International Organizations Management

For each course in my homemade MBA curriculum, I will provide before-and-after commentary – think of it as a Coursera course review.  The before section will cover my expectations going into the course and any specific reasons I chose to take it.  The after section will be a reflection of what I thought of the course (format, material, professor, workload, etc.), what I learned vs. what I expected to learn, and whether or not I would recommend it to others (and why).  I hope this Coursera course-review format is useful for the rest of you out there who are making your own homemade MBAs using Coursera.


Homemade MBA Coursera course: International Organizations Management


  • Parent University:  University of Geneva
  • Description: This course provides an overview of the management challenges international organizations & NGOs are faced with. You will learn key theoretical frameworks and practical tools to excel in this environment


Chosen to replicate HBS MBA course: Leadership and Organizational Behavior

  • Description:  This course focuses on how managers become effective leaders by addressing the human side of enterprise.


Expectations going in:

  • I want to learn some of the nuances and challenges of managing international organizations, and to learn some of the basics of managing non-profit organizations.

Specific reasons I chose this course:

  • I chose this course because it fills a gap in my Homemade MBA curriculum.  As most of my courses so far focus on technical business fundamentals, the gap this course should address is the human element of managing multinational companies.  I also chose this course as an introduction to non-profits, as I have no experience in this area.



My thoughts of the course:

  • Format – good
    • This class used the tried-and-true method of video lectures followed by multiple choice quizzes.  There were also a few free-response essay questions, as well as some required participation in the discussion forums.  One novel aspect of this class was that there were different presenters for each section of the class – i.e. each subject matter expert presented on their area of expertise, so every week we heard from a new professor or professors.  This novel approach made the class lack a bit of continuity, but kept each week fresh and interesting as we got to “meet” and learn from new instructors.
Multiple professors in International Organizations Management

Multiple professors in International Organizations Mgmt

    • One more note on the format of this course – I liked that there was only one deadline for completing all the material – the end of the course.  This allowed us to self-pace throughout the course, without suffering any grade penalties for “late” work.  As a professional working full-time while taking these courses, formats like this are much appreciated as they allow me, the student, to work through the material as my own schedule permits.
  • Material – good
    • The video lectures for this class were high quality, and the slides that accompanied them were pretty good as well.
Formal look and feel of International Organizations Management

Formal look and feel of International Organizations Mgmt

    • The material varied in focus from one week to another, based on the professor that was presenting and his/her style.  The material in some weeks was very structured and direct, whereas in other weeks the material (or, the professor) tended to ramble a bit and go off on tangents.  This was mildly entertaining because the class was only 6 weeks.  However, if this was a longer class, the lack of consistency might become distracting.
  • Professor – multiple!
    • As I mentioned above, this class had many professors.  While I like the idea of having each specialist present on his/her area of expertise, I didn’t like the variation in styles and content.  I think this class would benefit from limiting the number of professors to two or three, while having each professor do two or three weeks each.  This way there could be a little more consistency in the delivery of course material.
  • Workload – very light
    • There’s no way around it – this was an easy class.  Let it be known that this isn’t a criticism, nor a complaint!  It’s ok to have an easy class now and then, and this was just that.  It was a very basic, introductory level course that served its purpose to inform those of us who are completely unfamiliar with the subject matter to a basic level of understanding.
  • Other
    • A side-note for the Americans out there reading this site: this class was from the University of Geneva, and was my first non-US-based class in my Homemade MBA curriculum.  As an American who is living and working outside of the US, I think it is very important for Americans to get more exposure to the world beyond the US border.  Although this class was presented in English, and covered a relatively non-controversial subject area, it was still good to learn a little about the (in this case) European perspective on international issues.

What I learned vs. what I expected to learn

  • To be honest, I expected a lot more of a human resources (HR) slant to this class.  I was hoping to see more content focused around managing the people in the organizations, instead of the organizational and regulatory structures themselves.  That said, I did learn a lot about how international organizations (the UN in particular) are organized, and developed an appreciation for some of the political complexities of operating on an international, human-rights level.


  • Yes and No.

Why/Why not

  • I would recommend this course to those who are interested in learning about the UN and similar international organizations because this course does provide a good introduction to this subject.
  • I would not recommend this course to those looking to learn about the human element of managing people or teams in a multinational company.

Int'l Orgs Management SoA

As a reminder, each course of my homemade MBA curriculum replicates a course from Harvard Business School’s first-year Required Curriculum (as noted here in my post explaining how I made my homemade MBA curriculum).


If you have any thoughts or questions about this course or my review of it, please let me know in the comments section below.

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