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2017/2018  KAN-CCBLV1003U  A consultants approach to UN reform: Understanding, challenging and improving the UN Development System

English Title
A consultants approach to UN reform: Understanding, challenging and improving the UN Development System

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Min. participants 35
Max. participants 50
Study board
Study Board for BSc og MSc in Business, Language and Culture, MSc
Course coordinator
  • Center for Business and Development Studies
    Michael Wendelboe Hansen - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
  • IKL
    Stig Tackmann - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Main academic disciplines
  • Organization
  • Political leadership and public management
  • Project and change management
Last updated on 20-02-2017

Relevant links

Learning objectives
To achieve the grade 12, students should meet the following learning objectives with no or only minor mistakes or errors: After concluding the course, students should
  • Demonstrate a thorough understanding of UN Development Systems’ objectives, institutional and organizational challenges, and position in a complex multilateral environment
  • Possess in-depth knowledge of international political theories that support and challenges multilateralism, and the ability to critically assign these theories in deliberations on the functionality, relevance and importance of the UN Development System
  • Hold the ability to perform analysis of UN Development System performance based on qualitative and quantitative evidence, and present considerate implication analyses and recommendations for improvement of the UN Development System
  • Manage to critically assess and reflect upon methods, theories, and conclusions in own and others’ work
A consultants approach to UN reform: Understanding, challenging and improving the UN Development System:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Written assignment
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content and structure

Development is usually described as one of the three main pillars of the UN, the others being international peace and security; and human rights and humanitarian action. As distinct from the other two pillars, the various organizations that make up the UN Development System (UNDS) share long-term development objectives and subscribe to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The system undertakes the ‘operational activities’ that account for about 60 percent of total annual UN spending (over US$ 13 billion), employing 50,000 people, a majority of the organization’s full-time staff. In total, the UNDS includes more than 30 organizations, headquarters in 14 countries and about 1,000 representative offices globally.


Managing operations of this caliber is complex. Yet, delivering development impact is even more challenging. This course dives into the current debate on the functionality, effectiveness and impact of the UNDS by applying a consultant’s approach – specifically focusing on how to analyze, evaluate and propose concrete solutions to increased operational effectiveness of the system and its individual organizations. 


First of all, we will explore the history, politics, and governance structures of the UN and UNDS to gain a thorough understanding of the system’s mandate, structure and role. Secondly, using recent quantitative and qualitative survey material from the FUNDs project (http://futureun.org/en/) and input from UN staff from the UN City in Copenhagen (pending scheduling), we attempt to perform considerate implication analyses of the status of the current system, build hypotheses regarding potential change and present recommendations for improvements using a consultancy tool-box.


The course consists of four intertwined modules:


Module 1: Understanding and analyzing the UNDS

  • Introduction to the history, mandate, structure and role of the UN in general and UNDS specifically
  • Outline of institutional and organizational challenges facing the UNDS and understanding the system’s position in a complex international environment
  • Outline of past and current reform initiatives and their impact
  • Discussions on challenges to and barriers for increased effectiveness, efficiency and impact of the UNDS


Module 2: Coping with global development challenges

  • Understanding international development as drive for change in the past 25 years, focusing specifically on the MDGs, SDGs, Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, and private sector interventions such as mobile phone technology, medicines, micro-financing etc.
  • The UNDS as a global development actor in an ever expanding field of stakeholders, interests and funds. Applying an analytical framework to understand the transformation that has characterized international development thinking the past 20 years.
  • Understanding the performance of the UNDS – introduction to quantitative and qualitative data pool


Module 3: Analyzing the performance of the UNDS – exploring new insights

  • Introduction to the basic consultancy tool-box, including hypotheses building and testing, quantitative and qualitative data analysis, implication analyses and recommendations.
  • Building on the available performance data, students will (in consultant teams of 3-4) be asked to select an organization, which they want to explore and analyze, using the insights obtained in module 1 and 2 and leveraging the basic consultancy tool-kit.
  • Tentatively, a series of 2-3 work/writeshops of 2 hours will be conducted to support the analytical work. The work will result in students presenting a 5-10 slide PowerPoint that includes I) ingoing hypothesis, II) analysis (based in available data), III) implication analysis and IV) recommendations for the area, organization or priority area


