Natalia Bordun: ‘Successful nonprofit organizations meet social challenges’

The main motivation in management education for nonprofit sector is to achieve the mission and make changes. In the business sector, it is supply, demand creation and making profit. And although we can’t say that one sector is better than the other, still business is own occupation, whereas public organizations are a common cause. Working on a common cause is always more of a challenge, - believes Natalia Bordun, director of the Institute of Leadership and Management UCU, which has been chosen at this year Forum of organizational development for civil society as one of the three best providers of educational services in Ukraine for nonprofit sector. Natalia told us about the special features of management education in Ukraine, and how to be successful in nonprofit sector.


– Tell us about the specialties of working in nonprofit and profit sectors? What are the special features of the management education there?

– Nonprofit organizations work with the change of environment, where there belong; in business, in profit sector - it is demand creation. Business works either for creation of an environment with demand (then the necessary level of sales of goods or services is easily achieved), or creates demand on its own, but invests a lot of money in it. Nonprofit sector always works in the environment of demand creation, and donor organizations understand it and invest grant funds into project activities.

Despite the differences, the management education in both sectors has approximately the same tasks - development of competencies which will help people to solve specific problems in an efficient way. Since the tasks of the organizations in nonprofit and profit sectors differ, the educational program and plans also will be different. The titles of the courses are similar, but their contents for every sector have got their own features.

Respectively, approaches to people motivation will also be different. In the nonprofit sector, the main motivation is achieving the mission and making changes. The financial management, marketing there - is different, as well as fundraising and decision-making system.

– Are there grounds to believe that establishing a nonprofit organization, a project is a certain stepping stone for further start in business?

– For those who establish an organization, the financial risk is rather low, and this boosts certainty. And the experience of public activity is always assessed in a positive way by employers, and, of course, it can be a good foundation for a business startup. So it can be such a stepping stone. But, as a rule, those who work in the public sector professionally, do this for the sake of the mission, and will not switch to business even for more income. I am happy to see today that business has got now a better understanding of the public sector, and vice versa. Because there is no better or worse sector, each of them has got its own functions. But if we take it as an idea, public organizations are a common cause. Working on a common cause is always more of a challenge.

– What knowledge and skills one needs to possess in order to create own public project?

– In public sector, you work with people, united in certain social groups. All processes which take place in these groups eventually study social sciences, that is why it is important to have basic knowledge of social sciences, economy, political sciences, philosophy, history. The rest depends on the field you work: managers need the skills of efficient management, those who work in human rights protection - legal disciplines.

Anyway, it is important to understand the key point here: nonprofit, public organizations - as well as project activities - will be successful if they set to meet social challenges - something they are called for. The first step here is a correct identification of the challenges, which is impossible without a clear cause and effect, critical thinking, and hence - ability to look at the problem and to take it to pieces, to make a detailed analysis. The goal is not to fight with the consequences, but to prevent the appearance of a problem in an organization. I think that one can be taught the art of critical thinking since it is in human nature to ask the question ‘why?’ and to search for the answers.

Also, it is very important to have flexibility as a skill of negotiating, looking for a compromise, have positive discussions. Such competence is especially useful if an organization works on making citizens more active, or on creating demand for a social innovation. Such experts have to work with refusals and with people mindset changing. That is why flexibility is important, but it is also important that it doesn’t turn into a flexibility of values.

– What makes the success of a nonprofit organization? How much depends on leaders?

– Naturally, leaders are very important people in any team. There is even a discipline of organizational development which studies leader behavior and team competencies at all the stages of organization development. However, my belief is that the secret of a nonprofit organization’s success is a good teamwork. It is the ultimate bliss if one manages to gather a team of like-minded people who share a common mission and values. This is a foundation where you can build something really strong. When I hear some managers complaining about difficulties with their teams, I always want to ask them: ‘Is your team really united around the common mission, does it support the common results?’ Even if a public organization consists of people with common vision, one shouldn’t expect quick results. It is possible to feel any results whatsoever when the organization not only does something but when the impact of its activities can be measured.

– What are the favorable conditions in Ukrainian society for the development of the public sector, and on the contrary, what hampers these processes?

– Development of civil society is equal to development of the public sector, since civil society is concentrated on public organizations, and, most often, this sector gathers the most active people.

Among the factors that hamper the development of public organization there is first of all the ‘legacy’ of Soviet paternalism, which goes together with inflated expectations about someone else, such as ‘I am not going to change myself, but I know that someone has to do it for me, and I know how’. Too often people don’t want to become leaders, take responsibility because they are afraid to disappoint the others, afraid of being rejected or underestimated. These two things - paternalism and inflated expectations about someone else, not about ourselves, - are our social restrictions which become also restrictions in public organizations.

