Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Alfredo Ortiz

Visiting 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 / MPAG 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.

Fall 2014 - MIIS, Spring 2015 - MIIS, Fall 2015 - MIIS, Spring 2016 - MIIS

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DPPG 8571 / MPAG 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 2014 - MIIS, Spring 2015 - MIIS, Fall 2015 - MIIS

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DPPG 8574 / MPAG 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 2014 - MIIS, Fall 2015 - MIIS

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DPPG 8615 - Sem: Practicum Project      

Do you have a real life project in mind you would want to tackle using a faculty mentor’s help? Do you want to build and/or strengthen your skills and knowledge, ideally by working on a consulting project for an organization of your choice? If yes, the Capstone course is for you. In this course you will be in the driver’s seat working on your project, while the faculty will coach you and provide practical skills and tools to help you effectively articulate, design, and implement your project, and communicate your findings to your client. In addition to individualized feedback sessions, faculty will also guide you to right resources for additional relevant skill and knowledge building.

Please check the prereqs:

- Only open for DPP students in 3rd or 4th semesters who are using the course to fulfill their Practicum requirement.

- Students who are planning to enroll in FMS, DPMI+ or IPSS should not enroll in this course. Contact the instructor if requesting exceptions.

- Students may undertake projects individually or in teams (maximum 3 per team), but team justification must be compelling

Fall 2015 - MIIS

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MPAG 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.

Spring 2015 - MIIS

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MPAG 8604 - Capstone Springboard Project      


The capstone springboard project permits students to combine capstone research with any of seven 2-credit courses offered in Spring 2015:

MPAG 8520 – Social Justice Advocacy (Glenzer)

MPAG 8521 – Action Research for Social Change (Glenzer/Ortiz)

MPAG 8540 – Social Sector Needs Assessment (Kardam)

MPAG 8542 – Communicating for Social Change (Kardam)

MPAG 8567 – Behavior Change Strategies in Public Health (Schooley)

MPAG 8571 – Proposal Writing (Ortiz)

MPAG 8583 – Starting Your Own SCO (Bloom)

Rather than signing up for MPAG 8605, students who wish to pursue capstone projects that are closely aligned with the content offered in any of these seven classes should sign up for the two-credit content class, then complete their capstone registration by signing up for MPAG 8604.

This new structure for capstone was developed in order to a) permit students to take a class that builds new content knowledge/competencies while doing their capstone, without pushing students over credit limits that can be costly, and b) give students who do not require or want the “learning and support community” approach of MPAG8605 a more appropriate structure.


The “2x2” capstone structure is appropriate for students who have a clear idea -- prior to Spring semester – of a topic they wish to focus on and who see the content one of the seven “capstone springboard classes” listed above as central to that project. MPAG 8604 will be run as a set of directed studies: all interactions, after our first class, will be one-on-one, between myself and individual students. My role will be coaching on process, being a sounding board, ensuring that each student understands the quality standards of the capstone project, and presentation mentoring.

Students who do not have a very good idea – in November 2014 – of the thematic focus of their capstone project or who do not have a project idea that could greatly benefit from one of the classes listed above should sign up for MPAG 8605, the standard Capstone Seminar.

Please note that classes taken under the 2x2 capstone option cannot be used to meet the MPA workshop requirement.

Spring 2015 - MIIS

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MPAG 8605 - Capstone:Rsch&Writing Proj-PA      


The capstone requirement has two objectives. First, it enables you to acquire, demonstrate, integrate, reflect on, apply, and deepen competencies central to the MPA degree and to your future. Second, a capstone project prepares you for a position you hope to get upon graduation. Your capstone project is a public demonstration of your learning process here at MIIS: through it, you show your peers and faculty how far you have progressed. A public sharing of your work is required. How you do that is open for negotiation.

The capstone seminar helps you produce a deliverable which you are proud to submit to employers, working professionals in the field you wish to enter, and/or journals. Choice of capstone projects is limitless and students who perform best are those that creatively identify a project and product that is meaningful to them.


My role as seminar faculty is threefold. I am process guide; I am learning/support group facilitator; I am quality standard upholder. I am not content help. I am not responsible for reminding you of everything you have or should have learned in your classes here at MIIS. Capstone is your chance to interrogate yourself, to look deep to see what you have and have not learned, to revisit previous class contents and tools. You should expect no new content, as a result, apart from – perhaps – public speaking and presentation/argumentation competencies.

While we have a formal weekly meeting time, we will not use it every week. Our schedule of meetings will be established month-by-month.

Spring 2015 - MIIS

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