Program Vs. Project – A Guide to Program Management

By John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

JohnCropperAgain and again I am struck by our sector’s tendency to over-complicate; taking something that is already challenging and making it even more difficult.  I see so many projects; health, education and so on, and when I look at the details of each one I see large, multi-million dollar budgets, multi-year plans, multiple areas of intervention – and sometimes multiple countries….. and I realize these aren’t projects, they are programs!  I could go on about how the donor funding environment is a major driver of this, but let’s save that for another time and focus on programs versus projects.

Program Vs. Project

If we structure our work as one large project, it will be extremely complex.  Budgets will be massive, risk registers will read like books, plans will be vast, assigning roles and accountabilities will be complicated– and everything will be interlinked.  If we can break this mass of work down into smaller units, i.e. projects, we make things simpler.  Plans are easier to understand if they involve a specific piece of work such as building a single healthcare center rather than improving health outcomes for hundreds of thousands of people spread over three countries. It becomes easier to manage, comprehend and control.   Just how do you deal with a change in a vast mega project? How do we even understand the implications throughout the project?

A Guide to Program Management

Clearly, there is no magic solution. Turning a mega-project into a program with a series of smaller, more concrete projects raises its own issues. How do we manage the program? Who will do this? What skills do they need? How do they coordinate across projects? How do they ensure that the projects are working together to deliver all the anticipated benefits?  Help is on the way! Building on the success of PMDPro (8000 people have now been through the certification), LINGOs, PM4NGOs and APMG are working together to write a Guide to Program Management and this will eventually be linked to a certification.

Programs are all about achieving outcomes for our beneficiaries and linking up to organisational strategies at country, regional and global levels. As such, they are at the heart of our work and I hope that the new Guide and certification will make a helpful contribution to improving program design, planning, management and delivery – and I hope that we are able to offer a pilot course in the fall of 2014.

“When Can I Do PMDPro 2?”

By John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

JohnCropper“When can I do PMDPro 2?” This is pretty much always the first question that I get asked as soon as people have passed PMDPro 1! I always suggest that people spend a few months putting the tools into action in their projects before they think about level 2. However, as more than seven thousand people have been through the level one certification, the question – and providing an answer – has become more pressing.

What is PMD Pro?

The Project Management in Development (PMD Pro) is a certification which has been developed with experts from several of the world’s best-known and highly regarded non-governmental organizations. These organizations are committed to improving the use of the resources entrusted to them for development, relief and conservation projects. The PMD Pro certification is seen as an important benchmark for continuous improvement.


There are currently two examination levels within the qualification scheme, PMD Pro Level 1 and PMD Pro Level 2. Certification is offered through APMG-International.

Pilot of Blended Online Course

Through September and October, LINGOs piloted our first blended PMDPro 2 course. We had organised face to face courses before but we really wanted a blended option that would allow people the flexibility to work and learn together. At the same time, many iNGOs may not have enough staff in a given country to make a face to face course cost effective – another reason for wanting a blended option.

So, how did it go? Overall, I believe it was a great success. The group filled up very quickly and we had people from fifteen different organisations and countries. Completing PMDPro 1 is a pre-requisite, so the level of project management knowledge in the group was high – as we anticipated – and from an instructor’s point of view, it was very rewarding to be able to ‘go deep’ and really focus on participants’ project management challenges and issues.

PMDPro 2 Course Structure

The course follows the same format as the level one blended courses: 4 weeks, online facilitated classes, structured reading, assignments, participation in a community and asynchronous learning via PMTV- a rather grand name for a series of project management videos we have developed that focus on how to apply the tools to projects. We seek to help participants get ready for the PMDPro 2 certification – but also cover more advanced material and really focus on application and how to get the tools to work in practice. To help with this, we provide bonus readings to help participants explore areas of interest in more depth.

What difference does this make?

Well, the pilot has just finished but one participant said she hoped there would be: “a consistent process of project management on the organisation level; more cooperation/engagement between different departments; more effective and successful projects, increased reputation of the organisation”. I couldn’t put it better myself!

Interested?

LINGOs is running the next PMDPro 2 blended course in January. For information on dates, times, and fees and to register: 

Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro2) Course / January 7th - 30th, 2014

Read more about LINGOs Member Experience with PMD Pro

5 Reasons Blended Learning is Going Viral at Rainforest Alliance

Blended approach gets learning to where learners are

What’s Project Management Training Got to do with International Women’s Day?

The Virtual Palava Hut: Building a Global Community of Learning

Guest Post By Paige Layno Winn, FHI 360

PaigeWinn

In some African countries, the Palava Hut is the central space for social networking, informal learning, and conflict resolution. It’s a place that welcomes locals and guests alike. It’s the cultural hub of a village—a place that promotes dialogue between people of diverse opinions, backgrounds, and cultures.

How do you create community in a virtual learning space?

You might say that an NGO’s training classroom is like a Palava Hut—the organizational learning hub. So how do you create that same sense of community in a virtual learning space?  The Learning and Development (L+D) team at FHI 360 has been working on creative ways to do just that.