Now the Institute of Leadership and Management UCU has educational programs in Central and Eastern Ukraine. The culture of expectations, paternalism, hopes that someone will do everything - is even more obvious. All this is accompanied by distrust in the society between one another, which ‘contaminates’ public organizations, limits their influence because it doesn’t let people unite, look for areas of common interest, some synergy. This results in the situation when very often organizations duplicate each other whereas, if they joined their forces, they could have twice as much influence on solutions of various problems.

– Has there been any positive dynamics in Ukrainian nonprofit section for the last years?

– As I have said people in public sector are more focused on mission and values, and in business, they are more concentrated on the result. In post-Maidan period many people from business came to the public sector. And this mixture gives positive effects. Also, there are many newly established organizations with people possessing various competences; communities become more active, public initiatives are getting decentralized, and, the most important, people understand that a lot of things do depend on them. Consequently, a lot of exchange programs take place. Ukrainians from the East and the West meet personally, talk, get to know each other: the East and the Center, the Southern Ukraine with Northern Ukraine. Such processes break various stereotypes, strengthen mutual trust and increase the quality of influence public organizations or initiatives make.

We, in the Institute of Leadership and Management UCU, in our educational programs, always set a task to unite as a diversified group as possible. For the Master program in Nonprofit Management, this criteria is important at the stage of students selection. We want to see students from various regions of Ukraine, of various age, and working in various fields. It is important for us to observe these people interacting, debating with one another, and it is important for us to urge them to look for things they have in common. Naturally, opinions differ, but we, Ukrainians, have to realize, or even discover our common identity.

– Tell us about programs and projects offered by the Institute of Leadership and Management. What is their common goal?

– Nowadays public organizations lack efficient managers. There are charismatic missionaries, but there are too few result-oriented managers. That is why our priority is strengthening of those leaders and the teams which make changes.

We have a Master program in Nonprofit Management, one of a kind in Ukraine, designed for professionals - people who already work in public sector. This is a program licensed by Ukrainian Ministry of Education, which lasts 18 months and takes place both in class and as distance learning. Apart from this program, we develop programs for public education. We have the ‘School of responsible citizens’, which we hold in various cities, there is a Laboratory for public initiatives CitizenLab, operating very efficiently.

Also, we offer the various program for management development, both for the wide audience, and specially tailored for specific groups, based on their needs.

– What world practices do you incorporate into the model of ILM’s work?

– Our new stream which we have been actively developing recently is the research and teaching of approaches to decision making, and management in complex environments which are changed fast; the theory of complexity which has appeared at the beginning of 20th century from the area of the applied mathematics, and now is used in software development. The world experience in the field of integrating the theory of complexity into management area has got rather interesting results, which are very relevant in today’s Ukrainian situation, in particular for reform maker teams. They are efficient in the area of system management, where solutions to problems depend on many input data which change really fast. Ukraine in general, as well as specific areas, can be such a system.

Our task is to study the world best practices, to adapt to Ukrainian realities and to create educational programs. At present we negotiate with our partners in to order to launch a middle term program on management in complex environments aimed at bringing the philosophy of changes, complexity and search for solutions in uncertain environments.

In many respects, we have to be guided by those who are ahead of us but not to forget that today Ukraine has got its special feature which is valuable to the researchers of leadership, public organizations, and management practices. And this special feature is the time we live. Now, in the post-Maidan period, new models of management and problems solving are born in Ukraine. We can see that this awakes the interest of managers from other countries, and today we have requests from international schools, for instance, for development of study cases based on Ukrainian practices.

– How do you check the efficiency, the success of programs and projects offered by the ILM?

– Every program has got its own indicators of efficiency, but the main indicator of success is the success of our graduates and the development of their organizations. We are very happy when our graduates start some large-scale initiatives, but we are even happier when it becomes a new experience and develops an organization. Since it is important not only to develop the personalities of leaders but to create organizational capacity and trust. Another indicator of efficiency is the cooperation between our graduates. We follow them and inspire them for further cooperation, with their joint projects being an important quality index.

– What kind of people do you expect in ILM, and what do you promise to your students?

– Naturally, there is a list of formal requirements, but for us, the most important is to read a person’s potential. It’s the readiness to development which is the main criterion for an invitation to our programs. The second most important feature is the integrity of a personality and its uncompromisingness about the values. The requirements are quite high, but apart from an intense professional educational program, we also promise a lot of studies which is a sign of contemporary education: an interesting and dynamic environment, a lot of discussions, thousands of new pages read, books discussions, a network of important acquaintances and partnerships with the best managers of Ukraine and the world.

Prepared by Oksana Levantovych


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