Learning for all in a conflict zone

A guest post by Terver Kuegh, PM specialist at ACF Nigeria

Action Against Hunger Nigeria is using a social learning platform called Curatr to improve the capacity of many of its field staff. Curatr enables organizations to deliver online courses and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). The platform is built around proven gamification principles and allows users to learn from, and with, other people. Curatr also allows the facilitator to monitor individual activity and progress, hence making learning more measurable.

Learning can be a challenge in conflict situations and this case study focuses on north east Nigeria, where Boko Haram attracted international outrage after 276 or so Chibok girls were kidnapped from their school in 2014. The region has witnessed widespread displacement and heinous violations of human rights since 2009, plummeting it into a deepening humanitarian crisis. According the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, up to 2.1 million people fled their homes at the height of the conflict, 1.9 million of whom are currently internally displaced and 200,000 or so who are in neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. In the three most affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, almost 7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, more than 50 per cent of them children.

Continue reading “Learning for all in a conflict zone”

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.

Continue reading “Creative in Conflict: Project Management Training in Syria via WhatsApp”

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.

Continue reading “A new way to learn PMD Pro”

The story behind PMD Pro Starter

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

Whenever I finish a PMD Pro level one training, I can pretty much guarantee what the first two questions are going to be. “When can I do level two”? and “Is there something I can use for my partners”? Let’s leave level two to be the subject of another blog, but until now there has not really been a satisfactory answer to the second question. How can people use PMD Pro for their partners? What tools can help?

Continue reading “The story behind PMD Pro Starter”

Program Vs. Project – A Guide to Program Management

By John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

JohnCropperAgain and again I am struck by our sector’s tendency to over-complicate; taking something that is already challenging and making it even more difficult.  I see so many projects; health, education and so on, and when I look at the details of each one I see large, multi-million dollar budgets, multi-year plans, multiple areas of intervention – and sometimes multiple countries….. and I realize these aren’t projects, they are programs!  I could go on about how the donor funding environment is a major driver of this, but let’s save that for another time and focus on programs versus projects.

Program Vs. Project

If we structure our work as one large project, it will be extremely complex.  Budgets will be massive, risk registers will read like books, plans will be vast, assigning roles and accountabilities will be complicated– and everything will be interlinked.  If we can break this mass of work down into smaller units, i.e. projects, we make things simpler.  Plans are easier to understand if they involve a specific piece of work such as building a single healthcare center rather than improving health outcomes for hundreds of thousands of people spread over three countries. It becomes easier to manage, comprehend and control.   Just how do you deal with a change in a vast mega project? How do we even understand the implications throughout the project?

A Guide to Program Management

Clearly, there is no magic solution. Turning a mega-project into a program with a series of smaller, more concrete projects raises its own issues. How do we manage the program? Who will do this? What skills do they need? How do they coordinate across projects? How do they ensure that the projects are working together to deliver all the anticipated benefits?  Help is on the way! Building on the success of PMDPro (8000 people have now been through the certification), LINGOs, PM4NGOs and APMG are working together to write a Guide to Program Management and this will eventually be linked to a certification.

Programs are all about achieving outcomes for our beneficiaries and linking up to organisational strategies at country, regional and global levels. As such, they are at the heart of our work and I hope that the new Guide and certification will make a helpful contribution to improving program design, planning, management and delivery – and I hope that we are able to offer a pilot course in the fall of 2014.

LINGOs: Reflections on the First Decade and Imagining the Second

Eric Berg, LINGOs Co-Founder and CEO

EricBerg (1)Ten years! Ten years! It can’t be that long. I just filed the 501(c)3 papers a little while ago – or so it seems. But a check of the paperwork says 2005 which means 2014 will be the tenth year for LINGOs. My plan was very clear – volunteer as a staff person while Linda English from Save the Children, Mike Culligan from Catholic Relief Services, Meg Burns from Care, Mignon Mazique from Mercy Corps and Lisa Ferris from Heifer International decided what they wanted to do with the organization – maybe three years max. Then we would find a capable person from the sector to take over and lead LINGOs into the future. I could then watch from afar as the organization took off. But as they say about “best laid plans of mice and men…..” mine went astray many years ago — and how lucky for me.

