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Developing citizen leadership in Myanmar: the DeBoer fellowship

Timothy Steffensmeier (Communication Studies, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)
Julia Fabris McBride (Kansas Leadership Center, Wichita, Kansas, USA)
Peter Dove (DeBoer Foundation, Yangon, Myanmar)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 9 May 2016




The purpose of this paper is to understand the impact of the DeBoer fellowship, a citizen leadership development program in Myanmar. The challenge in Myanmar of catalyzing transformative change facing government and civil society cannot be overstated. Autocratic, centralized, and a traits-based approach to leadership has been, until recently, the primary way to assess leaders in Myanmar. In this dynamic civic context, new ways of leading and learning are needed.


Interviews of DeBoer fellowship alumni were analyzed using a single case study method. The project focuses on individual participants of the program as the primary unit of analysis. In addition, direct observation and contributions from DeBoer fellowship administration and faculty were used to describe this case study.


The DeBoer fellows understood their challenge as one of energize others, a concept of adaptive leadership. Moreover, individuals experienced deep degrees of transformational development. Civic agency was the least noticable concept that was studied.

Research limitations/implications

Future research could more explicitly measure and examine the degree to which civic agency is being nurtured in leadership development programs.

Practical implications

Civic leadership curriculum designers should be more conscious of adult development theory when choosing programming objectives and activities.

Social implications

Leadership development initatives in more authoritative systems can be effective developmental experiences for participants who are motivated to improve their organizations and communities.


To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first effort to analyze a citizen leadership program in Myanmar.



Steffensmeier, T., McBride, J.F. and Dove, P. (2016), "Developing citizen leadership in Myanmar: the DeBoer fellowship", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 129-142.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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