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.

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!

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 for additional events already on the calendar (some have registration deadlines right around then!)

New Virtual Classes for LINGOs members

Do you ever need help with an instructional design challenge in a technology-enabled learning environment?

Veteran LINGOs Volunteer Greg Davis, who designed, developed and delivers the LINGOs’  Virtual Training Mastery Series  will offer LINGOs members an instructional design coaching session every other month. The first session will be held Wednesday, August 4 at 8am Eastern Time. 

This is a great opportunity to bring your instructional design questions, problems, issues related to technology enabled learning (not just Virtual Classroom) to get feedback from Greg and the group of LINGOs participants.  Please share information about this session with your Global Giveback Volunteer(s), as they are welcome to participate.

Prepare for active engagement with Greg and other LINGOs members and volunteers. We’d like a minimum of 10 pre-registered participants, and will limit participation to 20. Register to attend  by emailing Marian (marian[at] by Thursday, July 29. Please give a brief description of the instructional design challenge with which you’d like help. 

If you’re interested in more than just a coaching session on a specific topic, keep reading!

LearningAge Solutions Ltd, a leading UK eLearning “boutique,” is generously making 5 seats available to LINGOs members for their October Rapid eLearning Development course. Beginning October 11, this course comprises around 40 hours of effort over a four week period.
The course requires significant commitment, with seven assignments during the month-long course. The course employs collaborative learning, where each participant’s active engagement is a key part of the experience for the others enrolled. Please take a look at the course description.  The webinar component is generally offered at 4:30pm UK time, but times may vary depending on participants’ locations.
If you are both interested and able to make the commitment to actively participate in a 40 hour course during the time period, email Marian[at]  Seats will be made available in the order requested.

New courses, of course!

Having written of courses related to the 2nd eLearning Global Giveback last month, we must, of course, mention the courses that members are sharing with each other now, as well as others that are coming soon, including a new Virtual Class session being offered to LINGOs starting later this month.

 The IASC Gender Course is on all LINGOs member portals. Published in 2010, the on-line course Different Needs – Equal Opportunities: Increasing Effectiveness of Humanitarian Action for Women, Girls, Boys and Men,  provides the basic steps a humanitarian worker must take to ensure gender equality in programming. The course includes information on the core issues of gender and how it relates to other aspects of humanitarian response. The three-hour, self-paced course provides information and scenarios which will enable you to practice developing gender-sensitive programming. This training is based on the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Gender Handbook and related IASC guidelines, including the Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings and others. The IASC consists of 21 humanitarian organizations and is the primary humanitarian forum for facilitating coordination, policy development and decision-making in response to complex emergencies and natural disasters.


  Office Ergonomics- in 3 languages:  The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) shares with LINGOs members a new course they developed IUCN Recommendation on ergonomics – Health on the work place. IUCN developed the course in three languages (English, Spanish and French). This course is on the Level 1 Portal.  It is available for Level 2 members upon request by your LMS Administrator to Robb Allen.



  Coming later this month:

 Clive Shepherd’s 60 Minute Masters’ for SMEs (subject matter experts): “This short course provides subject experts and many others with the skills needed to design engaging, rapid e-learning materials for use in the workplace.” The course, produced in Articulate, a tool available through LINGOs membership, and generously made available to developers for the eLearning Global Giveback.


 The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is making the on-line, self-paced courses from the online course system they created and maintain, ConservationTraining available to other LINGOs members. Shells to access the courses will be available on the LINGOs portals, so that organizations can track staff use of the Conservation Training courses. The first courses to become available will be: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Reef Resilience.


The Prince2 Project Management  The Distance Learning PRINCE2 CBT covers both the Foundation and the Practitioner Syllabus, preparing the student for the PRINCE2 Foundation and the Registered Practitioner Examination. The UK Government PRINCE2 method is internationally accepted as the leading “best practice” project management approach and is gaining momentum within local government and the private sector, as well as being the recognised standard for central government and the NHS. Leading private sector companies have already introduced PRINCE2 training world-wide.

Created by Project Performance Consulting, a Prince2 Accredited Training Organization (ATO), this course is a complete alternative to the traditional 3-day or 5-day classroom course offered by almost all PRINCE2 Accredited Training Organisations (ATOs).

We look forward to sharing lots of new courses on the LINGOs portals – from the Global Giveback and others. Stay tuned!

2nd eLearning Global Giveback – ready, set, go!

As we discussed at our first Quarterly Update webinar on June 8 (click here for recording), the 2nd eLearning Global Giveback (GG2) is just kicking off this month. The first Global Giveback was a smashing success, and as an organization dedicated to learning, we learned a bit, and are making some adjustments to how we set it up for the second round.