Reflections and aspirations

Over the holidays I’ve had a chance to reflect on the past nine years and have enjoyed thinking about how our modest aspirations at the beginning – to share some online learning opportunities among international NGOs – has expanded into wanting “to provide world- class learning opportunities at little or no cost to anyone working to improve lives in the developing world.”

With the launch of the Last Mile Learning program this year, we have taken the first steps on that very lengthy journey. And with the launch of the new LINGOs Learning Platform (LLP) in 2014, we are taking a giant leap forward in providing a state-of-the-art, multi-function learning platform – not only for our members but also for local NGOs throughout the world.

More than a learning consortium

LINGOs now includes a community of members that are actively engaged in providing innovative, professional development opportunities to their organizations in ways that constantly amaze me.

The PMD Pro project management certification that LINGOs pioneered in 2010 is taking hold in the sector with over 7000  individuals having taken the PMD Pro exam and more and more organizations incorporating the tools and techniques into their standard processes. We are gathering data now on how professional project management has resulted in more benefits to the individuals and communities being served by PMD Pro certified project managers. Look for an article on that topic in the coming months.

And every day more individuals throughout the globe are accessing content on basic management, financial management and project management from the Last Mile Learning site.

Last week we received an email from Jean Pierre in Rwanda that read in part, “… I thank you very much for the effort you make to help everybody who needs knowledge gain it freely. May God bless you all.”

While we don’t know exactly who Jean Pierre is or how he found Last Mile Learning, we are happy that the message is getting out and look forward to telling you about tens of thousands of Jean Pierres, each of whom is improving his or her skills so communities can get more from the investments being made to improve people’s lives in the developing world.

Grateful to the members of the LINGOs’ village

There’s an oft-quoted African Adage that “it takes a village to raise a child.” In our case, a global village has helped LINGOs to become what we are today (and what we can yet become!). LINGOs would not even contemplate that audacious desire without the generous support of our village.

  • Our many corporate partners that provide world class course content, learning development tools, professional development services and state-of-the-art platforms enable LINGOs to provide tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of learning services to each of our 75+ member organizations as well as to have created the Last Mile Learning Program that provides a growing library of learning and training resources for anyone.
  • Hundreds of learning professionals have contributed their world-class instructional design and development skills, volunteering thousands of hours and over a million dollars’ worth of professional services enabling LINGOs and its members to create customized eLearning content on a broad range of management, communications, technical and development-specific topics
  • LINGOs Members have not only benefitted from the support of our partners and volunteers, but they have built on and shared these contributions so they are not just additive but contribute exponentially to the success of global development and humanitarian efforts. The ideas initially developed by one organization, tweaked and improved by another, can be continuously perfected, and scaled for global deployment at a minimal cost and maximal return for all of us who want to help make the world a better place.
  • The LINGOs Board of Directors provides the vision and guidance for LINGOs –allowing us to imagine the vision we so audaciously desire to achieve and helping us ensure we have the assets, including the village of partners, volunteers and members, to achieve it.

From not being able to spell “LMS” to contextualized content creation

We have accomplished more than I ever thought possible when we first started those monthly phone calls led by Linda English at Save the Children in 2004. From modest goals of sharing ideas and experiences to over 150,000 courses completed online — mostly by staff in the developing world. From accessing some corporate eLearning courses on Element K to creating custom content contextualized for individual NGOs and organization-specific processes. From not being able to spell “LMS” to creating custom learning platforms reaching employees around the world, we have come a long way together and we should celebrate what we have accomplished and make sure others know what we have done.

