National Democratic Institute Reviews

Updated July 29, 2015
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2.4
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Kenneth Wollack
22 Ratings

Pros
  • Great people who mostly mean well (in 6 reviews)

  • Smart, talented junior staff who have good ideas and in tune with the types of changes needed to make meaningful institutional changes (in 5 reviews)

Cons
  • There is a very strong sense of "be seen but not heard" during team meetings, input from junior staff is strongly discouraged (in 6 reviews)

  • Very difficult to move from mid-level to senior level (in 4 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

36 Employee Reviews

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  1. Helpful (2)

    Wonderful Colleagues, Distant Leadership

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC

    I worked at National Democratic Institute (More than 5 years)

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    I could not imagine more engaged and intelligent colleagues than my coworkers at NDI. Each of them cared deeply about the work, and were dedicating their careers to the idea that governments should be responsive to citizens' priorities and needs.

    Cons

    Leadership at the regional/functional level is spotty, with some teams operating smoothly and happily, and other teams essentially falling apart at the seams for lack of leadership. At the highest levels, the culture is insular and uncommunicative. I'm not sure we'd had an all staff meeting in years by the time I left, and even all staff emails were clearly cut and pasted from notices that had gone out to senior managers separately. At the highest levels, there's a tendency to turn to the same faces and names over and over, creating a revolving door of 10 or so "experts" who come in for projects or to temporarily lead a team and then cycle back out but never really bring new ideas.

    Advice to Management

    I've heard through the grapevine that there is another push to improve communication with staff. I'm not optimistic, having lived through one of those already, but it's still welcome news. My strongest recommendation is the one thing that will never happen - to take a hard look at whether certain folks have given all they can give. NDI rewards loyalty, which is fantastic in theory but in practice creates a culture of complacency. It's a brave new world out there and there are many for-profit organizations chomping at the bit to get a piece of NDI's work. The Institute will need to be more nimble and much more willing to consider innovative ideas if it doesn't want to get left in the dust by Democracy Implementers 2.0


  2. Grants administrator

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Grants Administrator in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Grants Administrator in Washington, DC

    I worked at National Democratic Institute

    Doesn't Recommend
    Doesn't Recommend

    Pros

    A very nice and collegial environment. You can learn a lot.

    Cons

    Not very easy to move up in career. L

    Advice to Management

    None


  3. Program Assistant

    Former Employee - Project Assistant in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Project Assistant in Washington, DC

    I worked at National Democratic Institute full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    You have the opportunity to learn a lot of marketable skills (budget monitoring, report editing, liaising with field offices, etc). However, the different responsibilities are highly contingent on what team you are placed on.

    Cons

    Mostly administrative work. There isn't a lot of opportunity to engage in more substantial writing or research. There also aren't a lot of open positions within the organization at a higher level, so it's difficult to move out of the Program Assistant position (even if you wait around for a while).

    Advice to Management

    Offer Program Assistants more programmatic and less administrative work. Offer more opportunities for Program Assistants to receive skills training that would help them move up within the organization (or elsewhere).


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  5. Manager

    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC

    I worked at National Democratic Institute (More than a year)

    Approves of CEO
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Fighting for a great cause.

    Cons

    Needs process improvement in technology.


  6. It's a start, but it's a tough start

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Contractor - Project Assistant in Washington, DC
    Current Contractor - Project Assistant in Washington, DC

    I have been working at National Democratic Institute as a contractor (Less than a year)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Entry level positions in international development are extremely hard to find Well-known organization, looks good on the resume Some opportunities for learning Well-connected colleagues

    Cons

    Majority of work at entry-level positions is pure grunt administration, expect to do a lot of travel authorization forms for other employees and don't expect to use much you've learned in school, worse yet, grad school Not much experience gained in grants management, proposal writing, and the sorts of skills you want to build for a career in international development Project Assistants get a three-month contract that must be renewed, up to a maximum of three renewals- creates anxiety and complicates future planning

    Advice to Management

    Find a way to better coach entry-level staff on grants management and build the talent you'd like to hire full-time, instead of scrambling to fill gaps with whichever Project Assistant is currently around and deal with grants management challenges at that date


