Alnoor Ebrahim

Associate Professor of Business Administration

Alnoor Ebrahim is an Associate Professor in the General Management Unit, and in the Social Enterprise Initiative, at the Harvard Business School. His research and teaching focus on the challenges of performance management, accountability, and governance facing social sector organizations. He is also affiliated with the Hauser Institute for Civil Society at the Center for Public Leadership, Harvard University.

Professor Ebrahim is author of the award-winning book, NGOs and Organizational Change: Discourse, Reporting, and Learning (Cambridge University Press, 2003 and 2005), and is co-editor, with Edward Weisband, of Global Accountabilities: Participation, Pluralism, and Public Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2007), which compares accountability dilemmas in nonprofits, business, and government. He has been the recipient of awards for best article in the journals Nonprofit Management and Leadership, and the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.

He teaches the MBA required course, "FIELD 3" and an elective course "Managing Social Enterprise." He has previously taught  "Leadership and Organizational Behavior" (LEAD), and "Leading and Governing High-Performing Nonprofit Organizations." In the HBS executive education portfolio, Professor Ebrahim servers as faculty chair of "Governing for Nonprofit Excellence" and co-chair of  "Performance Measurement of Effective Management of Nonprofit Organizations" while also teaching in "Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management."

Through his research and case writing, Ebrahim examines the challenges of performance measurement and accountability facing social sector organizations, impact investors, and their boards. He is currently involved in research with a range of social sector organizations, from new socioeconomic hybrids to well-established global NGOs and foundations. His professional work has included commissioned reports on civil society relations with the World Bank, on NGO accountability at the Inter-American Development Bank, as well as projects with a number of nongovernmental organizations over the past two decades, such as CIVICUS: The World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., the Tata Energy Research Institute in New Delhi, and the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in western India.

Prior to joining the faculty of the Harvard Business School, Alnoor Ebrahim was the Wyss Visiting Scholar at HBS, and a Visiting Associate Professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He also taught at Virginia Tech for several years, where he was a founding codirector of the Institute for Governance and Accountabilities. He holds a BSc degree from MIT (1991) in civil and environmental engineering, and a PhD from Stanford University (1999), where he studied environmental planning and management.

  1. Sizing Up Social Impact

    Quantifying results in the social sector comes down to the tricky work of measuring social good.
  2. Let's Be Realistic About Measuring Impact

    "Measure impact" has become a mantra for creating social change. Claims about making a difference are no longer sufficient; evidence of how much difference you're making is now required. We should applaud this trend, because results are sometimes ambiguous and claims often go unsubstantiated. But does it really make sense for all mission-driven organizations to measure their long-term impact on society?
  3. Global Accountabilities

    Accountability is seen as an essential feature of governments, businesses and NGOs. This volume treats it as a socially constructed means of control that can be used by the weak as well as the powerful. It contributes analytical depth to the diverse debates on accountability in modern organizations by exploring its nature, forms and impacts in civil society organizations, public and inter-governmental agencies and private corporations. The contributors draw from a range of disciplines to demonstrate the inadequacy of modern rationalist prescriptions for establishing and monitoring accountability standards, arguing that accountability frameworks attached to principal-agent logics and applied universally across cultures typically fail to achieve their objectives. By examining a diverse range of empirical examples and case studies, this book underscores the importance of grounding accountability procedures and standards in the divergent cultural, social and political settings in which they operate.

  4. U.S. Congressional Hearing: The World Bank’s Disclosure Policy Review and the Role of Democratic Participatory Processes in Achieving Successful Development Outcomes

    Testimony of Alnoor Ebrahim, Associate Professor, Harvard University before the Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives, September 10, 2009, Washington, D.C.

    Video of the hearing can be seen here.
  5. NGOs and Organizational Change

    The organizational dynamics of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become increasingly complex as they have evolved from small local groups into sophisticated multinational organizations with global networks. Alnoor Ebrahim's study analyses the organizational evolution of NGOs as a result of their increased profile as bilateral partners in delivering aid. Focusing on the relationships between NGOs and their international network of funders, it examines not only the tensions created by the reporting requirement of funders, but also the strategies of resistance employed by NGOs. Ebrahim shows that systems of reporting, monitoring, and learning play essential roles in shaping not only what NGOs do but, more importantly, how they think about what they do. The book combines original case studies and research with an extensive review of literature. It draws from multiple fields including organizational behaviour, social and critical theory, civil society studies, and environmental and natural resource management.