Imagine Ifs

But a Tenth Year review is also time to look ahead at what we can do together in the next ten years. Now is a time to really “dream things that never were and say ‘Why not?’” While I am very proud of where we are, I don’t believe for a minute we have scratched the surface of what we can do.

  • Imagine if all the people working in local NGOs had access to the kinds of professional development tools and experiences that LINGOs members enjoy.
  • Imagine what could happen if we could collectively figure out how to translate individual knowledge and skills into organizational impact.
  • Imagine if we could harness the entrepreneurial energy of local trainers to build a network of people who possess not only the professional skills but also content and platforms that enable them to work with local organizations to improve the impact of their work and for those local trainers to be able to make a living at it.
  • Imagine using technology in new ways so that content could come from the South and be shared across the South without filter or modifications.

These are just some of the things to think about as we look ahead. I am looking forward our Tenth Anniversary as both a celebration and a catalyst for new directions for LINGOs. I hope you will think about what LINGOs might become as you contemplate the year ahead during these first few weeks of 2014. You can be certain that all of us at LINGOs will be thinking about it along with you.

Co-Founder and CEO Eric Berg announced plans to retire from LINGOs at the end of 2014. We will celebrate both LINGOs and Eric’s many accomplishments and contributions at the tenth annual member meeting at Mercy Corps in Portland, Oregon, in November.

LINGOs seeks an entrepreneurial, dynamic leader to succeed Eric. To learn more click here.

Catching the PMD Pro Fever!

By John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

JohnCropper

Seven thousand. I just received the latest statistics from APMG and over seven thousand people have sat the PMDPro exam. I get excited by every landmark with PMDPro but I was reflecting over the weekend on just how incredible this is and on what has happened with PMDPro since it was launched in 2010.

World Vision engaged at regional and country level, training hundreds of staff and they now have their own trainers in East and Southern Africa. Mercy Corps merged its program guidelines with PMDPro and has rolled this out globally. Staff in one Mercy Corps office even talks about “PMDPro fever.” Catholic Relief Services has trained hundreds of staff and partners across Africa and PMDPro now forms part of its CRS Fellows program. Rainforest Alliance has trained staff across its global operations and has started a project to standardise their project management approach. The Inter- American Development Bank trained its local partners in Latin America and as a result, local training organisations are now delivering PMDPro. Plan International has trained staff across Africa and two of their staff still hold the highest pass mark! Heifer is in the process of training staff and developing their own trainers. Save, AFSC, Oxfam, the Aga Khan Foundation, UNICEF and Islamic Relief have held courses and many more organisations have sent staff to ‘open’ courses. One organisation is even talking about how to take PMDPro to two thousand staff!

Diverse Approaches

What is striking is the variety of approaches. Some want their own trainers. Others want to engage at a regional level. Some focus on the country. Some organisations are going for face to face training approaches. Others want the training to be virtual/blended. Some want to train their partner organisations. Others want to include their finance and support staff. Some organisations want to focus on PMDPro 1 – others are engaging with PMDPro 2 as well and some want to do a combination of all of these.

Common Need

Amongst all this diversity, it is interesting to think about why this is happening. Clearly, there are many motivations and needs being addressed. However, there are some common themes. One major area is that organisations want to professionalise their ability to deliver projects and take advantage of the skills and techniques that the profession of project management can offer. Some want to develop a career stream for project managers. Some organisations want to develop a common language and even processes across their projects. One senior manager told me that for the first time, their finance and program staff were holding productive conversations! Some organisations are reaching out to develop their implementing partners’ capacity and also develop a shared vocabulary for project management. Other organisations are seeking to tackle identified project management issues such as under or overspends, audit weaknesses or donor perceptions.

Overall, I feel that this represents a fascinating picture of change. Project management capacity building is clearly being used to solve a wide range of organisational challenges and what is especially rewarding is that the message is being spread by participants themselves.  There has been almost no publicity or marketing and yet … seven thousand people have engaged.

