Thankful…

Guest post by Eric Berg, Co-founder and Executive Director, LINGOs

ImageI have spent a lot of time on airplanes this past year. I am about to cross the reward-rich 100K mile mark with United next week and while traveling isn’t what it used to be, one of the benefits of all that “seat time” is that it gives me lots of opportunity to stare mindlessly out of a window and let thoughts just drift through my consciousness. Inevitably, maybe just because it is “in the air” this time of year, feeling thankful floats in. Working in international development we are keenly aware of people who are challenged every day by the most basic needs of survival so it is easy to feel a need to be thankful for our comfortable circumstances. This thought quickly gives way to thoughts about what we are trying to do with LINGOs and how dependent I am on so many people.

Last Spring, I wrote about our volunteers and how important they are to LINGOs and how grateful I am for them. And perhaps with Last Mile Learning, they are more important than ever. But I realized when I was thinking about this post, that I didn’t begin to do justice to all the people I am thankful for within the LINGOs family. The earlier post did not express my thanks for the LINGOs members themselves – the agencies we owe our existence to. Without their steadfast support since we began, LINGOs would not have been able to grow into a serious force for staff development in the sector. Our member’s patience with our start-up growing pains and occasional missteps has allowed us to continue to take chances on new and better ways to serve their missions.

And I hadn’t noted how grateful I am for our partners – the many companies that have provided their products and services at little or no cost so they could be used by so many to create and deliver new learning opportunities. Those learning opportunities turned into more skills for field-based staff who translated those skills into higher impact programming for the beneficiary communities and individuals that are at the center of our work. Without our partners, LINGOs couldn’t begin to provide the services our members come to LINGOs for.

And within both our Partners and Members there are so many individuals that go above and beyond in their contributions to the larger LINGOs community. In most cases, it takes an individual or a small group of individuals to realize the potential of the LINGOs collaboration to bring the real value to their organizations and to understand the importance of supporting us. These are the individuals that become champions within their organizations to engage more people and to push their organizations to do more to support the effort and to share the work of their organizations with others in LINGOs.

Finally – and here I intend to name names – in last year’s note I neglected to express my thanks to be able to work with an extraordinary team of people. Most LINGOs members first learn about us from Marian – who wakes up each day thinking about how we can more effectively serve our members. She is supported by Ana Raquel and Lourdes who wear a number of hats supporting not only our members but also our work in Project Management and without whom questions would go unanswered and follow-up would be lacking. And of course some members believe that without Robb and Joey there would be no reason to join LINGOs. They are the lifejackets in the temperamental seas of technology.

For those members who have taken on the challenge of project management capacity building – including CRS, World Vision, Path, Plan, Mercy Corps and several others who have worked with our Project Services team – there is no LINGOs without John and Roger and Juan Manuel. They are our globe-trotting team whose families have “donated” their loved one so they could share their knowledge and experience with others in the developing world.

Even before he came to work at LINGOs, Mike was actively involved in not only creating what was to become LINGOs but was also thinking ahead of where it needed to go. He was the lead on moving our organization into the creation of the PMD Pro certification in project management and has now taken ownership of our latest initiative – to extend our platforms to local NGOs and CBOs through Last Mile Learning.

And though you might never interact with them, Martha and Tyler work in the background making sure the details of finance and technical administration get taken care of so others can serve you more directly.

This is truly an extraordinary team and I can honestly say that a day does not go by when I am not thankful for their amazing commitment to you and your missions. LINGOs is very fortunate to have attracted such a group and I hope you will add them to the “things I am thankful for” list you may be reviewing in your mind in the coming days.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Field Staff Capacity Building Models for National and International NGOs: the 4 As

Presented at the Interaction meeting in June 2010 and  adapted from an article by Eric Berg and Beth Birmingham in “Monday Developments” (Aug 2010, p 37)

For years international NGOs have struggled to develop the skills and competencies of their staff around the world. This challenge has been complex and daunting: broad geographic dispersion of the target audience, a wide range of experience and competence levels, high levels of staff turnover, challenges identifying content, multiple language requirements, and very limited resources. Fortunately, there is good news.

Over the past decade, development organizations have been able to reach thousands of hew learners with quality learning content at very low incremental cost. What has changed? The introduction of learning innovations that help organizations address the ‘Four A’s’ of capacity building:

Audience – Can the learning content be scaled to reach staff across the world?
Appropriate – Is the content contextualized to the environments where it will be applied?
Accessible – Are the learning resources there for staff to use when they need it and where they need it?
Affordable – Can the resources be deployed given the resource constraints of development organizations?

There is no single simple solution that an address the ‘four A’s of capacity building. However a creative combination of innovation in learning design and content distribution, have enabled a number of organizations to successfully address the challenge.