This year, we launched a series of live, virtual learning events called Cross-Sector Cafés—regular one-hour interactive discussions led by country offices and staff from across FHI 360’s 11 practice areas. Facilitators lead sessions held via virtual classroom (Blackboard Collaborate), giving brief introductions and highlights of staff/programs, with much of the time devoted for Q&A from attendees. This year’s topics include:

  • Integrating gender programs
  • Exploring FHI 360’s disability projects and resources
  • Strengthening economic systems in developing countries
  • Extending information delivery and data collection in low resource environments
  • Developing sustainable solutions to environmental protection
  • Introducing staff and projects in country offices, including Nepal, Kenya, and Thailand
  • And more!

Cross Sector Dialogue via Collaborative Platform

1Cafe 360 screenshotAfter each session, follow up discussions are posted on Café 360, a collaborative networking site we built using the professional social networking platform, Ning. Café 360 is designed to promote cross-sector dialogue between staff through discussion boards, videos, and other cross-sector collaboration tools. Café 360 also provides us a place to post recorded Cross-Sector Cafés , so colleagues who couldn’t attend a synchronous session still have access. And, as a bonus, we have a nice library of virtual interactions between staff that can be accessed anywhere, anytime!

Café 360 has been a great resource where staff share profiles and photos, as well as a place for L+D to post pictures of live, in-country learning events and learning materials. We’ve also set up content interest groups so staff can direct questions to the relevant people. For example, we have a learning champions group on Café 360 where champions can post LMS or eLearning-related questions and get quick responses—often real-time answers in their time zones.

Another outcome of Café 360 is that others are now using technologies like Blackboard Collaborate to facilitate virtual learning across their own global teams. Groups are also seeing the advantage of adopting professional networking sites (such as Ning) and are exploring similar platforms for communities of practice and FHI 360 as a whole. As a result, learners are collaborating across geographies and practices areas, and staff are building their virtual training skills when they facilitate Cross-Sector Cafés.

NGOs often face hurdles with expense, skill, and technology infrastructure. But with a growing variety of social media and mobile learning tools, you’re sure to find one that fits your budget, size, and capacity. In the spirit of a LINGOs Palava Hut, contact me if you’d like to talk about getting started with a virtual strategy to increase global collaboration and learning with your teams. Or better yet—let’s catch up over coffee at this year’s LINGOs member meeting!

Eventbrite - LINGOs 2013 Member Meeting

The  LINGOs 2013 Member Meeting takes place October 16 & 17 in Washington, DC. Staff of all LINGOs Member Organizations are welcome to register and attend.  Sessions are tailored for our members: to help you give your learners a  “buzz”, help you use a mixture of resources to “blend” your  program and give you ideas to make maximum use of the limited  “bandwidth” we all have available – both figuratively and literally.

5 reasons blended learning on project management is going viral at Rainforest Alliance

What would it take to get your organization abuzz about learning?

RA-logoThe Rainforest Alliance’s Patti Lukas found that blended learning was a key to scoring a low-cost, quick win in learning new skills and bringing in a new approach to project management. Rainforest Alliance (RA) worked with LINGOs to introduce a new approach to project management. Shortly after starting with RA in November, Patti got in touch with LINGOs and learned about the blended courses on project management, which appeared to meet an immediate need at RA. She and LINGOs Director of Project Services John Cropper used a capacity assessment tool to as a way to understand organizational strengths and weaknesses in project management and explored options to bring capacity building in project management to RA on a global scale.

In addition to providing training resources in project management, the LINGOs Project Services work is an active learning laboratory, testing innovative learning approaches with NGOs working in international development and humanitarian relief.  As we’ve noted in past posts, blended gets learning to where the learners are and provides some quick wins for an international NGO with a diverse globally dispersed workforce and limited resources.

Having identified an organizational need to strengthen skills and build a unified approach to project management, Rainforest Alliance  contracted with LINGOs to run four-week blended learning courses (one in English and one in Spanish) for 79 of their project managers around the world. Similar to the Open Course starting this week, participants in the dedicated Rainforest Alliance 4-week blended learning courses spent about six to eight hours per week on learning: two 90 minute virtual classroom events per week and about 3 hours in self-paced eLearning and individual assignments, as well as participating in asynchronous discussions in the course’s community platform.

As more RA staff heard about the blended learning that had gotten underway, another 18 signed up for open courses that LINGOs was running in English and Spanish in March and more registered for the May course getting underway this week (For more info, see: http://may2013-4weekpmdpro.eventbrite.com)   RA is preparing to offer another round of dedicated RA blended learning course in July.

Five reasons that blended learning goes viral

1. Knowledge gain is equal or greater than face to face

Because the project management training is linked to a standardized exam of knowledge, the PMD Pro 1 exam, it’s relatively easy to evaluate knowledge gain from different learning approaches and to determine differences in the pass-rate across different learning modalities. Our learning laboratory results show that blended results are comparable to or better than face to face training with regards to PMDPro results. Among the 79 Rainforest Alliance staff from the two blended courses, only 2 did not pass the PMD Pro exam on first attempt. When LINGOs ran a pilot with Oxfam in East Africa last year, blended pass rates were 100% as opposed to 75% in F2F trainings (See this post for more information). Blended approaches give people more time to absorb and internalize content and they can do the exam when they are ready. This finding is consistent with a recent New York Times article on MOOCs.