Catch the Fever – Register for a blended online course

Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro1) Course / February 4th – February 27th, 2014

Eventbrite - LINGOs – Curso de 4 Semanas en Gestión de Proyectos (PMD Pro1) – Del 4 al 28 de febrero de 2014

Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro2) Course / January 7th - 30th, 2014

 

For a complete 2014 calendar of Project Management open courses, please see http://lingos.eventbrite.com

LINGOs Project Services Group offers a range of training and learning opportunities for organizations. For more information, please click here.

“When Can I Do PMDPro 2?”

By John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

JohnCropper“When can I do PMDPro 2?” This is pretty much always the first question that I get asked as soon as people have passed PMDPro 1! I always suggest that people spend a few months putting the tools into action in their projects before they think about level 2. However, as more than seven thousand people have been through the level one certification, the question – and providing an answer – has become more pressing.

What is PMD Pro?

The Project Management in Development (PMD Pro) is a certification which has been developed with experts from several of the world’s best-known and highly regarded non-governmental organizations. These organizations are committed to improving the use of the resources entrusted to them for development, relief and conservation projects. The PMD Pro certification is seen as an important benchmark for continuous improvement.


There are currently two examination levels within the qualification scheme, PMD Pro Level 1 and PMD Pro Level 2. Certification is offered through APMG-International.

Pilot of Blended Online Course

Through September and October, LINGOs piloted our first blended PMDPro 2 course. We had organised face to face courses before but we really wanted a blended option that would allow people the flexibility to work and learn together. At the same time, many iNGOs may not have enough staff in a given country to make a face to face course cost effective – another reason for wanting a blended option.

So, how did it go? Overall, I believe it was a great success. The group filled up very quickly and we had people from fifteen different organisations and countries. Completing PMDPro 1 is a pre-requisite, so the level of project management knowledge in the group was high – as we anticipated – and from an instructor’s point of view, it was very rewarding to be able to ‘go deep’ and really focus on participants’ project management challenges and issues.

PMDPro 2 Course Structure

The course follows the same format as the level one blended courses: 4 weeks, online facilitated classes, structured reading, assignments, participation in a community and asynchronous learning via PMTV- a rather grand name for a series of project management videos we have developed that focus on how to apply the tools to projects. We seek to help participants get ready for the PMDPro 2 certification – but also cover more advanced material and really focus on application and how to get the tools to work in practice. To help with this, we provide bonus readings to help participants explore areas of interest in more depth.

What difference does this make?

Well, the pilot has just finished but one participant said she hoped there would be: “a consistent process of project management on the organisation level; more cooperation/engagement between different departments; more effective and successful projects, increased reputation of the organisation”. I couldn’t put it better myself!

Interested?

LINGOs is running the next PMDPro 2 blended course in January. For information on dates, times, and fees and to register: 

Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro2) Course / January 7th - 30th, 2014

Read more about LINGOs Member Experience with PMD Pro

5 Reasons Blended Learning is Going Viral at Rainforest Alliance

Blended approach gets learning to where learners are

What’s Project Management Training Got to do with International Women’s Day?

5 reasons blended learning on project management is going viral at Rainforest Alliance

What would it take to get your organization abuzz about learning?

RA-logoThe Rainforest Alliance’s Patti Lukas found that blended learning was a key to scoring a low-cost, quick win in learning new skills and bringing in a new approach to project management. Rainforest Alliance (RA) worked with LINGOs to introduce a new approach to project management. Shortly after starting with RA in November, Patti got in touch with LINGOs and learned about the blended courses on project management, which appeared to meet an immediate need at RA. She and LINGOs Director of Project Services John Cropper used a capacity assessment tool to as a way to understand organizational strengths and weaknesses in project management and explored options to bring capacity building in project management to RA on a global scale.

