On February 15, 2019, Rutgers University and government representatives from the Republic of Botswana officially launched the Botswana-Rutgers Knowledge Collaborative.
According to Rutgers Today, Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi said about the new initiative, “This agreement goes beyond the traditional institutional academic agreement – it is not a partnership between Rutgers and a single university or a consortium of universities, but a partnership with an entire nation. We are discovering common interests and opportunities, and learning how we can share our expertise to help tackle major issues and cultivate the next generation of leaders with skills and expertise in priority areas sought by Botswana’s leadership.”
Through the Rutgers Center for Organizational Leadership (OL), a team of four faculty members from the Rutgers School of Communication and Information (SC&I), (along with Sherrie Tromp, Associate Director of OL), are playing a key role in the collaborative by developing programming focused on leadership development and training opportunities for leaders and executives.
Ruben said, “Our initial plan is to develop new cooperative training and mentoring programs for current and future leaders in civic government, education and research, both in person and online. We will continue to refine the program over the next few years, and eventually engage partners from Botswana in a train-the-trainer model whereby professionals in Botswana will be able to facilitate the program within their country.” Ruben also noted: “We are hopeful that this initiative will not only be an exceptional collaborative outreach opportunity for our Center, but also provide interesting research possibilities for SC&I faculty and students and others throughout the university. We are confident that it will also enrich the international dimension of SC&I leadership courses.”
Read below to discover the exciting work SC&I’s team, consisting of Executive Director of the OL and Distinguished Professor of Communication Brent Ruben, Director of Leadership Development and Research at OL, SC&I alumnus, and Part-Time Lecturer Ralph Gigliotti, Ph.D., ‘17, OL’s Senior Program Administrator, SC&I alumna, and Part-Time Lecturer Christine Goldthwaite MCIS ‘10, Ph.D. ‘18, and Part-Time Lecturer Kate Immordino, Ph.D. '06 are undertaking, starting with a Leadership Summit they are organizing at Rutgers in May for 15 cabinet officials from the Government of Botswana.
Please explain the ways the Rutgers Center for Organizational Leadership will assist the country of Botswana to meet its overarching goal to transform into a knowledge-based economy.
As noted in the official university press release, leaders from Rutgers University and the Republic of Botswana signed an agreement to launch the Botswana-Rutgers Knowledge Collaborative, a joint initiative to exchange knowledge through technology and develop programs that help Botswana address its strategic development goals as the country emerges as a regional hub of southern Africa. One of the strategic goals is to transform their public service model and to enhance the leadership capabilities across the government, and it is in this area where the Rutgers Center for Organizational Leadership will be providing programming for executive and senior leaders.
Approximately 15 cabinet officials from the Government of Botswana will be attending a two-week Leadership Summit from Friday, May 3 – Thursday, May 16 that is being designed and directed by the Center for Organizational Leadership. For the past several months, we have been engaged in numerous planning meetings with a team from Botswana to learn more about their goals and unique leadership challenges as we develop the curriculum for the Summit. This content will be refined based on their feedback as we provide leadership development training opportunities for future groups from Botswana.
What are some of the most pressing civic leadership issues the country faces and how does the Rutgers Center for Organizational Leadership plan to address them?
As we have learned, many of their challenges are not all that unique from those found in the United States. Some of these challenges include inefficient and slow-moving decision-making processes, limited accountability, the existence of silos across the government, the challenges of transformative organizational change, and the identification and preparation of leaders who may transform these challenges into opportunities. We have been working on the design of a Leadership in the Public Sector (LPS) framework, based on our previous work with higher education and medicine and health. The LPS model is focused on seven dimensions of excellence that are recognized as critical for organizational design, assessment, planning, and implementation in public sector organizations. These categories include the following: (1) Leadership, (2) Purposes and Plans, (3) Beneficiaries and Constituencies, (4) Programs and Services; (5) Human Resources and the Workplace, (6) Metrics, Assessment, and Analysis and (7) Outcomes and Achievements. We look forward to learning from the senior officials as they participate in our leadership program.
Will the Rutgers Center for Organizational Leadership focus first (or permanently) on issues pertaining to new businesses, government offices, or educational institutions?
Our existing programs and offerings in the Center have primarily focused on leadership in higher education; however, from our discussions with the planning team from Botswana, we continue to learn of the many similar organizational, communication, and leadership issues and opportunities within the government context. As part of our involvement with this Botswana-Rutgers Knowledge Collaborative, senior government officials, public administrators from across the country, and representatives from their Public Service College will eventually participate in the leadership development program.
How will you measure success?
Our goals for the program are for participants of the Summit to return home with a deeper understanding of the core dimensions of the central leadership framework, a more nuanced understanding of excellence in public service that applies to their unique contexts, a shared organizational language, and clear plans for action for their respective divisions.
Will you begin with knowledge gathering about Botswana or have you already completed that?
As part of this joint venture, it is critical that we develop a clear understanding of the country of Botswana and their specific goals, needs, and challenges. Participants of the inaugural Summit will complete a pre-program questionnaire to help us customize the program on their behalf. Furthermore, we will use our time together during the Summit to engage in meaningful dialogue with the participants as we continue to learn about Botswana.
We have been taking great advantage of the university’s telepresence technology in conducting bi-country planning sessions and program development. In addition to the two-week program to be hosted at Rutgers in May, follow-up group and individual mentoring sessions will continue after the delegation of senior governmental officials has returned to Botswana.
Will you invite other SC&I faculty or students to join your work?
A number of SC&I-affiliated individuals are already involved with the program. Brent Ruben, Ph.D., and Ralph Gigliotti, Ph.D. are co-leading the initiative. Christine Goldthwaite, Ph.D. and Kate Immordino, Ph.D. (with OL’s Sherrie Tromp) are actively involved with the planning and design of the inaugural Summit. We also intend to engage in various research projects related to this unique cross-cultural leadership development program, and opportunities may be available for research for students and faculty from across the university with an interest in the subject.
What do you look forward to the most by being a part of this historic partnership?
The opportunity to engage with and cultivate relationships of trust with government officials from Botswana is a tremendous honor. Furthermore, we are deeply humbled to assist with this collaborative opportunity to transform Botswana from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy. We look forward to learning a great deal about their unique challenges and opportunities in the months and years ahead.