2. Lower costs allows learning to scale

 RA-blog discussion1In these days of budget cuts and “doing more with less,” Rainforest Alliance contracted with LINGOs for two, month-long blended courses, one in English and one in Spanish, for the approximate cost of three week-long work trips from New York to Africa.   Had the trips been face to face, there would likely have been several international trips by some of the 79 RA participants and trainers. In addition, RA avoided the “hidden” opportunity costs of face-to-face training (when participants attend an all-day or all-week event, other works slows significantly if does not come to a complete stop). In addition, as the blended learning course took place over a month, RA staff could work as they learned, and had the opportunity to apply their new learning and come back to the facilitator and group with questions and comments. The discussion forum was so successful that RA is creating a similar one internally to continue and grow such cross-cutting conversations.

3. Learning where the Learner Is means greater diversity among participants

For learners, the ability to participate in a course from where you are, rather than traveling to it, enables greater diversity of participation. In the case of the RA English-language course, similar to what we found with Oxfam in Africa [http://lingos.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/pm-training-_women/], 63% of the 40 participants were women. Staff from seven countries participated: Mexico, Guatemala, Ghana, Canada, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom and the US; and those from the US were from multiple locations in six states. Given the travel costs, would this group ever have been able to learn together in traditional face to face training?

4.  Expanded participation leads to greater adoption of learning

Through the blended learning platform, participants were actually sharing examples of their own project management work and making connections with colleagues in other locations. The strongly positive responses from project management course participants on three continents have caught the attention of senior management.  The relatively large group from so many locations now able to “speak the same language” in terms of project management, has led RA’s executive team to plan a Project Management Office (PMO). RA is eager to have global teams using common tools and approaches for project management and the ability to roll out this new initiative both quickly and cost-efficiently are huge wins for the organization.  Initial plans include appointing a lead for the PMO, building an internal governing committee that will ensure the right tools are used for the specific project types. RA is also determining how to include reporting as part of the practice so that the organization can better understand how money is spent and improve and streamline internal processes.

5. Blended learning is greener…

For an NGO dedicated to conservation and sustainable livelihoods, adopting learning and training approaches that don’t require carbon generating travel (not to mention the costs and time associated with travel), blended learning is a no brainer!

Quick win!

Effective learning for a diverse global audience with lower costs than standard approaches, leading to rapid and expanded adoption AND an approach aligned with a green mission… blended learning on project management was a very quick win for Rainforest Alliance and for Patti, who started with the organization less than six months ago!  Stay tuned for an update in about a year to learn about the impact on project management that has come about from this first round of blended learning at Rainforest Alliance!

 Want to get involved?

An English language 4-week blended learning course on PMD Pro is starting this week:
Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro1) Course / May 7 – 30, 2013

A Spanish Language 4-week course starts June 3
Eventbrite - LINGOs – Curso de 4 Semanas en  Gestión de Proyectos (PMD Pro1) – Del 3 al 28 de junio de 2013

Stay tuned for Portuguese!

International development NGOs – don’t miss Global Giveback 2013!

100+ eLearning courses created for international NGOs at no cost… Global Giveback 2013 is now open, get involved

gg_generic_small.jpgThrough the Global Giveback, highly skilled learning professionals volunteer their highest talent, creativity and experience to support global development non-profit organizations. In the first four Global Giveback events, volunteer instructional designers and eLearning developers have created over 100 eLearning courses for LINGOs and its 75 international NGO member agencies.

All international NGOs provide training

“International NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that provide training for their global staff or to an audience with access to the internet should get involved,” said LINGOs Executive Director, Eric Berg. The Global Giveback allows NGOs to leverage their existing content, dramatically expanding the audience to their global staff and implementing partners.  Last year alone, LINGOs worked with over 60 volunteers to create courses available not only the global staff of our 75+ international member agencies, but they will also be available free to anyone working to improve people’s lives in the developing world.

3 Reasons to get involved

  1. Expand your agency’s training reach: Many learners have access to the internet, and you can reach more via technology-enabled learning than by face-to-face training.
  2. Use limited resources wisely: save on scarce travel, trainer, and time resources associated with each and every face-to-face training event, by working with a volunteer to develop eLearning that can be used by many learners around the world.
  3. Learn new skills: Agencies participating in past Global Givebacks have learned about eLearning design and project management through working with volunteer learning professionals.

2013 Global Giveback marks the fifth time LINGOs and the eLearning Guild have organized a vehicle through which learning professionals have donated their expertise and time to create eLearning resources for the global community. In years’ past, the resource was limited to agencies that are already members of LINGOs (Learning in NGOs), a not-for-profit consortium of humanitarian relief and international development agencies. This year marks the first time that Global Giveback is open to all non-profits working in the international development sector.

NEW in the 2013 Global Giveback

  • Open to any not-for-profit organization working to improve people’s lives in the developing world
  • Includes all learning formats: eLearning, Face-to-Face, Blended Learning modalities
  • Optional eLearning competition: Non-profit agencies may enter eLearning developed by pro-bono volunteers in 2013.

