Creative in Conflict: Project Management Training in Syria via WhatsApp

The war in Syria has created one of the most challenging environments for NGOs to operate in. Financial resources are extremely limited, communication networks are poor and electricity is in short supply. The security situation has forced almost half the population to flee to safety which means there are fewer skilled people left in Syria and those trying to enter the country face numerous risks and problems. As a result, NGOs are in desperate need of project managers but are struggling to recruit or train them.

Marifah for Social Entrepreneurship in Turkey decided to tackle this problem by utilising one of the most reliable free communication tools it has access to: WhatsApp. With the organizational motto, ‘Creative Investment in Creative People,’ they came up with the idea of providing training in Project Management for Development Professionals (PMD Pro) using WhatsApp to engage trainees directly through their phones or computers.

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2017: A year of increasing reach

As we transition into 2017, it feels like our collective work to improve the lives of vulnerable people could not be more critical as we live in an increasingly complex and volatile world. At LINGOs, we see our part is to help you meet the challenges you face by empowering you to empower others. In 2016, we welcomed more new members to our community than any year except 2011, demonstrating the need and desire to work together around shared challenges. And more proof—the number of people accessing courses and other resources doubled over 2016 which means that more training is being delivered than ever before. We also reached new audiences with innovative products that are available in an increasing number of languages, including Arabic, and increasingly in mobile and low-bandwidth formats. For our learning community, it really was a year of reaching out and making an impact across the world.

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A new way to learn PMD Pro

A guest post by John Cropper, Director of Capacity Building Solutions

How do you help people doing good to do it better? This has always been one of the main challenges with training NGOs in project management. Most NGO staff working on projects work long days and often long nights. They spend a lot of time in communities, on the road and in difficult and often hard to access locations. In addition, they often have to respond to multiple and often unpredictable demands ranging from humanitarian crises to unplanned visits from HQ or donors. It is like juggling but with an ever varying number of balls in the air at the same time.

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Making Co-Creation Happen in 2016

A message from LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx about the 2016 LINGOs Co-Creation Agenda

Chris_ProulxTwo weeks ago at Heifer International, 100 learning professionals gathered at the LINGOs Global Learning Forum to engage, discuss, and share their ideas for how to continue to use learning to improve the effectiveness of organizations in the international development, humanitarian, conservation and social sectors.

As part of the conference, we facilitated an interactive brainstorming to identify the top priorities around which the LINGOs community could co-create new solutions in 2016. We invited participants to submit their ideas for projects that would make a difference to their organizations, make a difference to the sector, and have deliverables that could be created in 2016.

We are still looking for input from members of the community who could not join us the Global Learning Forum. You can provide us with your ideas for projects in the LINGOs Online Community.

So far, we have been reviewing and summarizing the input from the brainstorming session.  The top five priorities of the community so far are:

  1. Digital Badges: Credentials that transfer with employees from organization to organization mapped to a list of competencies with evidence the competencies have been retained.
  2. Professional Competency Frameworks: Shared competency model (80% solution) – with focus on tools/resources/guidance for implementation for your organization – for common key field positions.
  3. A Platform for Field Practitioners: Common knowledge/Tool/Sharing L&D platform with user-generated content and best practices organized around topics such as Environment, Economic, Poverty reduction, Health/public health, Agriculture, Food safety, Disaster relief, Gender, Civil society, Education, Water security, Sanitation, Technology.
  4. An Excellence in Leadership curriculum with certificate: Create a peer mentoring network among NGO senior leaders. Group existing courses into a cluster for organisation leadership (on and offline). Develop a learning path and a certificate aligned around core competencies.
  5. Marketing/Branding playbook for rolling out online learning: LMS marketing toolkit and do-it-yourself resources.

We are looking for your continued feedback, ideas, and suggestions for how your organization can contribute to any of these project priorities. The LINGOs staff is reviewing each of these highly ranked initiatives for which ones can be worked on in the coming year. We are considering factors such as: other related resources and initiatives in the sector, potential for reach and impact, existing resources within our member organizations, staff resources, and ability for quick wins. We will have more information before the end of the year on how to join working groups for 2016. Until then, keep sending us your ideas, feedback, and contributions.

The top 3 things the LINGOs community wanted the new CEO to know

Guest Post by LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx

Chris_Proulx

LINGOs members consistently want more community and networking opportunities. That is the most common message that I have heard from members of the LINGOs community during my first three months as CEO. Through a variety of formal and informal listening events with LINGOs members, I have heard a lot of what you value about LINGOs and also what you aspire it to become.  Now, I am able to summarize some of the key themes that have come from feedback exercises at the Portland Annual Meeting and the London Members Meetup, the 2015 Membership Renewal Survey and individual conversations with many of you.

