International relief agency, Samaritan’s Purse, has 20 Learning Advocates around the world inspiring local staff to learn, develop and drive the organization forward. Theresa Decker shares the secret to their success.
At Samaritan’s Purse, one of our organizational principles is to “serve with excellence.” We believe that Learning Advocates who are empowered and well-resourced will be the drivers for our organization’s vision, not us. Our job is simply to set them up for success by putting the tools, information, and skills in their hands. That’s what we’ve been doing for the last seven years, and we now have Learning Advocates around the world who can identify and meet their office’s unique needs and knowledge gaps.
Dr. Gawande illustrates how we are often very slow to adopt great ideas, even those that resolve resolve important and highly prioritized challenges. While reading “slow ideas” about the speed of adoption of medical and public health innovations (from anesthesia and aseptic technique to oral rehydration solutions), I was struck by the similarities that many LINGOs members face as they roll out technology-based learning to provide professional development or strengthen technical skills of their global staff.
Many LINGOs members, including PSI, designate learning champions who help speed the diffusion of innovation in learning. Over 50 years ago, Everett Rogers’ wrote about the diffusion of innovation and showed that people take up new ideas when they have a trusted personal connection to it: change is a social process. A local learning champion serves as the trusted personal connection to organizational learning program.
LINGOs Members & Learning Champions
• Opportunity International clearly defines the role for their learning champions, including serving as registrars in the organizational learning management system (for more information, see March 2013 LINK Spotlight).
• IJM’s Chennai-based Learning Champion shared her Gold Medal Tips in a July 2012 post on the LINGOs blog.
• LINGOs members will be abuzz their approaches to bring that personal connection to learners at the LINGOs 2013 Member Meeting. Registration is now open for LINGOs members and their global champions. We look forward to learning with you in Washington, DC.
Guest Post by Regina Bell, International Justice Mission
International Justice Mission (IJM) is a human rights organization that works with local governments to rescue victims of sex trafficking and labor slavery and helps local police and prosecutors apprehend and prosecute perpetrators. Over the past 15 years, IJM has grown from one field office to fifteen, and from a small group of Washington DC lawyers to an international team comprised of 455 global staff members. Approximately 95%IJM’s staff members are nationals of the countries in which they work, and IJM is committed to supporting its indigenous leaders with world-class professional development resources.
Drawn to the abundant resources LINGOs provides for international NGOs, IJM joined LINGOs in 2007 as a Level 1 Member, using the shared LINGOsLearning portal. The staff in IJM’s office in Chennai, India, has been the biggest user of the LINGOs learning resources. The key reason for this is a highly engaged leader in that field office, Director of Administration Priya Juliet.
Priya’s story is particularly inspirational, as the LINGOs Learning resources played a big part in her professional growth and ability to make a difference for her colleagues in Chennai. In fact, Priya is a model for the type of internal leadership development that IJM is working to develop more widely in its field offices. She joined IJM in 2005 as a legal assistant, and has also filled roles as a receptionist and paralegal.
Priya remembers distinctly the day that she received an email sent from IJM HQ announcing the rollout of LINGOs courses. For Priya, the opportunity to take courses for free which would promote her own professional development was exciting because high quality, accessible professional development resources are scarce in Chennai. Priya was particularly interested in the Harvard ManageMentor courses (due to the Harvard name), and she completed all of the courses in short order. “When an opportunity like the Harvard Management Course Series comes along, take it,” she said. “It’s an incredibly accessible program, yet, it comes free (through IJM’s membership in LINGOs). This is an excellent opportunity for learning and professional growth.”
As a reward for Priya’s diligence, the field office director offered her a day off, but in Priya’s words, “the better motivation was receiving the completion certificate.” When IJM first launched LINGOs learning resources for staff, there was little formal support in place, and staff were instead encouraged to take advantage of the programs based on their personal interest – as Priya says, her learning efforts were “200% [her] own personal interest.”
Two years after Priya completed all of the Harvard ManageMentor courses, she was promoted to Director of Administration and charged with overseeing all Human Resources and Finance functions in the Chennai field office. Since then, she’s become a gold-medal learning champion. During her tenure as Director of Administration, Chennai staff members have completed close to 400 courses, with 10 staff members earning completion certificates in the past year. These results far exceed those of IJM’s other field offices, no doubt due to Priya’s hard work and personal involvement with learners in her office. We’ve learned from her approach and shared with the IJM Global HR team – and here with the LINGOs community.
Our hope is that as more IJM HR staff in the field take an active role in encouraging learners, future leaders like Priya will take advantage of the courses and will be better equipped to provide rescue and relief to the clients we seek to serve.
5 Tips from a Learning Champion
Priya is a Learning Champion – here are a few tips she recommends to others taking advantage of LINGOs training in their organizations:
1.Motivate and Encourage Learners
Introduce each staff member to learning resources
Priya meets with each staff member individually and informs them using simple terms about the available courses. Responses to these informational meetings have been enthusiastic.
Language support- audio versions
Priya makes certain that staff members with varying degrees of comfort in English have the support they need. For example, she found that at times, individuals are better able to understand the audio version of the Harvard Business Publishing courses.
Communicate to encourage use of courses
Priya encourages staff members to complete the courses with frequent communication (weekly status updates, calls and texts), and even goes into the office on weekends to help trainees as they work through the courses.
2. Monitor learner progress
Priya created a simple monitoring system once staff were registered, and personally monitors learner progress. She uses the reporting functionality of the Learning Management System (LMS) to track user access and progress and communicate progress with learners.
3. Keep supervisors up-to-date with learner progress
Priya also keeps supervisors aware of their employee’s learning achievements. Now that she is an office leader, she desires to motivate and encourage staff in their learning efforts, recognizing how important this is as a source of encouragement.
In Chennai, as in many places, certificates are an important way to publicly recognize achievement. IJM has developed a certificate of completion for the Harvard ManageMentor courses, in accordance with the Harvard Business Publishing Guidelines available through the LINGOs membership.
5.Share Successes and Support Learning Champions with Promotional Resources
IJM’s global learning team has sought to replicate Priya’s methods on a global scale, with the goal of similar engagement in other field offices. Recently, IJM’s LMS administrator held virtual classroom events (via Blackboard Collaborate) with HR staff in each region, to reintroduce HR staff to the eLearning resources and encourage them to act as learning liaisons in their respective offices. The administrator shared a slide deck that the champions can use in their offices, and encouraged them to keep in close touch with the learning team at HQ, and with one another, to share successes and challenges.