Learning professionals want to make a difference in the world

Volunteering in the Global Giveback provides a unique opportunity for learning professionals to make a difference in the world. Many volunteers have already signed up in the Global Giveback group on LinkedIn and are eager to get started.

eLearning developer Amanda Warner, who participated in the first three Global Givebacks, winning twice with courses created for the public for Acción and FHI 360, notes “It’s so motivating to see the course in action,” said Warner, who estimates she spent between 180 and 210 hours developing Acción’s winning course “Build, Manage and Improve Credit” which is publically available.

“It was great to play with different ideas, and work on a totally different type of content from my day job,” she said. Warner took reams of ACCION’s existing face-to-face course materials, spread sheets, word documents, published guides and other resources and developed a proposal for an engaging, interactive simulation.

 

Your agency can get involved

It’s easy! You can get involved through the Global Giveback Group on LinkedIn or through your own network. Connect and interview those with interests, skills, timing, and approach to the work that best match your needs.

Projects can include: design and/or development of learning and training resources to be deployed in a variety of ways, including face to face, blended, and self-paced eLearning.

How to get started:

  1. Identify the course material you want to adapt into a new format of learning
  2. Join the Global Giveback Group on LinkedIn
  3. Post your request for a volunteer Be sure to include 
    • Your agency name
    • Course Topic
    • Scope of Work (describe what the volunteer will develop, for what audience, with whom the volunteer will work, the resources s/he will have to work with, ie pre-approved content, subject matter experts whom s/he can consult during the project, etc)
    • Timeline(when you will be ready to start, your target date for completion and launch of your resource)
    • That there is an Identified staff-member who will work with the volunteer
  4. Respond to all volunteers who indicate interest. Interview those whose skills match your needs, and keep others apprised of your plans so they can work with another project if your needs and timing don’t match their skills and time-frame.

Global Giveback organizers do not review or manage relationships between agencies and volunteers. Each party should research each other and interact in professionally, clearly defining success for the interaction before agreeing to collaborate.

eLearning Competition

An optional part of the Global Giveback is a competition among eLearning courses. Participation is not required, but may be motivating to some volunteers.

Not-for-profit development agencies may enter any eLearning course created on a volunteer (pro-bono) basis for any non-profit working globally to improve people’s lives in the developing world in 2013 can be entered in the eLearning Global Giveback competition.

Judges will evaluate courses submitted by non-profit global development agencies in two categories based on whether they were developed by individual developers or corporate teams, on ten criteria:

  1. Meets stated learning objectives
  2. Appearance
  3. Creativity
  4. Ease of use for the learner
  5. Interactivity
  6. Graphical content
  7. Ease of update (for the non-profit sponsor)
  8. Holds the learner’s interest
  9. Ease of working with the developer (rated by the non-profit agency)
  10. Potential impact of the course (assessed by the non-profit agency based on topic and potential audience)

Volunteer Developers and International Non Profit agencies may use the Global Giveback Group on LinkedIn as a means of finding each other. However, any international non-profit working with a non-staff volunteer on a pro-bono basis may submit courses created in 2013 for competition. Submissions must be received by 5:00PM EST on Jan 10, 2014.  Submission instructions will be posted in the second half of 2013.

Recognition & awards will be announced at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2014 conference in Orlando, FL.

Learn More: http://bit.ly/LINGOsGG

Read about past Global Giveback events

Two steps forward and one step back

Guest post by Roger Steele, LINGOs Senior Project Manager

rsteeleAccording to contemporary wisdom (Wikipedia), my title is a catchphrase about a frog trying to climb out of a well; for every two steps the frog climbs, it falls back by one step, making its progress arduous, but progress nonetheless. The catchphrase feels like a fitting title for today’s post.

While I’m making steady progress in my eLearning journey – it is strenuous at times. Exactly two years ago, I wrote a post on the topic of eLearning in Southern Africa. Since those earlier efforts, LINGOs has expanded its PMD Pro work to over 20 countries all over Africa — one (big) step forward. I also contributed to a recent blog on virtual coaching for graduates of PMD Pro courses — another step forward. Upon re-reading those posts, I’m hoping readers didn’t get the impression that we are making continuously smooth and uncomplicated progress. Probably not – as most LINGOs members are in touch with the “frog’s arduous climb.”

Ok, now you should be asking: “what is the one step back, Roger?”

Allow me to start with a story. Last September, I led a successful face-to-face PMD Pro1 course for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) staff and partners in Zimbabwe. To encourage learning transfer and application of PMD Pro tools to real work, CRS asked LINGOs to conduct five hours of online virtual coaching with the class participants – a couple months after completion of the course. We scheduled four one-hour virtual classroom sessions. The participants, both CRS staff and their partners, were notified in a timely manner and all was ready to go.

That’s when we took one step back – or in a slightly different direction. Apart from the usual challenges anyone faces in first time log in to a virtual classroom environment, the Zimbabwean participants had an extra special challenge. Out of the 30 invited participants, we were lucky to have five online at any single time – with several regularly popping off and coming back on at regular intervals.

