Course 2022-2023 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
GIO (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (II sem.)

Mission & Content Summary


International organizations (IOs) have been traditionally studied from the perspective of international relations, political science and international law. This course takes a managerial approach towards key areas of global organizing: the United Nations (UN) system, international financial institutions, global public-private partnerships, international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), and global foundations.


The first part of the course (lectures 1-6) will set the IOs’ context of global governance: we will clarify what international organizations are and categorize the main actors in “families.” We will then focus attention on the different areas of global organizing (e.g., development, aid and health), and discuss the main issues and institutions involved in each. Subsequently, we will examine how coherence and coordination is achieved within the United Nations system, and how organizational governance is structured. We will conclude with a discussion of managerial issues vis-à-vis INGOs and public-private partnerships.


The second part of the course (lectures 7-12) will provide an overview of the managerial reforms, tools and systems in international organizations. The issues to be considered include financial management, HR management, stakeholder management, profile management and branding, field operations’ management, management control, and performance measurement. Lastly, the course will address the growingly important issues of the public profile and accountability of IOs and their executives.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Identify different families of IOs and elaborate on mandate and operations.
  • Understand the complexity and richness of the UN system, and distinguish roles and governance mechanisms of Funds, Programmes and Specialized Agencies.
  • Understand the current challenges and open issues of the managerial reforms in IOs and INGOs.
  • Understand the role of the aid system, other transnational actors, such as global public-private partnerships and global philanthropic foundations.


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Apply critical thinking in relation to management tools and reforms.
  • Appreciate the complexity and the need for a tailored approach to management in IOs and INGOs.
  • Identify the strategic frameworks and distinctive features of management in development cooperation.
  • Make comparisons between UN system organizations, other IOs, transnational hybrid organizations, global philanthropic foundations and INGOs in terms of operating and governance mechanisms.
  • Understand how IOs and INGOs operate on the field.
  • Identify and address the main issues of ethics and accountability from an IOs standpoint.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • Case studies /Incidents (traditional, online)
  • Individual assignments


This course relies on lectures, class-based case studies, class discussions, and two take-home assignments.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  • Individual assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)


Attending students (those who submit all the assignments)

The final grade for the course will be based on the following elements:


(A) One policy memo, counting for 25% of grade

Students are expected to produce a short policy memo related to a policy/operational/managerial issue of their choice. Suggested topics, examples, and further guidance will be provided during Classes 1 & 2 (see slides). Each memo should be up to two pages with font size 12 (overlong memos will be penalized). Deadline is Sunday 26 March at 11:59pm.


(B) One collaborative policy brief, counting for 45% of grade

Students are expected to produce an in-depth policy brief related to a policy/operational/managerial issue covered in class. This will be done in collaboration between two students and the grade will be the same for both students. Students are expected to find their own policy brief partners (the relevant Blackboard forum can also be used to post your interests and find a partner). Suggested topics, examples, and further guidance will be provided during Classes 1 & 2 (see slides). Each brief should be up to eight pages with font size 12. Exceptionally, if the course has an odd number of students, one team can have three members and the length of that policy brief should be up to 11 pages. Overlong briefs will be penalized. Deadline is Sunday 14 May at 11:59pm.


(C) One final exam, counting for 30% of grade

The exam will cover the material (slides and readings) from classes 6-12, and will contain 20 multiple choice questions.


(D) An optional short assignment (0-1 points added to your final grade)

Students may elect to write a short assignment related to the fight against climate change to boost their grades. This will take the form of a hypothetical ‘explainer’ blog post tailored to their substantive interests in terms of organizations and regions. Example topics include: ‘How the World Bank is helping Indonesia to tackle climate change,’ ‘How the UNDP supports climate change adaptation projects in Africa,’ … You are free to choose the exact organization (whether intergovernmental or non-governmental), country/region, and the specific focus (e.g., broad framing on climate change vs narrower frames like coastal adaptation, resilient infrastructures, etc.). Your blog post should review the evidence and weave it together in a coherent narrative that reflects the organizational identity and mandate. Further guidance will be provided in class 1. Short assignments will be graded on a continuum between excellent (adds 1 point to your final mark) and poor (does not alter your final mark). Length should be approximately 700 words (within the 650-750 words range). Deadline is Sunday 21 May at 11:59pm.


Students who do not submit all assignments above will be assessed as non-attending students.


Non-attending students

For students not regularly attending classes, final grade for this course is based on a final written examination (100%) composed of 30 multiple choice questions (counting for 0.8 points each) and one long-answer question (for 6 points), based on readings (excluding case studies) and class slides.

Teaching materials


The course relies on a textbook (Missoni E., & Alesani D. 2014. Management of International Organizations. London: Routledge.) and additional chapters or articles, as indicated in the syllabus.


The textbook is available as an e-book through the Bocconi library, and all the additional texts will be provided as PDFs on blackboard. Students do not need to purchase any material for this course.

Last change 18/12/2022 09:47