Case Study: Maura Kelly / PMM Strengthens the LEAP Program through Strong Execution, Strategic Partnerships & Community Engagement.


“LEAP is a fantastic initiative and I am delighted that the (Irish) Government is supporting it. Certainly, you will not just be accelerated in your career development, but you will get to where you out to be, which is at the helm.”

 – Ambassador Geraldine Byrne-Nason, Irish Mission, United Nations        


The Irish Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFA) wanted to support the next generation of women executives in New York. They partnered with the Irish International Business Network who recruited Maura Kelly to relaunch LEAP – the Leadership Executive Acceleration Program in 2019. (She was involved in the pilot program as a Senior Advisor). Maura was selected for her executive skills, network of C-Suite contacts and her deep understanding of the issues.

She built the team and recruited a Co-Director. Designed as an in-person program (pre Zoom) Maura saw the opportunity to build online digital resources and videotaped the workshops for the new LEAP YouTube Channel to engage a larger community around LEAP.

2020 Program Impact during Covid19 – See Impact Report 2020

The LEAP Program launched in January 2020, and held its official kick-off reception at Grant Thornton with keynote speaker, CEO and PR Hall of Fame inductee, Aedhmar Hynes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program went virtual in March and continued online until its completion in July 2020. The Program facilitated 10 virtual programs (Master Classes and Mixers) and partnered with two nonprofits on a strategic challenge: The Dwelling Place NY and Self Help Africa USA.

To build an alumni community and garner ongoing support, Maura created the LWCLEAP Women’s Council and recruited women who went through the program to support the current members, digital marketing efforts and community projects.

LEAP 2019 Program Highlights:

  • The 6-month in person leadership and social innovation program launched at Moet Hennessy USA with the support of CEO, Jim Clerkin.
  • Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ireland’s Representative to the United Nations and Chair of the UN Commission on the Status of Women was the keynote speaker.
  • Leading executives from Verizon, PepsiCo, Viacom, Merrill Lynch and more, participated.
  • Nonprofit partners, Solace House and the Aisling Irish Community Center (AICC) received strategic and marketing support through the LEAP in the Community project. 
  • LEAP was recognized by One Young World and included in its global Impact Report 2019 for its promotion of gender equality and workforce development. See press release.


The government’s Global Irish Emigrant Support Program (ESP) is designed to strengthen the global community and its bond with Ireland. They support the emerging needs of the Irish diaspora.

  • Knowing that women are highly underrepresented in leadership in the US, the Irish government wanted to support an immersive program for high-potential Irish and Irish American women and bolster their economic opportunity.


To address the leadership gap, we worked with the government to develop and launch LEAP 2019 so a cohort of next gen leaders will be ready to accelerate their careers and create their own economic opportunities.  To achieve this, we:

  • Built an agile team by recruiting a LEAP Co-Director (Courtney Sunna), and a program manager.
  • Designed, and continually improved the LEAP website and platform.
  • Recruited advisors, board members, volunteers, and supporters.
  • Developed programming, including workshops, talks, and speed mentoring.
  • Developed a customized curriculum with a multiplicity of learning situations.
  • Developed a strategic engagement plan and digital content marketing strategy.

We employed the following tactics

Intuitive Web Design: We designed a new website to incorporate LEAP Digital – a series of online learning modules (videos, transcripts) and an IMPACT section supported by robust data.

Outreach & Community Engagement: We reached out to a variety of business groups, business leaders, subject experts, and conducted a series of meetings to build a coalition of support.       

Example: Opportunity Desk, an online platform that connects young people to global opportunities published the LEAP announcement. Their website gets 600,000 hits/month. The post was shared 99 times and they also tweeted about LEAP (25K followers).


Strategic Partnerships

We cultivated relationships and partnerships with:

  • Leading companies: Verizon, Moet Hennessy, Grant Thornton & Bank of Ireland Innovation Lab.
  • International agencies: Irish Mission to the UN, Irish Consulate of New York, Training Women’s Network (TWN) Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland Bureau, NY.
  • Several companies provided venues for workshops and participated as hosts and speakers.
“The hugely important thing about having women in leadership roles in business is that it creates a different type of decision making and a different environment inside the workplace. LEAP creates role models and it improves the quality of thinking in leadership. The more diverse a board or a leadership group can be, the better the outcomes for the business.”

 – Ronan Dunne, EVP and CEO of Verizon Consumer Group


Program Design and Data Analysis

  • We created LEAP Academy (professional development) and LEAP in the Community (team projects)
  • Developed a customized curriculum with a multiplicity of learning situations including action learning, individual assessments, expert coaching, and team projects
  • Gathered DATA and tracked improvements in skills through a series of pre and post-learning surveys conducted by an external evaluator, SemperClarus Consulting LLC.

LEAP Academy: Through an admission survey, we focused on the skills the women wanted to work on, such as effective leadership tactics, negotiations, personal branding and networking, financial power and managing teams.

Results: Working with a coalition of groups, we’ve increasing LEAP’s profile and built a pipeline of female leaders – ensuring the growth of the brand’s influence.

Our post event survey data proves that LEAP content is highly relevant and useful.  Highlights:

  • Speakers & Mentors. We collaborated with over a dozen high profile female executives from Viacom and PepsiCo to Northwell Health, Moet Hennessy and Merrill Lynch to name a few. 
  • Gains in Leadership, Professional and Business Skills Reported by Data Analysis
    • As reported by LEAP Participants, 100% will utilize the tools and advice learned from LEAP to advance their careers, while 71% will use it to impact workplace dynamics and grow visibility. The initial results are:


  • We have directly provided dozens of women with tools to excel in their careers, and 100’s more when the women shared the materials with colleagues.
  • With LEAP Digital, we have the opportunity to share resources with a virtual global audience.

LEAP in the Community: We identified and recruited two nonprofit organizations (Solace House and Aisling Irish Community Center) to work with LEAP in the Community teams, resulting in improved organizational strategies and branding.

Working under the supervision of the directors, the teams developed strategic plans, fundraising decks, and identified resources to support the organizations. More broadly, they learned effective corporate social responsibility practices.


Results: Through LEAP in the Community surveys, our nonprofit partners have rated their satisfaction with the LEAP Program as a 10 out of 10.  They stated that LEAP played a major role in strengthening their organizational and fundraising capacity.  Their brands are stronger and their influence is growing.  Over 93% of LEAP women reported that the knowledge they gained through the program was applied to the projects.         

“Solace House is now better equipped with documentation and strategy plans focusing on expanding our programs and organizational structure… Through a workshop on effective fundraising practices, Solace House was able to secure over $90,000 in additional revenue for our upcoming Solace Sunrise Walk.”  

– Danielle Gallagher, Director of Operations at Solace House

“Working with LEAP was of great benefit to us as it helped us focus on our strategic plan and identify the areas we needed to prioritize… As a result, LEAP helped us set measurable goals, re-evaluate our programs and services based on community need, and they created a pitch-deck presentation for potential corporate donors.”

– Catherine Flood, Executive Director of the AICC

Conclusion: Building a pipeline for female leaders & inspiring social change for good.

Since 2019, LEAP has grown into a strong, effective community force. Working with a coalition of business organizations, corporate executives, and nonprofit partners, LEAP has developed leadership skills in the next generation of female leaders; and impacted the community by strengthening the capacity of several nonprofit organizations. With the LEAP Women’s Council, the alumni community will grow. In 2021, Maura stepped back from the day to day and continues to support the program as a Senior Advisor.