Community and Networking

By far, the most valued component of your membership is your ability to network and share best practices with each other. So, naturally you want even more value from the community. First and foremost, you’d like additional opportunities to meet in-person, not just virtually, and not just at the LINGOs Annual Meeting. (Shameless plug: this year’s Annual Meeting is being hosted by Heifer in Little Rock, AR, USA on October 15 and 16—and, attendance for one participant is included in your 2015 dues!) You want smaller sessions where we can have more focused dialogue and more opportunities to build local relationships.

So, we are going to facilitate more regional LINGOs events in 2015:

  • London: I facilitated a UK/Europe members meeting at Plan on Jan 14—about 15 folks attended, networked and heard from Speexx, our new language learning partner.
  • Boston: a self-organized member meetup at HREA on Feb 5 with ideas and feedback sent to LINGOs staff.
  • Nairobi: I am organizing a LINGOs member meetup for members and key contacts in the region on Feb 24. There’s still time to sign up!
  • Orlando: Gus Curran and I will be meeting with members attending the Ecosystem and Learning Solutions  conference Mar 25-27.
  • More on the way: we are looking to host a DC area meeting and perhaps a Bangkok/SE Asia meeting and very likely will do another London meeting later in the year. If you want to host something in your area, let me know.

In addition, you are also interested in improving how we develop and share best practice deliverables around topics of interest. So, you want to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. This is on our radar screen, and we have a couple of interested members willing to take the lead on a couple of topics. Stay tuned for more details.

Reach, Reach, Reach

I have also heard a lot about reaching your field staff, including more support for occasionally connected users, mobile content, and content in more languages.  As you all know, there are a number of complex and inter-related issues, but we share your commitment to deliver learning to the last mile. To start, thanks to the financial support of two members, Goal and Relief International, the LINGOs Last Mile Learning online courses for PMDPro, as well as the PMDPro guide, will be available in Arabic later this spring to complement their availability in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Please reach out me and/or connect us with your country and regional staff to we can continue extend the reach of our PMDPro expertise to where you are working.

In addition, the new LINGOs Learning Platform will be mobile-ready, so that will be a big step forward, especially for mobile-ready courses that you are developing. However, many of our commercial content providers are not yet providing us with mobile-ready courses. So, we will need to work with our content providers to help prioritize this need.  Our Last Mile Learning courses provide us with more flexibility but there is also work to be done. If your organization is interested in supporting our effort to develop and deploy these modules in a mobile format, please let me know.

Ensuring that we reach the field with appropriate, accessible, and affordable learning is a value that is shared by the LINGOs team. Let’s continue the dialogue to help us prioritize the most important courses and benefits, and where needed, to identify the financial support to make it happen. LINGOs has a long history of deploying new solutions thanks to the shared financial support of several of its members that helps us to leverage the engagement of private sector partners.

Onboarding and Curation

The third big theme was how LINGOs could do a better job in making new member start-up more of a turnkey process and how, for all members, we could do a better job packaging and curating the benefits and courses. LINGOs has become a victim of its own success; there are so many benefits available, that it has become difficult to manage. As the newest member of the LINGOs team—I agree; it has been difficult for me to get my head around it, so I can appreciate your needs.

Tacking this is a big challenge, but I would like to highlight two items in the works. First, based on our lessons from the LLP training, all new LINGOs members will now be on-boarded to LINGOs in quarterly cohorts. This will provide two benefits: a more focused opportunity to work with others on how to best deploy LINGOs internally and an immediate community for new members upon joining for broader best practice sharing.

Second, we will be co-hosting a webinar on April 16 with David Kelly from the E-Learning Guild on the topic of Curation that will be followed by an in-depth workshop at the Annual Meeting in Little Rock in October. Let’s use this to jump start our collective efforts to curate the best of LINGOs and provide all of us in the community with new tools and techniques to help our organizations and learners be more effective and more focused in their professional development.

So, these are the big three topics. I also heard plenty more about blended learning, social learning, technical course content, management and leadership development, monitoring and evaluation, employee onboarding, online communities, LINGOs working groups, and more.  The team and I have ideas and potential projects around many of these topics as well and we will share more on some of these topics later in the year.

In closing, it has been exciting for me to discover this robust, generous, and committed community at LINGOs and one that I look forward to working with on a number of initiatives where we can clearly be “better together.” Thanks for your hospitality in welcoming me to LINGOs. I hope to see each of you in the coming months.