Now don’t get me wrong, the participants did the best possible. It was just a matter of internet connections that came and went! Sometimes those in the capital city, Harare, were the strongest. Other times we had great connections from Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, Bulawayo. Somewhat surprisingly, a participant in the remote town of Chinoyi had an almost perfect connection.

The CRS Zimbabwe story is somewhat typical of our PMD Pro online coaching sessions in African countries, largely because the students are dispersed in numerous locations. As described in an earlier post, the HOTspot approach has shown considerable promise in African locations where a strong internet connection can be secured.

Climbing forward …

We did come up with a solution – a time-tested distance learning approach. Using a software program called Camtasia (techsmith.com) that integrates into MS PowerPoint; I advanced slides and recorded my voice as I talked through each coaching presentation on PMD Pro tools. In total, I produced almost 3 hours of video on tools like Work Breakdown Structure, RACI, Issues Log, Risk Register and Gantt. I ended up with 15 coaching videos with an average length of 10 minutes each. I performed one other step — converting the voice to captions. These were burned under each slide and appear in sync with my voice during video play. The jury is still out whether the captioning step was worth the effort. I know my American English accent is hard to understand for many Africans. English is a second or third language for many. The captions can also be easily translated to other languages.

After some editing of both the voice and captions in Camtasia, I produced the videos in WMV (Windows Media Video) format. I also uploaded the videos to the LINGOs YouTube library. Finally, I added the voice transcriptions as speaker notes in the PowerPoint decks – to assist anyone who wants to use them as a guide to their own Face to Face coaching sessions.

Steady progress

I am writing this blog from Tanzania where I am interacting with some of the World Vision East Africa Operations Directors. After doing a demo of one coaching video, they asked that asked for copies of the WMV files. The World Vision East Africa team plans to burn DVDs for physical distribution to the 800 PMD Pro1 graduates in World Vision East Africa’s 9 National Offices. They seem genuinely excited about this solution.  While not what I initially expected, my eLearning success story is distribution of quick-and-dirty videos on DVDs.  What is most important is that the frog is still making overall progress in the climb.

For more information about LINGOs 4-week PMD Pro1 blended learning course, March 4-28,  see http://4weekpmdprocourse.eventbrite.com

On the road from training to application: virtual coaching

Have you ever gone to a great course or workshop, been inspired by what you learned, and have every intention of putting your new knowledge into practice as soon as you got back to work?

Have you also experienced finding a mountain of work awaiting you after the inspiring course — and as you dive into catching up on that week away, you find yourself going back to your usual practices, and that you were unable to put what you learned into practice?

Have you been to the inspiring course, been able to summit the mountain of waiting work and had trouble explaining the new concepts to your colleagues and supervisors so that you can put the new practices in place?

Over the past two and a half years, LINGOs has deployed virtual coaching as an effective and cost-efficient performance support and learning transfer mechanism for global participants of the LINGOs Project Services learning programs.  We saw the need for performance support after the first very successful training courses in our work with World Vision’s Southern Africa Regional Program to build capacity in project management.

Knowledge & skills alone don’t lead to behavior change

We all know that knowledge and skills alone are insufficient to lead to a change in behavior –think of all the anti-smoking and “just say no” campaigns!  While the vast majority of participants successfully passed the PMD Pro 1 online exam, the leaders of the program initially saw relatively low application of the newly learned tools and approaches in the participants’ daily work.

While first piloted in Africa, we’ve done more virtual coaching in Latin America. “Coaching is a necessary complement to any training process,” said LINGOs Senior Facilitator Juan Manuel Palacios. “Without it, you can’t expect change — you can’t ensure transfer of knowledge, change in behavior or achievement of intended organizational outcomes.”

Coaching for performance support & learning transfer

Coaching is a widely-used performance support and learning transfer tool. It is a particularly good approach when participants are asked to develop an action plan at the end of their course work.

Traditional, in-person coaching involving high costs and time for both trainers and participants to travel to a central location was not an option, especially as much of the Project Management Training was offered through a blend of virtual classrooms and other on-line platforms. LINGOs began to offer virtual coaching as a strategy to give learners a chance to apply new skills and receive additional instruction and guidance when they came up against real-world challenges.

We built coaching into the Latin America work that we’re now completing with the GEPAL Project (Gestión en Administración de Proyectos en América Latina) with the Interamerican Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and in additional project management capacity work we’re doing with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), ChildFund-Americas, Islamic Relief,  Mercy Corps,  Oxfam GB, PATH, as well as with World Vision.

Technology improving, but still a limiting factor in parts of Africa

“Technology is improving monthly in African cities,” said Roger Steele, LINGOs Senior Project Manager, who has led training efforts with World Vision, CRS and PATH in Africa.  “Virtual coaching is becoming a very viable option.”

Based on the circumstances of each training cohort, LINGOs has used various technological options for virtual coaching including,

  • Groups that trained in a face-to-face environment participating via World Vision’s HoTSpots in Southern Africa,
  •  Individuals in disparate locations logging into the same virtual classroom platform in which they received training online,
  • Participants connecting via Skype when their internet connections were unable to support connections to a virtual classroom.

