Kent Glenzer

Associate Professor (MPA/MBA)

What I am most passionate about: I’m obsessed with the organizations and people who say that they are passionate about fighting poverty, social injustice, and abuse of human rights.  I’m obsessed with how these kinds of actors carve up the world a) conceptually, b) pragmatically, and c) in opposition to other actors.  I’m obsessed with the idea that there is no way to step outside of power – no way to extricate yourself or your organization from power relations, no privileged stance from which to pronounce or act in a world.  Along with many others, I believe that poverty – and marginalization, and exclusion – is most importantly about power, not technical fixes.  And this then means that social change activists need to collaborate with strange bedfellows, rethink what counts as success, and think structurally and longer-term.  What is clear to me is that as we enter the 20-teens, we need to rethink and reinvent the self-imposed boundaries and inter-relationships between public, private, and nonprofit enterprises.  The world’s wicked problems won’t relent in the face of anything less.

What excites me about being a professor at MIIS: I spent 25 years working with nonprofit agencies focused on international development before coming to MIIS.  I came to MIIS because I wanted to help students avoid the mistakes my generational colleagues and I made. I wanted to do so in a post-graduate institute that put high value on practical tools, approaches, and both personal and team strategies. I looked for a place with a commitment to praxis and interdisciplinarity.  And I found MIIS, which satisfied all these standards.    I get very excited when, in working with graduate students here at MIIS, we find ways to connect with external clients, deliver high value for money, and so enhance a program, a project, a strategy, or an organization.


I have extensive work and research experience in sub-Saharan Africa, having lived there for 13 years and focused on it as both an external and internal consultant to NGOs and public sector agencies for 10 more years. I specialize in organizations, organizational development, organizational behavior and culture, institutional and organizational fields, and organizational evolution and learning processes.

All my work and thinking centralizes on the power dynamics, inequalities, and identity politics that surround and constitute development projects, programs, and strategies.  I have proven managerial and leadership competencies, and this understanding of how theory, big ideas, “best practice” and innovation actually get refracted through pragmatic choices of the working professional is perhaps the highest value I bring to my work with students.   Related to this is experience in program and organizational monitoring, evaluation, and learning systems, performance management, strategic planning, and social, cultural, and political economic analysis.   Finally, I have a strong background, both practically and academically, in civil society, social movements, and policy advocacy.

Recent Accomplishments

Appointed to Editorial Board of the Action Research Journal.

Led the formative evaluation of Save the Children’s $20 million program devoted to global knowledge sharing and building robust communities of practice related to food security programming. 

Worked with the Ford Foundation in China – and NGO partners there -- on a strategic monitoring, evaluation, and learning system for the country office.  This work is ongoing.

Contributed a chapter to a book on understanding culture and cultural change for the Army Research Institute, a book targeted at army officers, as well as being lead expert for a training module for army staff on using appreciative inquiry to advise host country staff on organizational development and change.  This work is ongoing.

Authored Oxfam America’s Rights-Oriented Programming for Effectiveness and Oxfam International’s Program Principles, which both served to strategically frame the organization’s long-term and rights-based approaches to development and social change.

Designed a three-year, multi-level portfolio assessment of CARE’s work on women’s empowerment and oversaw the massaging of evaluation results into organizational practice.

Previous Work

Prior to accepting an appointment at MIIS, I worked for Oxfam America for four years, CARE USA for 12 years, during which time I had the opportunity to live and work in Mali for nearly seven years, Mozambique for four years, and Ethiopia for more than two years. My consulting has taken me to more than 30 countries in Africa, south and east Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.  I’ve also worked with the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health and I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali.


  • Bachelor in Journalism, Northwestern University, 1983.
  • Masters in Communication, Cornell University, 1990.
  • Ph.D., Emory University, 2005.

Careers in Strategic Planning and Management

Students working with me will be well prepared  for consulting on or full-time positions in program/project monitoring and evaluation, strategic planning, project and program management, and facilitating organizational change processes.  You might find yourself in the human resources department of a large international NGO, as a learning or staff/management development specialist.  You might find yourself the manager of a  civil society strengthening project in sub-Saharan Africa financed by a philanthropic foundation.  You might find yourself part of a team contracted to evaluate a program or project of Oxfam or CARE.


“Chutes, Ladders, and Sticky Institutions:  Understanding Social Change in Sub-Saharan Africa,” in Beret E. Strong, LisaRe Brooks, Michelle Ramsden Zbylut, and Linda Roan eds., Sociocultural Systems: The Next Step in Army Cultural Capability, forthcoming.

iccr "Addressing Root Causes of Economic and Social Injustice:  Considerations of Concept, Strategy, and Measurement from Oxfam America’s Rights-Based Programs.” In Building Sustainable Communities Through Multi-Party Collaboration.  New York:  Interfaith Council on Corporate Responsibility, 2011.  Pp. 29-34.

cjas_article “La Sécheresse:  The Social and Institutional Construction of a Development Problem in the Malian (Soudanese) Sahel, c.1900-1982.”Canadian Journal of African Studies 36, 1 (2002):  1-34.

dev_in_practice_article "Leading learning and change from the middle:  Re-conceptualizing strategy’s purpose, content and measures.”  Co-authored with Colin Beckwith and Alan Fowler.  Development in Practice 12, 3-4 (August 2001):  409-423.

state_donor_ngo_configurations “State, Donor and NGO Configurations in Malian Development 1960-1999:  The Enactment and Contestation of Global Rationalized Myths in an Organizational Field.” In Globalization, the Third World State and Poverty-Alleviation in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Ikubolajeh Logan,  Aldershot, England:  Ashgate Publishing, 2001. Pp. 161-180.
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