Course 2023-2024 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English

Student consultation hours
Class timetable
Exam timetable
Go to class group/s: 31
CLMG (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  12 credits SECS-P/07) - M (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - IM (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - MM (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - AFC (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - CLELI (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - ACME (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - DES-ESS (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - EMIT (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - GIO (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - DSBA (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - PPA (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - FIN (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - TS (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (II sem.)

Synchronous Blended: Lessons in synchronous mode in the classroom (for a maximum of one hour per credit in remote mode)

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.


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.


Overview of the UN system & aid issues
Managing international development: overview of issues & institutions
Managing global health: overview of issues & institutions
Responding to climate change: overview of issues & institutions
Coherence, coordination, and governance issues


Strategic Management in International Organizations
Financing of International Organizations and Projects:
Programme implementation and management
People & Culture in International Organizations
Cross Sector Collaborations and Stakeholder Management
Ethical Challenges in International Organizations


Tackling corruption at the UN
Building Strong Partnerships at the Inter-American Development Bank
The WHO's handling of the Ebola crisis
The Global Compact
The World Bank in 2012 - Choosing a Leader
Financing Biodiversity Conservation by the Global Conservation Fund
Knowledge Sharing Initiatives at the World Bank - Creating a 'Knowledge Bank'
The World Health Organization - Change in an International Organization
World Health Organization: Facilitating COVID-19 Vaccines for the World


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)
  • Group assignments


This course relies on lectures, class-based case studies, class discussions, and a group assignment.

Assessment methods

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


(A) One collaborative policy brief, counting for 40% 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 in class and in the dedicated folder on Blackboard. 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. For further information on structure, referencing conventions, etc., see the relevant Blackboard folder. Deadline is Sunday 12 May at 11:59pm.


(C) Two short exams, counting for 30% of grade each

The two exams (midterm and final) will cover the material from the first and second half of the course respectively. To prepare, you need to cover all slides and readings covered in class, and consult your class notes (including discussions of case studies). Each exam will have five multiple-choice questions (1 point each) and one long-answer question (25 points), and will last 1 hour. If you wish to withdraw from the May exam session, you retain your other grades for the June session. After the June session, you will be evaluated as a non-attending student.


(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.). However, your blog cannot be on the same organization/topic as your collaborative policy brief. 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 19 May at 11:59pm.


For students not regularly attending classes, final grade for this course is based on a final written examination (100%) composed of 20 multiple choice questions (counting for 1 point each) and one long-answer question (for 10 points), based on readings and class slides. The exam will last 2 hours.


In line with the course's Intended Learning Outcomes, this exam is intended to ascertain the students' understanding of how international organizations operate on the ground and how they compare to each other, as well as to apply their critical thinking skills in order to elaborate on key managerial issues.

Teaching materials


The course relies on textbook chapters and additional chapters or articles, as indicated in the syllabus. The textbooks are available as e-books through the Bocconi library, and all the additional texts will be provided as PDFs on blackboard or as hyperlinks. Students do not need to purchase any material for this course.

Last change 10/12/2023 12:19