Roger noted that “participants are often eager to join online sessions but technology access and literacy is still limited in places. Some participants got their first email account to be able to participate in virtual coaching after a face-to-face workshop.”

“At PATH sometimes our people gathered informally around one person with a computer with a good connection and speakers,” noted Julie Baker, Trainer and eLearning Developer, who has overseen the PATH effort to strengthen staff skills among 54 participants in Kenya and Tanzania.

In Latin America, internet access has not been a limiting factor. Through the GEPAL project, LINGOs and partner organizations trained to facilitate training and coaching sessions have found no significant barriers in Brazil, Panamá or Guatemala. However, participants in Paraguay on some occasions did have some connectivity difficulties accessing the sessions offered on the Blackboard Collaborate virtual classroom platform.

Multiple modalities same objective

In the African context, the coaching approach has been more formal. Starting about a month after training, taking the PMD Pro1 online exam and developing an action plan, participants have had the opportunity to engage in virtual coaching sessions. The sessions, held in the Blackboard Collaborate Virtual Classroom, have provided structured review of different tools and an opportunity to share concerns and questions, and to problem-solve ways to remove obstacles to using the tools.

“In one session, a participant shared her concern specifics of where to keep the project’s issues log,” said Julie Baker. “The group and coaches explored advantages and disadvantages of whether to keep it on a Sharepoint® site versus a local network; who puts the data in the document, and how to make it work day-to-day in that particular situation.”

In the Latin American experience in GEPAL, however, after the training, certification exam and action plans are complete, the groups that trained together start looking at project management tools in which the participants are interested in implementing in their organizations.  They’ve generally started with design, monitoring and evaluation tools. “One participant provides the coaches with a real project to use as case study for coaching,” said Juan Manuel.

Brazil coaching group develops proposal
Participants from AVAPE (The Association for Valuing Persons with Disabilities), had already identified stakeholders and needed to work specifically on the design of a project and develop a proposal (including a logical framework). During ten hours of coaching, the entire group built the logical framework with results, objectives, M&E indicators and assumptions to prepare a proposal for donor. In this case, the group of coaching participants included the project’s donor as well as a consulting group brought in to develop the proposal. Fun follow up fact, this proposal has been presented and will be funded for AVAPE to implement.
Panama plans project transitions
In the coaching we did with the Panamanian group, a participant provided a case where she was working on the project transition and sought coaching on how to build transition planning into the finished project.

Coaching on adapting to local reality

The follow-up coaching allows participants to gain insights into the adaptation of tools. “It provides an opportunity to reinforce learning and adapt tools to specific situations, gaining ideas and inputs from other participants who don’t know an organization as well,” according to Juan Manuel.

“Our Country Leader reports a big uptick in use of the RACI matrix,” said PATH’s Julie Baker. “There was lots of conversation in the coaching session on how to customize it, including additional columns to make it work even better for our reality.” She noted that the coach was able to share an example from another organization where they’d added a new column.

The final product of this learning process (from training to coaching) is to facilitate participants’ ability to apply tools in different contexts, for different projects. “After all,” said Juan Manuel, “you don’t need to have the tools in place when you start the project.  You can adapt the tools at any phase of during the life of the project.”

Coaching makes the difference

Perhaps the clearest case of the benefits of virtual coaching happened in Mozambique. LINGOs provided face to face training but between connectivity challenges and a lack of familiarity with standardized testing, none of the participants were able to successfully complete the online exam.

However, after a process of self-directed learning, Bento Guilovica sought personal coaching from Juan Manuel. “The coachee MUST be interested and motivated to learn,” pointed out Juan Manuel who provided 8-10 hours of virtual coaching via skype.  Bento went on to become a trainer of PMD Pro, who each day after delivering face to face training, was coached through his specific questions on tools and approaches. At the end of his first course, 70% of Bento’s students passed the PMD Pro exam.

Communities of practice

The virtual coaching sessions are creating networks of people using and adapting tools in the real world.  “The community of practice can be used for advice and, guidance on how individuals and organizations have adapted or used different tools,” said Juan Manuel.

PATH is preparing to explore additional ways to foster ongoing communities of practice around project management. Roger Steele noted that “a culture of online interaction will evolve and is improving.” There’s more learning to do in the area of strengthening virtual communities and exploring additional ways of coaching and performance support.

Readers are welcome to join the large and growing international community of practice, with over 2800 individuals interested in project management for development, via the open PM4NGOs group on LinkedIn.

Coaching process encourages participants to apply and share learning

When we went to the Training of Trainers course in PMDPro in Panama, I thought it would be just one more course…,” said José Salvador Aquino Manzo, Mercy Corps- Guatemala M&E Officer. However, the reality of a more comprehensive approach that included coaching is much more.

José Salvador was so inspired by the learning process that in record time, he recruited 40 fellow Mercy Corps staffers and program partners in Guatemala to go forward to strengthen Project management skills in PMD Pro.

