Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Alfredo Ortiz

Adjunct Professor, Nonprofit Management and Social Change

I believe:

Working for social change means being willing to challenge the way things are done and what is perceived as normal by many people, including ourselves. By placing ourselves in the development picture as both agents and subjects of change we can work with others to construct a more meaningful future.

What excites me:

Helping people in organizations and in the classroom to generate conversations that allow them to surface their understandings of change, including their deeper assumptions and worldviews that motivate them to see certain types of change as more desirable than others. It is particularly exciting to me when I am able to effectively use creative approaches to help solve practical problems, while at the same time generating deeper conversations that help people see past their professional and other given roles, and relate as humans in actively supporting social change. I am very interested in further developing capacity strengthening approaches that combine action and research, and use “embodied” techniques that help us expand beyond our rational selves and open up more possible doorways to change.


Organizational development and strategy, social change organizations, organizational sustainability

Recent Activities

This summer I co-designed and co-facilitated a workshop in Perú on participatory methodologies for development, focusing on how to use these methodologies in complex and contested social change environments. I also designed a facilitated a dialogue (including workshop) to help other facilitators figure out how to approach and differentiate strategic planning processes with different labor unions in the Lima, Perú area. Also this summer I taught two sessions in the Masters in Development Policy Program at the Polytechnic University in Valencia, Spain, on monitoring and learning in complex environments. I also co-taught week three of the MIIS DPMI module on strategic partnerships.

Over the past two years I have been carrying out my PhD action-research fieldwork with two organizations in Peru (one which focuses on community development in peri-urban slums; and one activist think tank that works with social movements) and a private conservation organization in Northwest Ecuador. I have been looking into what systemic methodologies can help these organizations develop the capacities to support meaningful social change in their complex and contested social change environments.


BA in Accounting and BA in Spanish (New Mexico State University), MA International Relations – Conflict Resolution and Development (St. Mary's University, San Antonio, TX), Ph.D Development Studies (Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK

Selected Publications

  • ORTIZ ARAGÓN, Capacity building in complex environments—Seeking meaningful methodology for social change. Doctoral dissertation, (May 2013) [May be accessed from: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/44684]
  • ORTIZ ARAGÓN, Shifting identity from within the conversational flow of organisational complexity IDS Bulletin, 43, 3 (May 2012).
  • BURNS, HARVEY & ORTIZ ARAGÓN, Action Research for development and social change. IDS Bulletin, 43, 3 (May 2012).
  • ORTIZ ARAGÓN, A. 2010a. Capacity development and rural territorial dynamics (RTD): A documentation and interpretation of how capacity building is being understood and shaped within the RTD program. RTD Topical inquiries. Santiago: RIMISP.
  • ORTIZ ARAGÓN, A. 2010b. A Case for Surfacing Theories of Change for Purposeful Organisational Capacity Development. IDS Bulletin, 41, 36-46.
  • ORTIZ ARAGÓN, A. & GILES MACEDO, J. C. 2010. A 'Systemic Theories of Change' Approach for Purposeful Capacity Development. IDS Bulletin, 41, 87-99.
  • ORTIZ, A. 2009. Interpreting Worldviews and Theories of Change on Capacity Development of Social Change Organizations Brighton: IDS.
  • ORTIZ ARAGÓN, A. & TAYLOR, P. 2009. Learning purposefully in capacity development: Why, what and when to measure? In: IIEP (ed.) Rethinking capacity development. Paris: IDS.
  • TAYLOR, P. & ORTIZ, A. 2008. Doing things better? How capacity development results help bring about change. IDRC Strategic Evaluation of Capacity Development. Institute of Development Studies (IDS).
  • ORTIZ, A. 2001. Core Costs and NGO Sustainability: Towards a Donor-NGO Consensus on the Importance of Proper Measurement, Control & Recovery of Indirect Costs. Washington, DC: The Nature Conservancy.
Course List

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

DPPG 8534 - Org Sustainability for SCOs      

This course explores a series of pathways for achieving organizational sustainability. Consideration will be given to how organizational practices, procedures and systems (including those related to budgeting, resource generation, resource management, and marketing) influence long-term organizational viability. We will focus on creating business models that contribute to mission achievement and sustainability for organizations that work in complex environments. The use of managerial performance metrics in relation to organizational sustainability will also be explored.

Spring 2017 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop, Spring 2018 - MIIS

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DPPG 8536 - Developing People (HR) in SCOs      

This workshop—combining lecture, case studies and significant group work—is designed to examine the key preconditions of success in effective ‘people development’ within the concept of human resource management (HRM) of social change organizations. Special attention will be given to HR processes that yield improved organizational results through highly capable, motivated and accountable personnel, as well as organizational commitment and systems that provide an enabling, productive work environment. The workshop will explore the following key themes: alignment between personnel and organizational objectives (for development SCOs); employee incentives and theories and practices of employee motivation and development; supervision and talent management; employee recruitment, selection and retention; and evaluation and performance management.

Fall 2016 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop

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DPPG 8571 - Proposal Writing for Intl Dev      

This course trains participants in the process of developing a proposal, from strategy to writing, toward generating funding for international assistance projects. It asks the core question: what are key elements of proposal development processes in competitive bids for international development funding? In it, students will examine real, existing proposals prepared largely by non-governmental organizations pursuing grants, but also by for-profit development companies bidding on contracts. Proposal writing will be addressed from a strategic perspective—i.e. understanding where funding is (e.g. USAID, foundations, EC) today, and how to position a concept in a competitive environment. Visual presentation skills, charts, budgets, and narrative writing skills will be important. Students will put themselves in the shoes of program development officers soliciting funding in responses to RFAs, RFPs, framework agreements, or other leads with donor organizations.

Fall 2016 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop, Fall 2017 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop

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DPPG 8574 - Systems Thinking      

This workshop focuses on the importance of systemic thinking for social change, with an emphasis on methodological use and management implications of systems thinking and practice for social change organizations (SCOs). We will explore core systems thinking concepts—e.g. relationships, emergence, layers, coordination and communication, feedback, worldviews / system philosophies, complexity and chaos, etc.—to help answer the core question:

“How can systems thinking and practice (i.e. use of methodology) support organizations to effectively develop and apply capacities, processes and systems to contribute to emergent social change in complex development environments?”<B>

The workshop, readings and exercises are designed to provide an introductory background on the history, schools of thought, and key principles of systems thinking; a practical understanding of the implications of systems theory on systems practice, and vice versa; and a particular in-depth look at two cross cutting systems thinking traditions: ‘Soft Systems’ thinking and methodology (SSM) and critical systems thinking (CST). This will include critically analyzing the boundaries that organizations draw for their capacity development and related systems, as well as critically and systemically analyzing issues of power and culture that affect SCO performance in the highly complex environments in which they operate. This also includes exploring the natural relationship between systems thinking and action research. Note: Although we will cover some of the theoretical background to systems thinking this class is designed primarily as a “hands on” workshop in which we use methodology to learn key systems concepts.

Fall 2017 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop

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