In addition to providing training resources in project management, the LINGOs Project Services work is an active learning laboratory, testing innovative learning approaches with NGOs working in international development and humanitarian relief.  As we’ve noted in past posts, blended gets learning to where the learners are and provides some quick wins for an international NGO with a diverse globally dispersed workforce and limited resources.

Having identified an organizational need to strengthen skills and build a unified approach to project management, Rainforest Alliance  contracted with LINGOs to run four-week blended learning courses (one in English and one in Spanish) for 79 of their project managers around the world. Similar to the Open Course starting this week, participants in the dedicated Rainforest Alliance 4-week blended learning courses spent about six to eight hours per week on learning: two 90 minute virtual classroom events per week and about 3 hours in self-paced eLearning and individual assignments, as well as participating in asynchronous discussions in the course’s community platform.

As more RA staff heard about the blended learning that had gotten underway, another 18 signed up for open courses that LINGOs was running in English and Spanish in March and more registered for the May course getting underway this week (For more info, see: http://may2013-4weekpmdpro.eventbrite.com)   RA is preparing to offer another round of dedicated RA blended learning course in July.

Five reasons that blended learning goes viral

1. Knowledge gain is equal or greater than face to face

Because the project management training is linked to a standardized exam of knowledge, the PMD Pro 1 exam, it’s relatively easy to evaluate knowledge gain from different learning approaches and to determine differences in the pass-rate across different learning modalities. Our learning laboratory results show that blended results are comparable to or better than face to face training with regards to PMDPro results. Among the 79 Rainforest Alliance staff from the two blended courses, only 2 did not pass the PMD Pro exam on first attempt. When LINGOs ran a pilot with Oxfam in East Africa last year, blended pass rates were 100% as opposed to 75% in F2F trainings (See this post for more information). Blended approaches give people more time to absorb and internalize content and they can do the exam when they are ready. This finding is consistent with a recent New York Times article on MOOCs.

2. Lower costs allows learning to scale

 RA-blog discussion1In these days of budget cuts and “doing more with less,” Rainforest Alliance contracted with LINGOs for two, month-long blended courses, one in English and one in Spanish, for the approximate cost of three week-long work trips from New York to Africa.   Had the trips been face to face, there would likely have been several international trips by some of the 79 RA participants and trainers. In addition, RA avoided the “hidden” opportunity costs of face-to-face training (when participants attend an all-day or all-week event, other works slows significantly if does not come to a complete stop). In addition, as the blended learning course took place over a month, RA staff could work as they learned, and had the opportunity to apply their new learning and come back to the facilitator and group with questions and comments. The discussion forum was so successful that RA is creating a similar one internally to continue and grow such cross-cutting conversations.

3. Learning where the Learner Is means greater diversity among participants

For learners, the ability to participate in a course from where you are, rather than traveling to it, enables greater diversity of participation. In the case of the RA English-language course, similar to what we found with Oxfam in Africa [https://lingos.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/pm-training-_women/], 63% of the 40 participants were women. Staff from seven countries participated: Mexico, Guatemala, Ghana, Canada, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom and the US; and those from the US were from multiple locations in six states. Given the travel costs, would this group ever have been able to learn together in traditional face to face training?

4.  Expanded participation leads to greater adoption of learning

Through the blended learning platform, participants were actually sharing examples of their own project management work and making connections with colleagues in other locations. The strongly positive responses from project management course participants on three continents have caught the attention of senior management.  The relatively large group from so many locations now able to “speak the same language” in terms of project management, has led RA’s executive team to plan a Project Management Office (PMO). RA is eager to have global teams using common tools and approaches for project management and the ability to roll out this new initiative both quickly and cost-efficiently are huge wins for the organization.  Initial plans include appointing a lead for the PMO, building an internal governing committee that will ensure the right tools are used for the specific project types. RA is also determining how to include reporting as part of the practice so that the organization can better understand how money is spent and improve and streamline internal processes.

