Thirteen years ago, a few people representing what would become the six founding members of LINGOs starting holding weekly conference calls. They had been recently thrust into new roles by their organization—challenged to improve their internal learning and training capabilities with a specific emphasis on how to better use technology. Each of them felt excited, unsure about, and unprepared for the task. At the time, most international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) had small or non-existent learning and development (L&D) departments, and the use of e-learning and other technology-enabled learning was even rarer—despite the obvious opportunity of using it to reach the thousands of NGO workers living and working in remote and hard-to-reach locations around the world.
Since that time, much has changed. Most INGOs are using a wide range of online and more traditional learning methods as part of their approach to induction, skill building, professional development, and leadership development. Many INGOs are now as sophisticated as their private-sector counterparts in the use of online learning. In fact, some have even won awards such as The Association for Talent Development’s annual B.E.S.T. award for their approaches to learning and talent development.
But there is more work to do! Our sector is changing, and the challenges and opportunities it presents from a learning point of view is what is exciting to me (and to the LINGOs team) about joining Humentum.
We have observed over the last few years several trends that we believe are accelerating. As Humentum, we can address these trends as greater opportunities to work with our community to help the broader sector navigate its transformation. These trends are:
- The demand for greater professionalization and standardization of competencies. The work that we and over dozen of NGOs began with PMD Pro to identify and develop common project management competencies for our sector has taken root. The success of the certification, having reached over 20,000 people, has prompted more investment by our sector in credentialing. FMD Pro has just launched, bringing the same approach to program-level financial management. We are now collaborating with PHAP and others on a certification in monitoring, evaluation, accountability, and learning (MEAL). In addition, we are collaborating with Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP), the Humanitarian Leadership Academy, and others who are developing a common platform for digital badges for our sector to further raise the visibility of professional skills. Humentum can expand our focus on leveraging a diverse community and global network of partners to build learning products and certifications around the key operational capabilities that any organization, from the largest INGO to the grassroots CSOs, will need to deliver sustainable results and demonstrate their professional capability to stakeholders.
- The decentralization of learning. In just 13 years, we have seen the INGO community move from having small or no learning teams to most INGOs having at least one dedicated L&D professional. At the same time, learning and capacity building expertise is also decentralizing and becoming more embedded in programs and in other operational areas such as finance. At the same time, senior executives are asking for more comprehensive approaches to learning knowledge management and talent development for their teams and their partners as their business models evolve. Humentum provides us an opportunity to work with organizations across the organizational spectrum by embedding the expertise, capabilities, and services for learning not just in the L&D teams but anywhere in the organizations. It also allows us to bring new voices and stakeholders into our vibrant L&D community—enriching their work.
- Localization. As the delivery of development and humanitarian work evolves, so do the needs and opportunities related to learning and capacity building. Just in the past two years, LINGOs and Mango have both embarked on several significant projects with diverse partners to strengthen local capacity in Central America, Turkey/Syria, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zambia, and elsewhere in east and southern Africa. What’s exciting is that the projects are not only about transferring capacity from INGOs to local NGOs. They often are capturing local knowledge and expertise while building and sustaining local training provision and business models. With Humentum, we seek to build on this work and accelerate the development of local networks and local providers of capacity building. We believe that one of the keys to increasing the share of funding going to local NGOs is ensuring a sustainable talent pipeline in local communities—which means the presence of thriving local capacity building markets that are less reliant on northern donor subsidies that may come and go.
As we come together as Humentum, we are eager to embrace these trends to innovate, learn, lead, and share with the global social sector community. You can expect us to find new ways to bring our legacy programs and products together under the umbrella of operational excellence into offerings that connect the dots among each of the operational areas. You can expect us to continue to innovate with product formats so that you can access learning on-demand or on-site, on the device of your choosing, and, whenever possible, in several languages. You can expect us to support open-source and Creative Commons licensing to maximize reach, access, and affordability, alongside fee-based products and services. And, most importantly, you can expect us to partner with you, your partners, and a wide and diverse group of networks and capacity building platforms to make learning more scalable while reducing duplication and redundancy of effort and funding.
LINGOs was founded by our members to solve a vexing learning problem. We’ve grown over 13 years by being agile and adapting to new needs while staying true to our core focus on learning. By combining forces with InsideNGO and Mango, we identified a unique opportunity to expand our work geographically and functionally while keeping our focus on appropriate, affordable, and accessible learning. We will succeed as Humentum because you will keep challenging us to grow, change, and partner in new ways to solve your next challenge.