Packard Foundation: Emerging Leaders Program

What was the challenge?

As the next wave of Baby Boomer nonprofit leaders begin to retire, they are clearing a path for a new era of leadership. While some organizations have started to prepare for this transition, many have yet to invest in developing the leadership skills of their younger staff members. Given the unique characteristics of today’s rising generation of leaders, social impact organizations are wrestling with how to best provide effective leadership training and mentoring that infuses the distinct values, mindsets, and interests of this new generation of leaders.

In 2015, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation recognized this challenge of leadership and engaged Third Plateau to pilot a peer-learning program for emerging leaders and their mentors, who were part of the Packard Foundation’s Conservation and Science portfolio. In 2016, Third Plateau expanded the project through an online platform combined with a peer learning strategy to further fill this gap in leadership training and scale it to the social sector at large.

How did we address it?

Together with master trainer and facilitator, Beth Kanter, Third Plateau created a cross-generational project, combining peer coaching and mentoring with an online Playbook that offered a new and entirely virtual approach to leadership development. While a relatively small-scale experiment, reaching 20 emerging leaders and an equal number of their supervisors in the first year, the program presented a unique opportunity to test the best mix of skills and support to effectively facilitate the development of the next generation of social sector leaders.

The Playbook, which accompanied the peer-learning program in the first year of the program, served as a road map for the project and has received more than 20,000 views on Slideshare and more than 1,000 downloads on Issuu. The strong interest in the content demonstrated the field’s hunger for access to more comprehensive tools and resources that can strengthen an organization’s leadership capacity.

In 2016, Third Plateau’s work evolved in order to broaden the reach and impact of the Playbook. Third Plateau combined the following:

  • Online Platform: Third Plateau designed and launched an interactive and open access online platform that hosts an updated leadership curriculum, tools, and resources. This platform covers three main areas: Leading Self, Leading Others, and Influencing Organizational Change.
  • Peer Coaching Network: Third Plateau developed a series of training modules that will launch in 2017, to spread the content from the platform to new communities of emerging leaders throughout the United States.

What is the impact?

Emerging leaders who seek to deepen and expand their professional experience, relationships, and the development of other “soft” skills, are able to tap into this open access material. Through this initiative, Third Plateau provided Packard grantees and the social sector at-large with a vibrant learning ecosystem and set of tools to help ensure a more networked, informed, and collaborative workforce. Visit for more information and to join this growing network.