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Shining Hope into the Messiness: Investing in Talent Development for Nonprofit Organizations

Last week Buckner International launched the Shining Star Leadership Development Program with 13 of its Buckner leaders from Buckner Children and Family Services, Buckner Retirement Services, and the Buckner International Support Center. It was anything but messy! We engaged leadership program faculty at Andrews University to provide a learning experience during the next 18 months focused on pilot projects connected to Buckner's strategic plan. 

Buckner's emerging leaders will work in cross-functional teams to gain an enterprisewide perspective, solve problems, overcome obstacles, and bring solutions as part of our strategic plan in the coming year. They will build business cases, apply design frameworks, and drive solutions in collaboration with senior leaders to present at our annual leadership retreat in the winter of 2025. Following the process, these leaders will earn a Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership, and may elect to apply 12 graduate credit hours toward a master's or doctoral degree in leadership at Andrews University. 

Drs. Bordes Henry Saturné, Jay Brand, Sung Kwon, and Sharon Aka, Andrews University leadership faculty, joined us for four days to launch the program. They toured Buckner International ministry locations including our historic campus in Dallas, Texas, the Buckner Family Hope Center at Bachman Lake, the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid, and Ventana by Buckner where the learning conferences took place. They were extremely impressed with Buckner as they learned about our ministry context. Dr. Aka boiled her visit down to this reflection: “Many nonprofits enter a situation to fix one issue in a complex situation and then exit, however, Buckner seems to dive into the messiness and complexity of people’s lives, and they are comfortable working on solutions for those they serve until things are better.”

Kelly Cockrell, director of talent development at Buckner International, now in her fourth year, researched several universities, designed a customized program to engage emerging leaders, and negotiated a program with Andrews University leadership faculty. I am so pleased with this first class of Buckner leaders who will forge a new path in talent and leadership development at Buckner. One of the primary roles of leaders at Buckner is to develop emerging leaders and prepare them for wider responsibilities as part of succession planning and preparation for a deeper bench of leaders for the future. The Shining Star Leadership Program is one way of preparing our high potential leaders for what is next at Buckner. 

Many university-based programs offer learning about leadership, which is excellent. However, what sets the Andrews University leadership program apart is its philosophy of learning. The program is learner-driven from an andragogical approach. In other words, learners drive their learning needs around the focus of their work. The program is competency-based, meaning not only do students learn about leadership, but they are also required to apply their learning to demonstrate new skills in learning and leading in a real-world context. The program is focused on developing job-embedded skills. The participants will develop leadership skills adding value to the Buckner mission.

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