Celebrating 10 Years – Part 2

Eric Berg, LINGOs Co-Founder and CEO

EricBerg (1)2014 is LINGOs’ tenth year. In last week’s post, I reflected on LINGOs’ first decade. Beginning as a consortium with modest goals of sharing ideas and experiences, today LINGOs is a capacity building organization with more than 75 member organizations; a project services group that led the creation of a contextualized project management certification now completed by over 7000 development sector professionals; and with the 2013 launch of Last Mile Learning, LINGOs provides access to a range of learning opportunities for anyone working to improve people’s lives in the developing world.

In celebration of our first ten years, LINGOs is planning a number of events to recognize the amazing individuals, volunteers, partners, members and others that have accompanied us this far and helped LINGOs become what it is and enable us to grow from a small consortium to a capacity building organization that helps those doing good…do it better!

Celebrating Volunteers

In March, we will be acknowledging all the volunteers that helped LINGOs and its members in so many ways but in particular helped us with world class instructional design and development skills. Some of the most talented designers and developers in the world have contributed literally thousands of hours and over a million dollars’ worth of professional services. Their involvement has enabled LINGOs and its members to create eLearning content on a broad range of management, communications, technical and development-specific topics.

“… I thank you very much for the effort you make to help everybody who needs knowledge gain it freely. May God bless you all.”

– Jean Pierre wrote from Rwanda, where he recently learned from volunteer-created courseware from Last Mile Learning 

The Learning Solutions 2014 Conference in Orlando in March when so many of the eLearning Guild community gather will give us a chance to celebrate the contribution of the volunteers and to share how the courses are being used and what a difference volunteers have made. We will also be acknowledging the generous support that David Holcombe and Heidi Fisk the co-founders of the eLearning Guild have given to LINGOs.

Thanking Partners

In May, at the ASTD International Conference (American Society for Training and Development) we will be honoring the second group that make LINGOs possible – the many corporate partners that have been providing world class course content, learning development tools, professional development services and state-of-the-art platforms so LINGOs members can provide services to their staff around the world that would otherwise be impossible. Some of our partners, like IntraLearn, Articulate and Blackboard have been with us since LINGOs was started. Others like Skillsoft, Net Dimensions and Yukon Learning are new this year and represent the latest expansion of corporate support.

Appreciating Members 

Later in the year at a leading development sector conference, we will be highlighting the work and contributions of our members. One of the founding principles of LINGOs was for organizations to share their learning experiences and products among each other thereby saving money and propagating best practices. We have numerous examples of member organizations that have produced outstanding courses and implemented LINGOs products and tools in innovative ways and then invested their time and resources helping other LINGOs members deploy the products and systems they created.

Finally, next November in Portland, Oregon, we will have our Tenth anniversary Member Meeting where we will both look back to celebrate where we have been and more importantly look forward to collectively imagine what LINGOs can become in the next ten years. Mercy Corps has offered to host our meeting which is fitting because it was one of the original six NGOs that attended the organizing meeting that took place in November 2004 at The Nature Conservancy. We have invited the original board members to join us to be recognized for their pioneering work and we hope to have some other surprises for everyone that come to Portland so mark your calendars now.

Saying Farewell

And of course as has been previously announced, Portland will be my final LINGOs meeting. As you can see, it will be hard to say “goodbye” to LINGOs at the end of this coming year.

  • We’ve transformed from a small community with monthly calls led by Linda English (then of Save the Children) to a vibrant community of members actively engaged in providing innovative, professional development opportunities to their organizations in ways that constantly amaze me.
  • Our project services group has run with the PMD Pro project management certification that LINGOs pioneered in 2010. The team is innovating learning approaches that fit the needs of our sector, with face to face, online and blended approaches to learning and reinforcement. Providing training to individuals and training organizations, we’re pleased that (at present) over 7000 individuals have taken the PMD Pro exam and more and more organizations incorporating the tools and techniques into their standard processes.
  • And through our Last Mile Learning program, every day more individuals throughout the globe are accessing content on basic management, financial management and project. In December, Jean Pierre in Rwanda emailed us “… I thank you very much for the effort you make to help everybody who needs knowledge gain it freely. May God bless you all.”

Celebration and Catalyst

In last week’s post, reflecting on LINGOs first decade, I noted that this anniversary celebration is also a time to look forward.  This is a time to imagine what’s possible, to leverage the accomplishments of our members, partners, volunteers, board and individual and organizational learners around the world as a catalyst; this is a moment “to dream of things that never were… and ask why not?”

LINGOs brings together vast resources of a large community of innovative private sector partners, leading global development organizations and talented and committed individuals working to change the world.We bring an entrepreneurial approach, knowledge of the learning needs, community and technology to enable change. I invite you to join us – what can we do together? why not?