5. Blended learning is greener…

For an NGO dedicated to conservation and sustainable livelihoods, adopting learning and training approaches that don’t require carbon generating travel (not to mention the costs and time associated with travel), blended learning is a no brainer!

Quick win!

Effective learning for a diverse global audience with lower costs than standard approaches, leading to rapid and expanded adoption AND an approach aligned with a green mission… blended learning on project management was a very quick win for Rainforest Alliance and for Patti, who started with the organization less than six months ago!  Stay tuned for an update in about a year to learn about the impact on project management that has come about from this first round of blended learning at Rainforest Alliance!

 Want to get involved?

An English language 4-week blended learning course on PMD Pro is starting this week:
Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro1) Course / May 7 – 30, 2013

A Spanish Language 4-week course starts June 3
Eventbrite - LINGOs – Curso de 4 Semanas en  Gestión de Proyectos (PMD Pro1) – Del 3 al 28 de junio de 2013

Stay tuned for Portuguese!

Is your agency ready for the revolution? (in education/learning?)

Post by Marian Abernathy, LINGOs Director of Membership & Communications

Thomas Friedman’s Sunday Jan 27 column in the New York Times “Revolution Hits the Universities” is right on. Friedman writes about the transformational potential of the “massive open online course” or MOOC. These courses are online, open to all, and for the most part available free of cost to learners around the world. International NGOs that provide learning services to their staff should be paying attention!

LINGOs Executive Director Eric Berg and I experimented with a MOOC last fall offered by Stanford University and VentureLab entitled “Designing a New Learning Environment.” Just as with face to face training, virtual classrooms and eLearning, a MOOC can be designed and delivered from abysmally to beyond superbly.

LINGOs’ vision is for anyone working to reduce poverty and alleviate suffering in the developing world to have access to world-class learning opportunities at little or no cost.  We believe that the more effective they are, the more people will have food, shelter and be healthy, the more people will be educated and the more people will live in a clean and safe environment.

MOOCs, open to anyone, presently at no cost, have the potential to create massive leverage for people who otherwise do not have access to university education. There’s enormous potential for the motivated staff of NGOs to learn along with others from around the world.

Lectures are pre-recorded so that students can attend at their convenience. This is great for students in multiple time zones, or international development professionals and humanitarian relief workers who have meetings pop up, long trips and disasters that may spring up and keep them from attending a set-time event. However, the flexibility has a cost, as it can require more self-discipline than many of us have. I did find taking a course with my boss to be a significant motivator!

A central feature of MOOC is crowd sourcing, which allows the course content to go beyond simple quizzes and interactions that are assessed as correct/incorrect and permit fellow students to review each other’s assignments and give feedback.  This means that individual students, as well as teams of students can submit thoughtful and complex assignments and receive comments and advice from fellow students around the world.

Talk about leverage! The faculty don’t have to respond to the individual assignments of each student (some MOOCs start with over 100,000 students!), but they can learn together and gain from the wisdom of the crowd.

We’ve been experimenting with some of the elements of a MOOC with our blended learning courses on Project Management. We learned from our 5-week PMDPro course last fall and are adapting our lessons and experiences in two four-week courses, one in Spanish in February, and the other in English in March.  These courses include self-paced eLearning, discussion boards, assignments and three hours of virtual classroom training and coaching per week. Given the live instruction, coaching and feedback from instructors and that we don’t have backing from venture capitalists, we aren’t yet able to offer this type of learning free, but can do it at a significantly lower cost than face to face training. We are looking at ways to leverage our learning from the MOOC to learn how to offer this type of learning at lower costs to reach greater numbers of those working to improve lives of people in the developing world.

Our Project Services Team is in the process of designing a “mini-MOOC” on Project Management in Development. This will be an asynchronous blended approach with no direct instructor feedback but with opportunities for interaction and feedback from other course participants. It will probably have a small fee – so not quite free – but will also include the opportunity for a certificate for participants who successfully complete assignments and the final exam. Look for more information on this later this quarter.