 

For more on LINGOs Innovations in project management capacity building, please see

1.      Blended learning blog http://lingos.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/blended-approach/

2.      What’s project management got to do with international women’s day http://lingos.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/pm-training-_women/

3.      What’s your product  http://lingos.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/what%e2%80%99s-your-product/

4.      Are NGOs in Southern Africa ready for eLearning  http://lingos.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/are-ngos-in-southern-africa-region-ready-for-elearning/

 

LINGOs Offers 5-Week PMD Pro1 Certification Prep Course

International development agencies do great work. As John Cropper, Director of Project Services for LINGOs, pointed out in a blog post last year, the product of NGOs is projects!  Non-governmental organizations plan and implement projects to help transform communities and improve people’s lives in the developing world in fields ranging from agriculture to water and sanitation – with key topics like child nutrition, education, emergency response, health, housing, human trafficking, microfinance, natural resource conservation and peace building, to name just a few, in between.

LINGOs is pleased to announce that on September 18, we will open registration for a blended learning course in project management. The five-week course, open to all, is designed to meet the needs of any NGO project manager, program quality manager or supporting staff responsible for the creation and implementation of a development project, and who has access to a reliable internet connection. Participants who successfully complete the course will be prepared to take the PMD Pro1 exam.

At LINGOs, we’ve done a lot of work, especially in Africa and Latin America, helping NGOs build their capacity to better manage projects.  

Over the past few years:

  • The PMD Pro  (Project Management in Development Professional) Certifications were created, came online and were recognized. More than 3,000 people have taken the exams for the PMD Pro1 and PMD Pro2, with more than 2,200 becoming certified. 
  • Many agencies are working internally to build capacity, contracting with international training organizations such as InsideNGO and RedR, local training companies in Brasil, Guatemala, Haiti, Panama and Paraguay and LINGOs directly in countries from Albania to Zimbabwe, with most work being done in Africa and Latin America.
  • We’ve learned that blended and distance learning approaches not only allow a more diverse group of learners to participate, but also can be a highly effective means to lead to change and transfer of training into practice.

Participants in LINGOs’ 5-week blended learning program will spend approximately six hours per week in self-paced eLearning resources and in a virtual community of practice. Three hours will be spent in virtual classroom training and coaching, offered between 9:00 and 10:30am eastern US time on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Oct 16 through Nov 15, and three hours will be spent reading offline.

Several of LINGOs’ most experienced project management instructors,  John Cropper, Eric Berg and Roger Steele will facilitate the course. The course will be taught in English and the content is based on the PMD Pro1 Guide (free download available from www.pm4ngos.org).

Those interested may find more information and register for the course online. The course fee is $180 for staff from LINGOs member agencies and $225 for non-members. The fee includes all classes, access to all materials including self-paced modules and community site and private instructor coaching. Please note the course fee does not include the certification exam fee.

Upon completion of this course, all participants will be prepared to complete and pass the PMD Pro1 certification examination. The last session of the 5-week course will focus on applying the tools and techniques learned during the course in individual organizations. Throughout the course, time will be provided for coaching from instructors to clarify material and to review application of concepts.

Course Schedule

Week One     Tuesday, October 16- Introduction to Course and Technology

                    Thursday, October 18 – Overview of Project Management and Competencies

Week Two    Tuesday, October 23 – Project Identification and Design

                    Thursday, October 25 – Project Start-Up

Week Three  Tues, Oct 30 – Project Planning

                    Thurs, Nov 1 – Project Implementation

Week Four    Tues, Nov 6 – Monitoring and Evaluation

                    Thurs, Nov 8 – Project Transition

Week Five    Tues, Nov 13 – Certification Exam Preparation

Thurs, Nov 15 – Action Planning for Application in Individual Organizations Preparation

About PM4NGOs

PM4NGOs (Project Management for Non-Governmental Organisations) aims to optimize international NGO project investments by enabling project managers to be reflective, professional practitioners who learn, operate and adapt effectively in complex project environments. As a group of international relief, development and conservation organisations, PM4NGOs works together and collaborates with private sector companies, professional organizations and universities to achieve this goal. Visit www.pm4ngos.org/ to learn more.

About LINGOs

LINGOs is a not-for-profit consortium that focuses on enabling international humanitarian relief and development organizations to share their learning resources and experiences. LINGOs also engages Partner Organizations – companies and associations working in the field of technology assisted learning – to provide expert help and other support aimed at alleviating poverty around the world and effectively responding to emergencies. LINGOs Member and Partner Organizations include some of the biggest names in the non-profit and technology sectors, including Habitat for Humanity, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, Care, Articulate, Blackboard Collaborate, Cegos, MindLeaders, eCornell, The eLearning Guild, TELL ME MORE and many more. Visit www.LINGOs.org to learn more.

Blended approach gets learning to where learners are

Posted by John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

Training and facilitating used to be so simple. The trainer would travel to a a pre-selected venue, participants would arrive, training was delivered and after a couple of happy sheets and usually a rather nice group meal and photo, everyone departed. Easy!

 

Old School Training…

The costs of this approach are huge. Apart from the travel costs, everyone would be in the training – not actually doing their normal work. So if you had a group of twenty five participants doing a five day course, you used one hundred and twenty five person days. Run two trainings like this in a year and factor in holidays and you would have used up the best part of a person year – and we all think we are understaffed!

