Traveling the world to train policy reformers

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CDDRL Director Francis Fukuyama leads a lecture during the Leadership Academy for Development workshop in Tblisi, Georgia. January 2016.

The Leadership Academy for Development (LAD) is an innovative program at Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law that trains mid-level government officials and business leaders to be more effective in promoting policy changes in developing countries.

In order to accomplish this goal, LAD teaches weeklong courses with partner institutions located in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Former Soviet Union. The most recent workshop was held in Tbilisi, Georgia in partnership with a leading Georgian think tank.

LAD’s programs attract leaders from the private and public sector who are driving public policy in countries that are transitioning to democracy and strengthening their public institutions.  Since LAD’s launch in 2010, the Program has trained over 400 students hailing from nations as diverse as Timor-Leste, Zimbabwe, and the United Kingdom.

The LAD teaching team is composed of faculty from Stanford, Johns Hopkins’s School of Advanced International Studies, Georgetown University, and Texas A&M.

At the core of LAD’s curriculum is a set of case studies that encourage students to think critically about the best methods for solving a policy problem. LAD’s case studies are developed by Stanford faculty and students, and are grounded in real-world scenarios drawn from many of the countries where the program is taught. Case studies reframe policy problems based on various scenarios that invite students to contribute their own perspectives and experience.


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As described by LAD co-founder and CDDRL Director Francis Fukuyama, "The Leadership Academy for Development is unique in that by utilizing the case study method, it provides students with a hands-on, interactive framework for problem solving.” Fukuyama continued, “Students must put themselves in the shoes of the case study's protagonist and then devise a solution to the dilemma presented in the text." 


Case study authors are sent to the field where they conduct original interviews and research topics ranging from the funding of a vaccination program in Bangladesh to the challenge of administrative decentralization in Peru. To date, LAD has grown its case study library to over 20 cases that are publically available online for wider use and dissemination. 

Michael Goldfien, an alumnus of Stanford’s International Policy Studies master’s program, researched and wrote three case studies for LAD over the course of a year.

“While I was writing a case about wine export promotion in the Republic of Georgia, speaking with current and former government officials helped put the challenges facing the Georgian wine industry in a broader domestic and international political context, said Goldfien.”

Goldfien continued, “Researching and writing a LAD case study is about more than simply establishing the facts of a specific policy initiative, it’s about putting things in context and mapping out the constellation of stakeholders who stand to gain or lose from a particular reform to understand the political landscape that a would-be reformer must navigate to effect change.”

One of LAD’s more commonly employed case studies is Gifford Pinchot and Sustainable Forest Management, which introduces the student to Gifford Pinchot, who served as the chief forester in the US at the turn of

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 the 20th century. Grounded in the political history during this period, Pinchot faces the moral dilemma of whether he should expose the corrupt political patronage practices reaching all the way up to the office of President Taft, or keep his job and continue to fight for the relevance of the fledgling U.S. Forest Bureau. This case study exposes students to pivotal leadership decisions that they may have to face in their own professional careers.


Farai Maguwu, a prominent civil society leader in Zimbabwe who participated in the LAD workshop in Kenya last year summarized his experience, “The case study method was very effective as it made it easy for us to understand that Public-Private Partnerships (PPP’s) are a viable option if there is political will.” Maguwu continued, “For instance, we saw evidence of PPP in practice in one particular case that clearly demonstrated how the private sector could make a public park both beautiful and profitable.”

To learn more about the LAD program and access the case study library, please click here.