  7. Great junior and local staff, terrible management and internal communications

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Program Officer in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Senior Program Officer in Washington, DC

    I have been working at National Democratic Institute full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    NDI has offices all around the world, and the staff in those field offices are - by and large - fantastic and inspiring. International staff include former Members of Parliament (MPs) and other government office holders and elected leaders, as well as political party members, civil society activists, communications experts, electoral experts, and more. Plus local staff around the world are passionate and dedicated. NDI does really unique and effective work in many countries; however, NDI's success overwhelmingly depends on staff, so in countries where staff are not as committed, programs are not successful. If you are interested in politics and international development, and willing to work hard (but for very little money), NDI could be the place for you.

    Cons

    Salaries are low. Senior management in DC (and in many country offices) have been around for ages and are completely out of touch with their staff and the realities on the ground. Internal communication is virtually nonexistent. Junior staff carry the overwhelming burden of responsibility, but are very rarely recognized or rewarded (with promotions, raises, or even just a simple word of thanks).

    Advice to Management

    Leave and let new energy and ideas take over! Or at the very least, COMMUNICATE and recognize your staff. They do all the work and do not ask for anything in return - recognize them or you will lose them. Promote and give opportunities from within. Find ways to expose junior staff to the technical aspects of NDI's work. No one joins NDI because they want to be a paper-pusher.


  8. Helpful (2)

    Enter at your Own Risk

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Program Assistant in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Senior Program Assistant in Washington, DC

    I worked at National Democratic Institute full-time (More than a year)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Opportunities to meet senior officials from foreign governments, but junior staff are not encouraged to speak with said officials, just shake their hands. On-the-job language training speaking with staff in country offices and colleagues in the diverse DC office. NDI's high opinion of itself leads to over-hiring for junior positions, so colleagues at that level have diverse backgrounds and are interesting and quality people to get to know.

    Cons

    Everything else. I've never seen a culture more hierarchical, more regressive or more negative. Expect to be treated like an assembly line worker. You will be yelled at, denigrated, stifled, shushed, manipulated, intimidated, and poorly paid. All of NDI's funding (from taxpayers) is directed to $18,000 business class flights to Africa, 6-figure salaries for senior staff, and $500/day consultants tasked with doing the work they refuse to train junior staff to do.

    Advice to Management

    Look in the mirror.


  9. NDI is a good place to start a career in international or political affairs.

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Program Assistant in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Program Assistant in Washington, DC

    I worked at National Democratic Institute full-time (More than a year)

    Recommends
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Recommends
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Very interesting subject matter; lots of writing and chances to develop as a writer; occasional international travel; excellent program management experience; challenging work in general

    Cons

    Very hierarchical; very poor senior management; limited opportunities for advancement; again senior management is lacking - there are several dinosaurs among NDI's directors who contributes absolutely nothing to its mission and are a waste of resources.

    Advice to Management

    Get rid of the dinosaurs, including the president. Do a better job of preventing turnover.


  10. Helpful (1)

    Lots of bureaucracy

    Former Intern - Project Assistant in Washington, DC
    Former Intern - Project Assistant in Washington, DC

    I worked at National Democratic Institute as an intern

    Pros

    Talented people who care about their work - I was lucky to have an excellent manager who went out of her way to help me develop professionally. I think this was more due to her own motivation and qualities than to the overall culture of NDI though.

    Cons

    No opportunity for those talented people to actually make a difference as proposals, work streams etc. are recycled and not tailored to the actual situation.


  11. Helpful (4)

    Bureaucracy for a good cause.

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Program Manager in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Senior Program Manager in Washington, DC

    I have been working at National Democratic Institute full-time (More than 3 years)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Great people who mostly mean well. Awesome benefits. Nice plants in the office. Free coffee.

    Cons

    All encompassing bureaucracy makes it impossible to get things done. Way too many long term "time serving" employees. Terrible vending machines.

    Advice to Management

    Pay attention to junior employees. Stop empire building. Improve morale. Friday Fun days just don't cut it.



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