LINGOs is all about learning where it really matters. So, to find a way round this, LINGOs has conducted a number of what we call blended trainings on Project Management  (the PMDPro certification)  We’ve tried several approaches and I’ll describe two of them here: First with World Vision International in Southern Africa and second with Oxfam GB in East Africa. The approaches have been different but in both cases, noone had to travel and participants were able to fit the learning around their other work commitments.

In the case of World Vision, we used a “hotspot” approach to ease connectivity challenges. A number of offices were chosen and World Vision made sure that each office had a USB speaker phone and a projector. One computer would be connected and participants would either look at a shared monitor or the screen would be projected onto a wall. Participants were given a clear timetable and instructions about what was expected of them. They had a program of reading through the PMDPro Guide, using the practice exam, webinars using Blackboard Collaborate, a ning social network where they could ask/answer questions and where we could post all the documents and finally there was an ‘instructor’s hour,’ when a facilitator would be online and participants could ask any questions on a one-to-one basis. Each course was scheduled over a two week period.

With Oxfam, we adopted a similar approach but it was much more extensive. The course had the same components but was designed to be taken over a 10 to 12 week period. Participants were advised that they would need to spend 3 to 4 hours each week. No one component was mandatory and they could spend their time on any of the different components. If the facilitator or the Oxfam sponsor thought that a participant was not engaging in any element, then s/he was not allowed to sit the PMDPro exam at the end of the course.

So what?

Well clearly, the blended approach is much more flexible and obviously more cost effective. One additional immediate benefit was a higher percentage of women participants – as described in an earlier post for International Woman’s Day. Interestingly results from the extended, Oxfam approach have been the best with an exam pass rate of 50%. Best of all was to see this post from the Tanzania Country Director, in which he noted his experience of “a case where training has created learning that has turned into change. There is improved quality of work and increased commitment to share one’s learning.”

Clearly this kind of approach can lead to skill transfer and application.

What learning is there from these pilots?

  1. Setting up a hotspot is a considerable investment in time and equipment – but once it is there, it can be used again and again. We have seen staff use the equipment for virtual meetings rather than travel – another great benefit.
  2.  In both cases, it is helpful to have champions and clear leadership – without buy in from the top, any training is more difficult. Participants need to have a clear structure and they need to understand what they are expected to do, when and why.
  3. Participant selection is as important as  managing expectations – participants need to commit to putting in the time over a two/three month period.
  4. The biggest learning I have taken from all this is simple. Blended learning can work and work well. One participant from Tanzania said in one of the webinars, “I need to leave now. I am in a village with no electricity using a 3G connection and the laptop battery is going.”

 I wish I had had a photo! When we think about virtual/remote learning – or whatever we want to call it, perhaps we should stop ask asking “why?” and start asking “why not!”

 

What’s Project Management Training Got to do with International Women’s Day?

Posted by John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

“It’s so great that you could do this training in Kotido (Northern Uganda) whenever there is any training, it is in Kampala and we can never go.”

A recent male partcipant said this to me after a PMDPro workshop in February (PMD Pro is the contextualised Project Management certification, developed with experts from several of the world’s best-known and highly regarded non-governmental organisations).

Downtown Kotido, Uganda, 2012. Photo: John Cropper

What this has to do with Internatonal Women’s Day is a very good question. Let me explain.

So much learning in NGOs is still focused on stopping all work, flying (often to another country), sitting in a hotel for week and then flying back. Guess who this training gets focused on?

That’s right – junior staff never get a look in. You need to be in some kind of “senior” category before it’s decided that you are important enough to be flown around and put up in a nice hotel somewhere – and who makes up the senior staff? You got it again – mostly men.

Yet, but and however – these senior staff are not actually the ones implementing projects on the ground! So, again and again we see the people who most need top boost project management skills through training being squeezed out. And given the realities in many countries (developed world included), when a woman is senior enough to be considered for training opportunities that involve travel – she may not be able to leave family responsibilities behind. Obstacles all the way.

This is why an initiative LINGOs is piloting with Oxfam GB in East Africa is so interesting. We are running PMDPro training in three countries: Uganda (hence the visit to Kotido), Ethiopia and Tanzania.

  • Uganda gets traditional NGO learning. Trainer rocks up, training happens, trainer leaves and application of learning to actual projects is in the hands of the Gods.
  • Ethiopia gets face-to-face training plus virtual learning – let’s see what difference this makes to application.
  • Tanzania is by the far the most interesting as the approach will be both 100% virtual and take 3 hours per week – so people can fit learning in around their other commitments.

This is where it gets interesting. In Uganda, 20% of partcipants were women. In Ethiopia, 32% were women (teams travelled to Addis for the training). In Tanzania, we will have just over 50% female partcipants. To be fair, Oxfam is still finalising the participant list – but what a difference!

So,  if your agency really values women: plan to  cut back on the travel, reduce your  carbon footprint and subsidies to the airlines, expand your focus from train on senior managers and start virtual learning! PMD Pro – just do it! – but do it virtually wherever possible! Take a first step on March 8.

More LINGOs blogs will follow up on this really interesting experiment.

     

For More information on PMD Pro

See what’s happening with PM work in Latin America – virtually and face to face through the Gepal Project

Watch the Gepal Video