The Management Development Institute: Reflections on the Past and a Vision for the Future

By Michael Bzdak, Ph.D., Executive Director, Corporate Contributions, Johnson & Johnson

More than ten years ago, Johnson & Johnson partnered with UCLA and AMREF to create the Management Development Institute (MDI) to enhance the management skills of African healthcare leaders. Over the last decade, it has become even more evident that ineffective leadership and management of health systems and services is a barrier to scaling-up delivery of quality health services. Leadership, management and governance of health systems are fundamental components of both attaining the SDGs and achieving national health priorities in sub-Saharan Africa. This collaboration, which has grown to include the University of Cape Town and the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, underscores the importance of building the capacity of local health care professionals in key management and leadership competencies to implement local, regional and national health priorities.

Over the past ten years, cross-sector partnering has become a norm for Corporate Social Responsibility practice among companies as well as nonprofits. Public-private partnerships have proven to be the way forward in tackling the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges. MDI is a testament to the power of bringing NGOs, academic institutions and the private sector together to design and implement health care interventions. Participating in this coalition to support and train health care leaders across Africa requires patience and faith in collaboration. While it is certainly faster to travel alone, we have discovered that together, as partners, we can go greater distances and achieve bigger accomplishments.

James Austin, a Harvard University-based expert on partnerships, has identified the key attributes of successful collaborations. From my perspective, the two most important are viewing the partnership as a dynamic relationship involving a process of continuous learning, and basing the partnership on a long-term commitment involving deep relationships. All of the MDI partners have worked hard to deepen our relationships as individuals and as institutions, always learning from and challenging each other. We have continuously improved the program and work towards our long-term visions. As we look to the next ten years, we hope to introduce new ways of teaching and learning while aspiring to establish new MDI programs in francophone and lusophone Africa. The big data revolution and the growth of digital health offer us an even greater opportunity to support health care workers in more effective ways.

Our Company's commitment to patients has always been inextricably linked to our commitment to doctors and nurses and the health workforce. We're proud of our legacy of work with health care workers, and we remain committed to supporting the development of health care leaders to further empower and strengthen their efforts to help more people live longer, happier and more productive lives. While the past ten years have been incredibly successful, the future of MDI promises to have an even greater impact. We have benefited greatly from the wisdom of our partners and we thank them for joining us on this journey.

We encourage you stay up to date with MDI news and connected with fellow alumni through our new website and via Twitter @MDICHIP#MDIturns10.