World Organization for Animal Health

Awakening Collective Intelligence to Bring in a New ExCom Leadership Model

Bringing project-model proactive participation from senior managers to drive the new 5-year strategic roadmap.


by Nancy Bragard


The World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) is a global intergovernmental organization that enhances transparency and cooperation in animal disease control. They promote sustainable animal production to ensure food safety and security. It plays a crucial role in safeguarding animal health and welfare worldwide.

The newly appointed Director General displayed a willingness to build a leadership model founded on her ExCom’s engagement in her strategy. She invited the 14 members of her ExCom team to take initiative in their functions, bring projects forward, encourage participatory leadership within their own teams and create a collectively responsible executive entity. To this end, she launched the project of a one-day workshop, entitled “Coming Together to Create Change”.

The assistant to the Director General was a strong believer in the benefits of awakening collective wisdom among people who are committed to their work, impassioned by the overall mission, and responsible for their mandates.

Key to awakening this collective wisdom was creating a safe space to allow managers to speak up, to contribute ideas and projects and know that their input was valued. This was the foundational intention for the day so that the entire ExCom team could take ownership of driving the new roadmap.


A participatory workshop for highly intelligent veterinarians is no easy mission! Their mental model is that when a group comes together, it’s to learn something technically complex, not to exchange ideas and co-create new possibilities. There was, in light of this, some skepticism around this event.

The day began with the new DG sharing her vision and the new 5-year strategic roadmap, stating that the intention of the day was to have this be everyone’s roadmap, not just hers. The facilitators (the DG’s assistant and Nancy) then solicited reactions to this presentation, both appreciative and challenging. Once this level playing field created common understanding of the journey forward, through participatory methodologies, the facilitators gave the floor to the ExCom to express their ideas, projects, reservations and ways to overcome them.

The day progressively gave more and more substance to the unfolding of the roadmap. And the last activity brought forward the first concrete steps in each of the targeted areas of action.

What we did:

  • Hear from the DG in plenary (along with her deputy DG) on her vision and the key points of the roadmap for the next 5 years
  • Allow authentic and candid reception of that information posted on a board … and subsequent replies to questions and doubts
  • An Open Space, turning the agenda over to the ExCom to address topics they felt needed attention in order to take a more proactive role in the ExCom
  • A World Café on prioritized actions to identify concrete next steps hosted by the person in charge of that function
  • In a 1-day workshop, sensitize an executive team to the power of collective intelligence, making visible its benefits of bringing the actors of a system to be the authors of change that’s been invited.

My ExCom meetings since the workshop last forever! ExCom members have lots to bring to them, everyone has something to say!

— The Director General

We’ve done subsequent workshops unleashing collective intelligence… but that first one is still in our minds, the one that really marked a difference in our way of working and being.

— An ExCom member

"The animal brings something extra: loyalty and selflessness. Total love. A love without borders, without end." Brigitte Bardot

Nancy Bragard


Nancy is an expert in the awakening of collective intelligence and a firm believer of the empowerment conferred through participatory methodologies, bringing people together in conversation to initiate change. As a bi-cultural and bi-national Franco-American, she is also a specialist of intercultural management, sensitizing managers to the impact culture has on our attitudes and behaviors.



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