1. The eLearning Community was ready to giveback in numbers of volunteers and hours of labor beyond our wildest imagination. This year, we ask volunteers to sign up and then member organizations that have posted a course to be developed will seek a volunteer. Last time, there were more volunteers than courses, and we lost the opportunity to contact some willing experts. We know there are more courses to be developed this year (including some that LINGOs itself plans to develop on project management, and onboarding for the LMS, for example). This way, we will have the volunteers’ contact information.

2. Longer timeframe: Last time, there was a scant two months for the courses to be developed. Many agencies with global staff, not to mention response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, were unable to get all the pieces and people together in that short timeframe. This time, we have longer. All courses completed for a LINGOs member organization between April 1 and December 17, 2010 are eligible for the eLearning Global Giveback Competition (this includes some that missed the 1st Giveback deadline).

3. More supporting information for Members and Volunteers: Our GG2 site ( has tabbed sections with information for Volunteers and for Members with links to resources (downloadable or on line). Please be sure that your volunteers are aware of the tools and resources that the Global Giveback Sponsors are generously making available to them.

Please instruct agency subject matter experts who are working directly with volunteers, to refer them to the resources and to the Clive Shepherd 60 Minute Master’s for Subject Experts (this course is coming soon to the LINGOs LMS… in the meantime, it’s on the  web).  

We’ve created an eLearning Global Giveback Community Group on LinkedIn. This group is independent of LINGOs and the eLearning Guild, and we encourage all participating in the Global Giveback to join in the group and share ideas, tips and resources. To discuss ideas for course topics to develop, please use the regular LINGOs group on LinkedIn as that site includes the broadest range of LINGOs members.

The First eLearning Global Giveback provided LINGOs members with over half a million dollars’ worth of customized eLearning for LINGOs member agencies. In the first round twelve member agencies took advantage of this resource. We’d like to double the number of agencies and courses developed in the second round… and even more importantly, we’d like to maximize the usage of the developed courses. The opportunity to participate is open to all LINGOs members in good standing. Self-paced courses developed for Level 1 member organizations will be posted on the shared portal and available to all Level 1 agencies. We strongly encourage Level 2 member organizations to share the courses developed for them with all LINGOs members. However, Level 2 agency administrators can load the courses directly onto their own portals.

How to get started:
Once you’ve decided on what course(s) you want to develop with a volunteer, your organization’s key contact to LINGOs should request a username and password for the “members only” section (contact membersupport(at) Post your course, and then look at the information on volunteers available. Volunteers will indicate the type of course content and specific interests when they sign up. Their detailed information is only available on the “members only” page.  Look at the FAQs for members for more details. Join the LinkedIn group for the eLearning Global Giveback.

And feel free to contact me (marian[at] or Ana Raquel (AnaRaquel[at] with questions!

The Virtual Training Mastery Series

While applications such as WebEx, Elluminate and Live Meeting allow just about anyone  to host a live online meeting, most of us really haven’t stopped to think about how to transfer our great (and maybe not so great) facilitation skills to these environments.  Typically, online meetings happen like this:   one person talks and then on occassions stops to say, “Are there any questions.”   Then the DREADED DEAD silence.  


At LINGOs we recognize that there are three sets of skills that facilitators need to develop as they begin to lead virtual events:

  1. How to design on-line curricula that are interactive and effective. 
  2. How to facilitate on-line classes so that you can effectively engage, manage and lead your on-line learners;
  3. How to use your on-line virtual classroom application.  Here, we refer to developing the technical competency needed to use your your specific brand of on-line virtual classroom applicaion (Elluminate, WebEx, Connect, or other).  This is a very important technical skill that won’t be addressed in this blog post, but we promise will be covered in future posts.

To assist on-line facilitators with the skills outlined in points one and two above, LINGOs sponsors the On-Line Virtual Mastery Series.  The two-class Mastery Series helps you first plan out or DESIGN that virtual experience for your students and the second class will help you with the actual live event, learning how to really engage the participant.   


What’s really cool is the course instructor, Greg Davis, absolutely practises what he preaches:  being a student in the class will really help you think about applying the techniques because you are experiencing them first hand.   (Dare we warn you that this is an ACTIVE class!) 


The technology LINGOs uses to run the class is the Elluminate Live! on-line classroom.   The reality is, however, that these are skills you can use in any live, remote environment (Centra, Live Meeting, WebEx, Adobe Connect, etc.)  


The classes are free and you can dial in from a less than ideal Internet connection.   To check your system go to:  (You must have a working microphone to participate.) 


Designing a Virtual Class
September 24,  8:00 AM to 10:30 AM
November 12,  8:00 AM to 10:30 AM
December 17th, 8:00 AM to 10:30 AM
Times are listed in:  Eastern Daylight Savings (or same time as New York)
Are you interested in designing live online classes but don’t really know where to start?  This class is excellent for people who currently teach in a classroom setting, but want to expand to a live online environment.   You will learn how to design interactivity into your class, including ice breakers, games, discussions, etc.   The instructor, Greg Davis is the former Director of eLearning for American Express.   Registration is required for this course.


