be submitted from November 21, 2016 through December 19, 2016. Applications submitted on or after December 20th will not be accepted.
  • PHL Training course begins in mid-March and ends September 30, 2017 (exact dates to be finalized); the in-person component of the training course is scheduled for May 1-5, 2017 and is subject to change.
  • PHL Field Assignments are due September 30, 2017.
  • Please note that the program dates are subject to change.

11. What languages do I have to be able to speak in order to be considered for PHL? 

You must be able to speak, read, and write English to be considered, as English is the language of instruction for the course. Other languages may be taken into consideration when field placements are decided. A working knowledge of French or Arabic is particularly useful.

12. Will my participation and performance in PHL be evaluated?

We will be asking you how in your everyday work you are using the training you received in the PHL course. We will also be asking your supervisor how he or she sees your work and how your work has changed by some of the specific skill areas that were part of your PHL training. We will keep this information confidential, but it is important to help us improve the course and to design a challenging and meaningful leadership training course.

Experiential Learning Component

13. What is the role of the PHL Mentor?

Each PHL participant will be assigned a mentor. The aim of the mentorship program is to help build the leadership capacity and leadership management practices of the PHL participants. The objective of the PHL mentorship program is to ensure that as much as possible is gained from the PHL training and field experience, and to assist the mentee in putting the PHL training to good use. Specifically, the PHL mentorship program is designed to foster a relationship with a senior humanitarian professional and provide an opportunity for the PHL cohort to:

  • Learn from an experienced humanitarian leader, and receive guidance, support and advice on the challenges that they face in their work, and as they develop their leadership skills.
  • Receive feedback on the PHL Field Assignments that the PHL participants must complete.
Lead mothers in the village of Dzidzwa, Mchingi District, Malawi, have been very effective in influening parents to rethink their approach to child nutrition and issues of health and sanitation.

Lead mothers in the village of Dzidzwa, Mchingi District, Malawi, have been very effective in influening parents to rethink their approach to child nutrition and issues of health and sanitation.

14. What are the PHL Field Assignments?

Each participant will be expected to complete two Field Assignments in order to finish the program. The nature of this requirement is to ensure that participants have an opportunity to put their skills into practice within their organization or during their field placement. Participants will choose which assignments they complete so that each task complements the work they are already doing. Potential assignments could include participation in assessments, an evaluation of a humanitarian project/program, or learning experiences such as attendance at a cluster meeting to gain an understanding of coordination mechanisms. Organizations will be encouraged to help identify opportunities for PHL participants to engage in new or more challenging experiences. The Field Assignments are due September 30, 2017.

Field Placements

15. How many field placements are available?

There are a limited number of field placements available at International Medical Corps and Concern; in 2016 there were three field placements. This opportunity is particularly intended for participants who are currently employed by national NGOs or community based organizations and who could benefit from the opportunity to experience working in an INGO.

16. If I am placed outside of my own organization for the field component, what country will I be deployed to?

Placement locations will vary depending on the skills and experience of the participant and the needs of the organization you are going to be placed with. In particular, language skills will be taken into account. All participants will be placed in humanitarian contexts and as such should be prepared to work in difficult environments. Examples of placements in 2016 include Ethiopia, Gaza, and South Sudan. Please note that these are unaccompanied field placements.

17. What sorts of tasks will I be performing as part of my field placement? 

Depending on the skill set of the participant and the needs of the organization, assignments and ongoing learning opportunities for the field placements may include (but are not limited to), evaluations, safety and security audits, gender analysis of humanitarian programs, coordination and cluster activities, risk assessments, humanitarian program design, financial management of humanitarian programs, creation of humanitarian protocols, operational research activities, and analysis of humanitarian leadership best practices. Specific Terms of Reference will be developed for each placement and in consultation with the PHL participant.

18. Will I continue to be paid during my field placement?

If you are posted to Concern or International Medical Corps for a field placement, your salary will be paid by PHL as a stipend and the amount will depend upon the location of your placement. For your reference, in 2016 field placement stipends averaged $2,000 a month.

19. If I am placed with Concern or International Medical Corps for my field assignment, can I stay with that organization after my assignment is finished?

No, PHL participants who are currently employed by other organizations must return to those organizations once the field assignment with International Medical Corps or Concern is over. Graduating students may be offered the opportunity to pursue longer-term engagements post-assignment, depending upon performance and organizational need. This will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

For all other questions, please email [email protected] Thank you.