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Identifying future leaders of a UN Agency

A leading UN agency found it needed new skill sets in its country representatives. The demands of the roles were changing and representatives faced: a need for greater inter-agency collaboration, lack of continued funding, changes in social and political ideology, and a need for stronger integration of new technology, among other challenges. The agency called on Dalberg to design and run leadership assessment centers to find suitable candidates in a transparent, independent, and objective evaluation process.


We took a “strategy-first” approach. This involved conducting stakeholder interviews, workshops, and focus group discussions to understand how the external landscape is likely to change, and what role the agency wants to take in that environment. The interviewees included 38 respondents from the Deputy High Commissioner down to the field level, as well as external partners. We studied existing competency frameworks and collated best practices from other relevant organizations to create a framework to assess Country Representative applicants.


Based on our research and interviews, we designed an assessment center for aspirants of the Country Representative role. The assessment center is a holistic way of judging on-the-job capabilities to ensure that the agency could find the right candidates to fill each role. Those aspiring to leadership positions in the agency found our assessments to be fair and independent – even those who did not perform particularly well rated the assessment highly.

Having carried out the pilot, the UN agency has decided to run another batch of leaders through it. The outcomes will be used to inform the decision-making process for the appointment of one of the most crucial and empowered positions in the UN – part of the foundation for future development planning.

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