Managing and Facilitating a Virtual Classroom
September 25, 8:00 AM to 10:30 AM
November 13th 8:00 AM to 10:30 AM
December 18th, 8:00 AM to 10:30 AM
Times are listed in:  Eastern Daylight Savings (or same time as New York)
 Are you interested in improving your onlinefacilitation skills for a live class?  This class will help you with the in-class challenges of engaging the students. So stop given boring onlineclasses where you talk, talk, talk and aren’t sure if the student is even still alive!  Learn how to call on students, ask them polling questions, and get them to interact with each other during the class.   The instructor is Greg Davis, the former Director of eLearning for American Express, who volunteers for LINGOs.    To register go to:


More information about LINGOs can be found at:   Questions can be directed to


Learning Resources for On-Line Synchronous Training

In the last Learning Tools Blog post, I presented statistics illustrating the rapid pace at which LINGOs member organizations have adopted Elluminate Live for on-line synchronous training.  One of the ways LINGOs supports agencies as they adopt synchronous on-line learning, is through our work with the Elluminate company to identify a variety of learning resources that enhance the capacity of staff who attend and lead on-line synchronous training. 

These learning resources fall into the following general categories:

Elluminate Live! Participants can visit the Elluminate Support Site

  • to complete an  on-line orientation program
  • to view the recorded Elluminate Participant training webinar
  • to access quick reference guides and tools
  •  to check their system configuration compatibility for the Elluminate product.

Elluminate Moderators can

On-Line Curriculum Designers and On-Line Facilititors

·      Can attend LINGOs’ On-line Virtual Mastery Series which introduces best practices for designing and facilitating courses in the on-line synchronous environment.

Elluminate Troubleshooting is another area in which moderators will inevitably need to develop skills.  As a frequent moderator of Elluminate sessions, many times I have found myself In the position where a participant is unable  to fully participate in an event due to problems with bandwidth, audio, Java plug-ins, systems compatibility and/or firewalls.  To address these challenges, Elluminate moderators need to develop skills to identify and address some of the most common problems encountered when when managing on-line events. 

Over the next six months, LINGOs and Elluminate are collaborating closely to develop troubleshooting resources that help moderators analyze and resolve these challenges.  As one of the first steps in this process, LINGOs will host a webinar on June 12, 2008, entitled Are You a Skilled Elluminate TroubleShooter?  (for details on this event click hereThis webinar is  highly recommended to all Elluminate Moderators, as it will include a number of practical tips that can be used immediately. 

In addition to the upcoming webinar, Elluminate has documented solutions to the most frequently occurring technical problems on their Help Desk Website  and LINGOs is documenting the most useful troubleshooting tips on its  Elluminate Workspace.




LINGOs’ partner, Outstart, is hosting a Live Webcast: Rapidly Developing e-Courses with Impact, Using OutStart Trainer.  The Trainer authoring tool provides the capacity to develop rich learning content without programming; with the potential to easily add Flash, audio, video or streaming media and more. 

June 10th, 1:30 p.m. Eastern (EDT) REGISTER TODAY

A 60 Minute Masters in Instructional Design

One of the more insightful assessments I have heard regarding technology assisted learning came from a colleague after he attended his first on-line synchronous meeting.  He said, “This is an incredible technology!  I hope we don’t use it to host more bad meetings.” 
This assessment has become my guiding principle as I continue learning and working in this field.  While recent innovations in technology are truly incredible (on-line classrooms, rapid e-learning development tools, RSS feeds, streaming video, YouContent, collaboration software, etc.), we must be careful not to become blinded by the “wow-factor” of the technology.  The secret to high quality learning, remains high quality content. 
Clive Shepherd, a UK-based e-learning designer who has worked with LINGOs and its member agencies, asserts that a central requirement for high quality content is high quality instructional designers.  Furthermore, he recognizes that for many organizations it is the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), with little or no training in instructional design, who design the majority of training content.
To help organizations improve the instructional design skills of their SMEs, Clive (and a group of professional instructional designers from around the world) has created a course entitled “The 60 Masters”, designed to train SMEs in the basics of instructional design ( Note- Originally Clive set off to create a 30 minute masters, but soon realized that even a high-level overview course would require 60 minutes.)
I highly recommend these materials for a number of reasons.  In addition to the fact that they are excellent, relevant and freely available (although you must register to access the content), Clive also outlines an articulate argument why organizations should invest in building the capacity of instructional designers.  Furthermore, the course (built in coordination with Kineo) is a great example of good instructional design employing Articulate Presenter and Articulate Engage  . 
Link 1:  Clive Shepherd’s Presentation on “Why We Need More Instructional Designers”
Link 2:  The “60 Minute Masters” Course (audio enabled; registration required)
Link3:  The “60 Minute Masters” Course (no audio; no registration required)