Thanks to learning Volunteers, Last Mile Learning helps improve the lives of world’s most vulnerable people

Posted by Eric Berg, LINGOs Executive Director

Last year, during Volunteer Appreciation Week, I wrote a post about the vital importance of volunteers to the LINGOs community, and how they are able to use their highest skills as instructional designers and developers to create distance learning courses that would not be possible without their contributions of time and creativity.

Last Mile Learning Program

Last month at the Learning Solutions Conference, I shared Last Mile Learning, an exciting initiative designed to reach hundreds of thousands of local development workers that simply couldn’t happen without the efforts of volunteers.


Just yesterday afternoon, I got a call from Colleen Streigel our contact at the American Refugee Committee. ARC is working with a new NGO on the Syrian border and Colleen asked if there was anything we could do to help that group get access to capacity building resources on project management and IT. This is precisely the kind of group Last Mile Learning is going to reach.

Since its founding in 2005, LINGOs has grown to reach the staffs of more than 70 international NGOs working in over 130 countries around the globe with high quality online learning opportunities. However, for every staff person working in-country for an international NGO, there are ten or twenty or more individuals working with national and local organizations that are in desperate need of professional development. They are the individuals and organizations in the “last mile,” working directly with the communities in need. The better these people do their jobs, the more people will have access to health care, food, education and a safe and secure place to live.

Over the past five years, LINGOs has built a learning management infrastructure that could enable local organizations to access world-class professional development opportunities. However, a substantial amount of the content being distributed by LINGOs today is proprietary and has been subsidized or donated by leading courseware vendors with the understanding that it be available only to the staff of LINGOs member agencies.

Contextualized, Localizable, Multiple Delivery Modes

For us to reach the Last Mile, LINGOs needs to create a curriculum that we have the rights to distribute freely: a curriculum that can be contextualized to the NGO environment and localized to the key languages of development. It also needs to be made available in multiple delivery modes so individuals and organizations without regular access to the internet can still take advantage of the content.

To hire instructional designers and developers to build such a curriculum would be extremely expensive and well beyond the capabilities of LINGOs to afford. So here is where the volunteers come in. Over the years, we’ve learned that when what we need is impossible to afford, it can become possible when we ask the right people. And in this case, the right people are volunteers. We began asking current and past participants of the Global Giveback program whether they would be interested in working on this challenge. The answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!”

Learning Professionals Step Up

We’ve always known that eLearning professionals are great short, single-assignment volunteers. However this is different. This time we are asking people to stay with the effort through at least one course revision cycle and to work in teams on a single topic with more restrictive design parameters (pre-defined templates for example). And still the answer seems to be “Yes!”

In addition to individuals, LINGOs is recruiting corporate learning departments and eLearning vendors to create some of the courses in the Last Mile Learning Library.

Cegos, a major French training company, has donated content for the 18 initial modules that will be completed by the end of this year. Several eLearning companies have stepped forward to volunteer to work on the Library as well. Several universities and corporate learning departments are in discussions about creating content for this initiative.

So Last Mile Learning is on the way. Learning opportunities will be made available to the people most in need of capacity building with the fewest resources and least access. None of this would be possible without the energy and commitment of volunteers.

As I said last year, much of what we do at LINGOs wouldn’t happen without volunteers. In an interesting twist, we sometimes see our role as the support staff who enable the volunteers to do amazing work rather than the traditional view of volunteers assisting LINGOs to do amazing work. We have learned that sometimes not being able to afford to do something makes it more likely that it will get done because we look outside ourselves to see the resources waiting to make a difference.

On behalf of all LINGOs members and staff, we want to acknowledge the volunteers that make our work possible and hope that each of them know how valuable they are to improving the lives of the most vulnerable people on earth.

Want to Volunteer for Global Giveback 2012: Last Mile Learning?


  Join the Global Giveback Group on LinkedIn
  Look for us in the Connection Center at ASTD’s International Conference and Exposition in Denver May 6-9.
  For more info, check out the Global Giveback 2012 webpage.



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