Blended Learning Design
Enhancements in learning technologies are providing the opportunities for international NGOs to blend the best of their traditional approaches to face to face training with an array of new learning media (skype, webinars, etc.). One example of these “blended learning” environments is a 10-year collaboration between World Vision International and Eastern University. This leadership development program brings NGO leaders together once a year in their region (5 continents) for a workshop atmosphere. Faculty are a combination of both professors and practitioners from the region, serving as facilitators and coaches both in the residency environment as well as the on-line environment (using an on-line learning platform) that continues throughout the year. This on-going interaction beyond the residency or workshop ensures on-the-job coaching and greater implementation of the training content.

New Distribution Models
A second innovation in the world of staff development training is the introduction of new models for distributing learning content. Traditionally, learning has been ‘pushed’ through organizations from a central office without much regional contextualization. Increasingly new distribution models allow learners in the field to PULL the learning they need to their locations – when they need it, where they need it and in the form they need it. The new models are more flexible and available through self-service approach, whether that be through on-line courses, communities of practice, RSS feeds, webinars, or recorded content that is accessible through the internet.

One example, of this shift toward social learning is the work of the Project Management Capacity Building Initiative sponsored by LINGOs and PM4NGOs*. While the program can include face to face training approaches that are more formal where facilitators are ‘sent’ to lead trainings around the world; the same content that is conveyed through formal workshops is also made available through webinars, recorded sessions, and e-learning modules. Now, if an employee in Ghana wants to enhance her skills, she no longer needs to wait for a workshop to be conducted in Accra. Instead, she can begin working on her learning immediately. As a result of these new distribution models, she has a variety of choices from which to choose and can decide what best fits her professional needs, her personal constraints and/or her learning preferences.

Social Learning
While much attention has been placed on the use of new technologies, some of the most important recent innovations have been in the area of social learning. The Project Management Capacity Building Initiative, for example, invites all its learners (regardless of the distribution platform they use) to join open community of project management practitioners. In less than one year, over 750 project managers have joined an on-line community where practitioners from the development sector are available to discuss new approaches and provide guidance for any learner seeking assistance from the community. Similarly, the learning collaboration between World Vision International and Eastern University enhances its instruction through the use of a cohort model where groups of students move through the program together, employing peer support groups intended to support the application of the learning to their job situations.

Conclusion
For international NGOs, the introduction of these innovations couldn’t be more timely. Today, the need to build the capacity of local partners and national staff is more urgent than ever. With these new tools, there are now practical and proven approaches that can help ensure that appropriate, accessible and affordable training is available to a global audience.

*The case study of the project management capacity building work was presented at a LINGOs webinar in September 2010. To access the recording, click here

LINGOs Fall 2010 Quarterly Update Webinar

We’re bursting with excitement and have lots of great news and resources to share with members at our Quarterly Update Webinar  on Wednesday Sept 22.

Even if you are planning to attend our Fall Member Meeting (please register by Sept 27th if you haven’t yet!), this quarterly update has news and resources from LINGOs that you won’t want to miss, and that will not be covered at the October 6-7 Member Meeting in DC.

Get the inside scoop on the following topics and more:

  • Need more Elluminate licenses? We’ll shed some light on what we have available to members that can extend this valuable resource

 

  • LINGOs partnerships to Build Project Management Capacity in Southern Africa, Haiti and Latin America: Get an update from Eric, Roger and Mike, who are now in South Africa and Haiti getting this work up and running!

 

  • Want custom-developed eLearning courses on your content but don’t have the budget? It’s not too late to get in on the action of the eLearning Global Giveback. We’ll tell you how!
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And last, but definitely not least…

This year’s meeting will include an “unconference.”  Please think about the topics you may want to share that are not yet on the agenda, as well as those that you want to hear about from others!

We’ve put together some items on the agenda that we know you want to talk about (you’ve been discussing them on LinkedIn, at the virtual coffee break, and talking about them with LINGOs team). But, there’s so much more.  This year’s member meeting is partially developed as an Open-space or UNconference event. Participants will define the topics at the opening session in which we’ll use Buzan Learning’s iMindmap tool (which is available to LINGOs members).  To prepare:

1.       What do you want to learn from other members? This year’s meeting will include an “unconference.”  Please think about the topics you may want to share that are not yet on the agenda, as well as those that you want to hear about from others!

2.       What do you have to share with others? Please bring examples/samples of materials and resources you have developed or are using to promote learning in your organization. We will have two 20-minute sessions where participants can view and interact with each other to share and learn about each other’s resources.

 

Mark Weds, Sept 22, at 11 am Eastern on your calendar for the Fall 2010 Quarterly update: and check the Events on www.LINGOs.org for additional events already on the calendar (some have registration deadlines right around then!)