National NGO Program on Humanitarian Leadership

From conflicts to natural disasters, humanitarian agencies are at the forefront of providing life-saving aid to populations in need. Negotiating access to these populations and ensuring that aid is delivered in a manner that respects humanitarian norms and international law is no easy task. This work requires strong leadership and strategic vision. Yet, few humanitarian professionals have access to leadership training programs.

That’s why Concern Worldwide, in consortium with International Medical Corps (IMC) and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) and with technical support from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health developed the National NGO Program on Humanitarian Leadership (NNPHL), formerly called the Program on Humanitarian Leadership (PHL). The program, funded by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and launched in 2016, utilizes innovative pedagogies to combine a rigorous academic curriculum with practical experiential learning including mentorship and individual assignments.

Since the program began, NNPHL has received more than 3,000 applications and trained 99 humanitarian professionals from more than 40 countries.  With additional funding from OFDA, NNPHL will expand the program and host four regionally-based training courses over the next two years, as well as launch an online e-learning leadership training course in June 2019.

NNPHL is designed for exceptional humanitarian professionals working for non-governmental or community-based organizations in humanitarian settings. The ideal participant will aspire to take on decision-making and management responsibilities in the humanitarian sector.

By the end of this learning process, NNPHL participants will have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to take on leadership responsibilities within a variety of humanitarian organizations, ultimately improving the delivery of services to those in need of humanitarian assistance.

NNPHL’s five-month leadership training programs combine in-person training, distance learning, coaching, and field-based assignments.

The in-person leadership trainings are regionally based:

  • NNPHL.3: Prioritizing participants from South and Southeast Asia, the in-person intensive leadership training took place in Manila, Philippines, June 3—9, 2018. This course concluded in October 2018.
  • NNPHL.4: The in-person training took place in County Dublin, Ireland, September 5—11, 2018; this is global cohort with priority given to participants from Latin America and the Caribbean. This course will conclude in January 2019.
  • NNPHL.5: Prioritizing participants from the Middle East, this in-person intensive leadership training will take place near Amman, Jordan, March 17—21, 2019. This course will conclude in June 2019.
  • NNPHL.6: Prioritizing participants from Africa, the in-person intensive training will take place in East Africa (location TBD), July 7—12, 2019. This course will conclude in September 2019.

Please note that all dates and locations are subject to change based on instructors’ availability.

What is the NNPHL Program?

NNPHL is a rigorous, innovative blended learning leadership training program for humanitarian professionals.

Training components for the program include:

In-Person Leadership Training Course

This didactic portion of the course will provide participants with a curriculum designed to introduce leadership frameworks, develop competencies in core elements of humanitarian programming, and sensitize participants to the approaches to understanding their operating environments.

The five or six day, in-person course, which is subject to change, will focus on:

  • Introduction to the Adaptive Leadership Framework
  • Application of the Adaptive Leadership Framework in practice
  • Understanding the field environment and local populations
  • Developing a strategic vision, effective communications, and negotiation
  • Management and team building, problem solving and conflict management
  • Introduction to resilience strengthening and psychological preparedness for leaders
Emergency flood response in Mozambique

Concern travels to a remote community in Maganja da Costa, Mozambique, to register families who were affected severe flooding. Photo: Crystal Wells

Distance Learning

E-learning modules will be offered before and after the in-person course. In keeping with the in-person course, the distance learning component aims to strengthen leadership skills to improve decision-making and coordination, and increase knowledge to optimize current humanitarian programming. NNPHL combines leading-edge curricula from both world-class instructors and seasoned humanitarian practitioners to offer participants an educational experience that seamlessly combines theory and practice.

Experiential Learning

A mix of mentoring and individual assignments, provides NNPHL participants an opportunity to develop and apply what they have learned in the classroom to their work in the field.

  • NNPHL Assignments: During a three-month period after the in-person training, all participants will be asked to complete two individual assignments. The NNPHL assignments are a requirement of the program to ensure that participants have an opportunity to put their learning into practice within their organization. One of the two assignments will be to organize a small-scale leadership training or presentation for the participants’ organization or professional peer network. Please see the FAQs for more details.
  • Coaching: During the experiential learning component, all NNPHL participants will receive support and guidance from a coach through coaching sessions. The goal of the coaching program is to help build the leadership skills of the NNPHL participants and help cultivate important relationships within the humanitarian community. NNPHL coaches can also provide practical advice with challenges encountered during the completion of the NNPHL Assignments.

NNPHL expects that participants will continue their participation in this online Community of Practice after the program has concluded in order to cultivate a network of humanitarian leaders. NNPHL will continue to provide an online platform for the NNPHL alumni to sustain this community of practice.

Pikin To Pikin staff member Victoria Squire leads a School Management Committee (SMC) training session in Makali Community, Tonkolili District, Sierra Leone. Photographer: Michael Duff

Pikin To Pikin staff member Victoria Squire leads a School Management Committee (SMC) training session in Makali Community, Tonkolili District, Sierra Leone. Photographer: Michael Duff

What are the learning objectives & expected outcomes of NNPHL?

By the end of this learning process, NNPHL participants will have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to take on leadership responsibilities within a variety of humanitarian organizations, ultimately improving the delivery of services to those in need of humanitarian assistance. The overall learning objectives are to:

  • Strengthen leadership skills to improve decision-making and coordination
  • Increase knowledge to optimize current humanitarian programming and strategic vision
  • Contribute to building a network of humanitarian leaders and promote the development of a community of practice

NNPHL participants who complete the course and met the program requirements will receive an NNPHL Certificate of Completion.

How do I apply to NNPHL?

The NNPHL Call for Applications will open on a rolling basis. Please visit the NNPHL Application page to learn more about the application process.

When & where does NNPHL.6 take place?

The NNNPHL.6 course begins in April and ends in October 2019 (dates to be finalized).

  • The program commences with the distance learning components, including a series of pre-requisite readings and e-learnings. The online modules begin in mid-April and conclude in August. All participants must engage in an online, virtual classroom, which is hosted by Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.
  • The in-person training, which is subject to change, will be held July 7-12, 2019,  in East Africa (location TBD). Participants must be available to attend this component as no exceptions will be made.
  • The experiential learning components, the combination of coaching, community of practice, and assignments, will begin in July and conclude in late September, with the NNPHL Assignments due in October, 2019.
  • PLEASE NOTE that the program design, location and dates are subject to change.

For information about our rolling applications, please see our FAQs.

Ambulance training in Sierra Leone. Photo: Joseph Jasperse

Ambulance Training. Photo: Joseph Jasperse/Sierra Leone/30th Oct 2014

What is the cost of the course?

Costs required to participate in the regionally-based, NNPHL leadership training courses (i.e., course fees, visa fee, round-trip flight to the in-person training location, accommodation and meals during the in-person training only) will be covered by NNPHL.

Please note that any incidental costs are the sole responsibility of the NNPHL participant (i.e.telephone usage, additional food expense, etc.), and NNPHL does not provide a per diem.

What other NNPHL learning opportunities are available?

NNPHL is developing an open-access, publicly available online course — the NNPHL E-Learning Course. This distance learning course will be open to anyone regardless of one’s experience, professional level or engagement with NNPHL (e.g. previous NNPHL applicants, and NNPHL alumni are able to take the e-learning course). No application is required for the NNPHL E-Learning Course. The online course will be available at no cost. Registration for this course will be open tentatively in June 2019. If you are interested in registering for this course or receiving updates about the course, sign-up here.


Please see the Frequently Asked Questions page for more details, and click here to subscribe to NNPHL updates. 

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