Some of the participants in the 2015 program

Supporting ministers to be transformational leaders: Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program

The Big Win

Scaled and sustainable development will only be possible through transformational, cross-sectoral, country-led agendas. The challenges posed by growing youth populations and constrained resources are too big for any single person to address alone. But a determined leader can mobilize the political will and resources required to dramatically change their country’s development trajectory.

By bringing together ministers from a wide range of sectors that impact human capital development, we can help foster ambitious, whole-of-government strategies for delivering demographic dividends, improving quality of life for millions of people.

183 ministers participated since 2012
65 countries represented
121% boost to health ministers’ confidence to meet key challenges
55% boost to finance ministers’ confidence to meet health challenges

The Harvard – Big Win Partnership

Big Win Philanthropy partners with Harvard University to offer a ministerial leadership program to support leaders from Africa and around the world to pursue their agendas for transformation. Now in its 8th year, the program has brought together 183 serving ministers from 65 countries.

The leadership program concentrates on regions where the demographic dividend of growing populations is under-exploited. The program is orienting ministers to see how central human development is to their national agendas. By concentrating their efforts on the development of their people, they can boost sustainable economic progress and lift whole generations out of poverty.

The Forum convenes leaders across sectors and continents to collaborate and learn from one another. Over the years, the program has noted a shift in the way different ministries work in productive partnerships, particularly between the finance and social sector ministries. At the forum, Finance Ministers are empowered to set economic priorities and leverage their domestic allocations with an emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness. This encourages collaboration with other government departments in their goals to shift national agendas.

Ministers who participate in the program are supported to craft legacy goals and turn them into concrete, actionable plans that can be pursued when they return to their home countries.

Big Win's Support

Big Win has partnered with Harvard since the inception of the program, playing a central role in curriculum development and program management, and providing funding to support implementation.

Originally the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program (HMLP) set out to equip leaders to deliver on their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Over time, it has become clear that countries, particularly in Africa, will miss out on the demographic dividend that population growth will bring without massive investment in human capital development. This change has shifted the focus of HMLP to increase the leadership capacity of visiting ministers and to encourage higher levels of cooperation between different ministers and their ministries so that they can develop an intersectoral approach to human capital development.

Over the course of a few days, the ministers undergo a four-day intensive workshop, designed to help them set legacy goals, achieve their vison, enhance their leadership and political acumen, and develop their planning and execution capacity, working across sectors. By integrating their plans across sectors, they can create detailed and measurable interventions to maximize impact.

During the program, Ministers set out their legacy statements so that they have clear and articulated ambitions for their time in government. They can take time during the program to deliberate on political navigation and forming guiding coalitions to advance their legacy goals. Last year’s statements were increasingly ambitious and specific. They included goals from ensuring that 90% of technical and vocational graduates are employed or create their own employment, to reducing the maternal mortality ratio by 47% through person-centered care by compassionate health professionals by 2022.

HMLP provides the platform to share experiences among visiting and former ministers and learn from successful case studies that have been replicated. The support combines practically-focused interactive discussions from faculty members and international experts. A report on the 2019 Ministerial Forum showed that ministers reported an increase in learning across every indicator. Ministers reported the greatest change in learning – 40% – on how to identify and promote opportunities for cross-government collaboration in support of critical human development priorities.

Here's what one previous participant has said:

Of the varying experiences I have had as a minister since 2017, the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program is the one I value most. It prepared and galvanized me to provide the leadership skills, political will, and support to ensure that the implementation of our education reforms succeeds.

-Matthew Prempeh, Minister of Education, Ghana

Learn more about the program here.