The United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) is set to host the next edition of the its signature UN Mastermind Groups from 25 August – 11 November 2022. Launched in 2020, UN Mastermind Groups is outlined as a peer-support initiative for sustainable development leaders from within the United Nations and beyond. Thanks to the generous contribution of the Federal Republic of Germany, the programme is offered free of charge to leaders, UNSSC alumni, experts, and practitioners who are 'centres of influence'.

The evolving sustainable development leadership landscape has driven the need for leaders who are able to draw on different perspectives, experiences and backgrounds to foster effective, and transformational leadership. The UN Mastermind Groups therefore offer an open space for leaders to discuss different topics, brainstorm, share knowledge and explore solutions to achieve a sustainable future. The programme has proven to be successful in putting leading minds together for a common purpose: achieving sustainable development. It promotes the highest level of systems thinking, collaboration, innovative mindset, transformational change, and diversity.

The UN Mastermind Groups

The programme is delivered in  two distinct formats  — the UNCT Alumni Mastermind, and the UN Leaders for Sustainable Development Mastermind Group.

The UNCT Alumni Mastermind group focuses on the UN Development System Reform process. In this format, UNSSC brings together UN Resident Coordinators, UN Country Teams, and individual UN entities to explore, test, and conceptualize new ways of working together to contribute to a world where people live in dignity and prosperity on a healthy planet.

The UN Leaders for Sustainable Development Mastermind group focuses on bringing together executive leaders from governments, the business sector, academia, international organizations and society at large. Together, they engage in robust sustainable development discussions and find ways to work together to co-create leadership solutions that establish sustainable development pathways.

What the programme offers

Both formats provide actionable insights that can be used to enhance sustainable development leadership capabilities. Participants of the UN Mastermind groups take part  in a three-month programme, made up  of six 90-minute virtual meetings that are facilitated and hosted by  the highly experienced   Agnes Cserhati who has over 27 years experience as trainer, consultant and coach.

The sessions are interactive and engaging, and include regular breakout sessions that provide participants with a unique opportunity to work on different topics in various group settings. During the programme, participants  work on a personal executive leadership challenge that is related to sustainable development. In parallel they support fellow cohort members on the executive leadership challenges that they face. A central feature of the programme is the group participants' ownership of the programme agenda. Peers made up of groups six to eight people, collaborate with each other to brainstorm new solutions to a number of challenges. The groups also  set up accountability structures that keep each participant focused and on track. In addition to this a dedicated platform is made available for participants to communicate among themselves, support each other, and host discussions outside of the UN Mastermind virtual meetings.

A UN Mastermind Alumni Virtual Conference is made available to programme alumni. This feature of the programme has been uniquely designed to allow sustainable development leaders to broaden their network, across different cohorts. An expert Mastermind facilitator conducts the cross-cohort interactions among leaders to build meaningful connections and effective engagements. 

UN Mastermind alumni feedback

Commenting on a previous edition of the programme, Luc de Clerck, Business Development Manager and Clinical Lead Connected Primary Health Solutions at Philips Healthcare said: “It was interesting to join forces virtually with UN leaders around the world to find solutions for leadership issues we encounter in our daily practice. Thank you to the United Nations System Staff College, and thank you to the participants of this course for the advices related to working with the United Nations, which will certainly be useful in the projects that I implement together with UNFPA in Central and West Africa.”

The UN Masterminds Groups aims to enhance leadership insights and application-oriented knowledge of various sustainable development themes and challenges. Participants have attested to gaining valuable knowledge to support their work in sustainable development.

Speaking on this, Aruna Gujara, Adviser to the Deputy Director-General at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted that “It was an exciting and innovative initiative for Sustainable Development Leaders to share knowledge and explore opportunities to build back better and accelerate progress to effectively achieve the SDGs within less than 10 years. It was an inspiring journey and a truly innovative leadership lab that leveraged the power of collective intelligence to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Rosemary Kalapurakal, Deputy Director at the United Nations Development Coordination Office (DCO) added that the programme offered good reflections on situational leadership from directive to delegatory and depending on situational complexity vis-à-vis team competence and comfort.

Highlighting key lessons from the UN Country Team (UNCT) Alumni Mastermind Group, Michael Croft, Head of Office and UNESCO Representative to Nepal, said ‘The UN Mastermind helped remove my agency hat to understand better the mission and the challenges of the Resident Coordinators, allowing me to be more responsive and play a positive and empowered role as a UN Country Team (UNCT) member, to lower the cost of collaboration and build greater empathy between colleagues. And just as importantly, the UN Mastermind allowed for a genuine reflection on core UN values and principles that brought participants back to their original motivations for joining the Organization, enabling us to renew our sense of purpose.’

Become part of the UN Mastermind Groups

UNSSC takes pride in UN Mastermind alumni, who are paving the way to achieving a more sustainable future. The programme features a cohort that is made up of  presidents, directors, and managers from the World Health Organization (WHO), WWF International, German Development Institute (GDI-DIE), UN Geneva, World Green Economy Organisation (WGEO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Leadership4SDGs, Triciclos, Philips Healthcare, World Food Programme (WFP), Malaysia Employee Provident Fund, and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). It has also hosted programme participants who are representatives, Country Directors, and Deputies from UNESCO, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) the United Nations Population Fund (UNDP), the Development Coordination Office  (DCO), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The participants are selected based on their track record, willingness to share their expertise, and their broader contribution to learning for sustainable development. Individual participants are then placed in curated groups to ensure and allow for a meaningful learning experience that can inspire transformative change.

In 2022, UNSSC is eager to attract a diverse group of suitable sustainable development leaders who will join the next cohort the UN Mastermind Groups.

Interested participants are invited to send their motivation letter and CV to sustainable-development@unssc.org, with the subject "Application for the UN Mastermind Groups". The deadline for application is 1 July 2022.