Module 4: Presenting findings to the UN

  • Introduction to presentation tools, including story lining, building persuasive narratives and presenting to “clients”
  • Presentation of consultant teams’ findings. Tentatively to relevant UN staff from the UN City in Copenhagen.
Teaching methods
• Faculty: The course will be taught by CBS faculty and Dalberg Project Manager Stig Tackmann, all with ample experience working with the UN system. Practical application of theories and methods will be focus of teaching sessions.

• Lectures and discussions: A key prerequisite for a successful experience in this course is active participation. To this end, students will be expected to prepare discussion sessions and take turn on leading various exercises. Specifically, students will be placed into consultancy teams of 3-4. The teams will work with a number of assigned tasks throughout the semester, including preparation of analyzes, presentations and “client engagement” . For each lecture, there will be a consultancy case play, involving a consultancy tool/framework, a background text and a number of core questions that the teams should work with and present to the client (the lecturer and a feedback group)

• Work/writeshops: Focused working sessions with supervision that will help build cases, narratives, analyses etc.

• Literature: Teaching, assignments and final exam will be based on app. 800 pages of relevant theoretical and practitioners’ literature.
Feedback during the teaching period
Feedback will be conducted in several ways:

Feedback for Students:
- Feedback on student presentations: Individualized feedback on presentation performance, understanding of subject, group dynamics, and powerpoints
- Feedback on written exam

Feedback on course:
- Students able to provide oral feedback at the end of each class
- Students requested to provide mid-term feedback and final feedbacn in class
Student workload
Forberedelse 105 hours
Undervisning 30 hours
Eksamen 46 hours
Planlægning 25 hours
Expected literature
  • Browne, Stephen & Tom Weiss (2014). ‘Introduction: The UN we want for the world we want’, in Stephen Browne & Thomas G. Weiss (ed.), Post-2015 UN Development – Making Change Happen. New York, USA: Routledge
  • Browne, Stephen (2010). Fact book on the UN Development System. Geneva, Switzerland, The Funds Project (online: https:/​/​www.wiltonpark.org.uk/​wp-content/​uploads/​wp1033-funds-fact-book.pdf)
  • Burtonshaw-Gunn, Simon A. (2010). Essential tools for management consulting – Tools, models and approaches for clients and consultants. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Son
  • Charter of the United Nations (1945). (online: http:/​/​www.humanrightseducation.info/​images/​stories/​pdf/​UNcharter.pdf
  • Degnbol-Martinussen & Poul Engberg-Pedersen (2005). Aid: Understanding International Development Cooperation. Copenhagen, Denmark: Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke
  • Murphy, Craig N. (2014). ‘Evolution of the UN Development System’, in Stephen Browne & Thomas G. Weiss (ed.), Post-2015 Un Development – Making Change Happen. New York, USA: Routledge.
  • O’Brian, Richard (2014). ‘Drivers of change for the UN’s future role’, in Stephen Browne & Thomas G. Weiss (ed.), Post-2015 Un Development – Making Change Happen. New York, USA: Routledge.
  • Rittberger, Volker, Bernhard Zangl & Andreas Kruck (2012). International Organization. New York, USA: Palgrave MacMillian
  • Skogmo, Bjørn (2014). ‘UN roles and principles governing multilateral assistance’, in Stephen Browne & Thomas G. Weiss (ed.), Post-2015 Un Development – Making Change Happen. New York, USA: Routledge.
  • Weinlich, Silke (2014). ‘Funding the UN System’, in Stephen Browne & Thomas G. Weiss (ed.), Post-2015 Un Development – Making Change Happen. New York, USA: Routledge.
Last updated on 20-02-2017