Learning (faster) at the InsideNGO 2016 conference

Got a new idea?

You presented it to your colleagues or boss? How did it go? Not so good?

Well, you’re not alone. Last week at the Inside NGO annual conference in Washington, D.C., keynoter Adam Grant from the Wharton School told us that it takes 10-20 exposures to a new idea to develop familiarity with it.

Adam’s opening remarks set the perfect tone for the conference where finance, HR, compliance, IT and other professionals within the international development community gathered to discuss, share, and collaborate on new (and not so new) approaches to achieving operational excellence within their respective development and humanitarian organizations.

Continue reading “Learning (faster) at the InsideNGO 2016 conference”

Improving virtual collaboration with remote workshops

 

Originally published by Laïla von Alvensleben on The Logbook by Hanno:

Remote workshops: Collaboration done virtually

As you may have noticed, the times they are a-changin’. Our traditional ways of working are being disrupted and the latest trends show that the number of organizations embracing remote work is constantly rising, and they’re here to stay.

Let’s pause and reflect on what this means for companies in general. Should they all become entirely remote? No, for a number of reasons. First off, it really depends on what a company is focused on: some of their products and services are too difficult or impossible to create remotely (remote car manufacturing, anyone?). Yet their teams might still benefit from becoming familiar with remote collaboration because as enterprises grow and expand their networks, so do the opportunities for remote teamwork.

So let me reframe the question and ask, should companies learn how to work remotely? Ideally, yes. Not only is it going to help them attract new talent (already 68% of college graduates are more likely to seek flexible remote jobs), but it will also give them a head start to a new way of collaboration which is already defining the future of work.

Continue reading “Improving virtual collaboration with remote workshops”

Are we listening enough to local voices?

Guest author: Tim Boyes-Watson, Executive Director, Mango

I’ve taken a couple of days to reflect on what I heard at the WHS and what I didn’t hear.  My first reflection is that local voices were not prominent enough and that the WHS process did not listen to them enough.  My second reflection was that those with most power chose either not to come, or not to use their powerful voices to call for the kind of revolutionary change that is needed.  I hope, but am not yet sure, that the future echoes of the summit will create an opportunity for deeper and more equal partnerships between international and local organisations, as well as greater diversity of collaborations which will promote innovation.

Local Voices

The odds were stacked against being able to hear local voices.  Local actors were in a minority of participating organisations and were largely only able to attend the side-events.  Relatively few panels in the side events featured representatives of local organisations and it was hard for them to get opportunities to contribute from the floor too.

Funding for national and local organisations

Yet the most exciting outcome from the summit in my view was the commitment made in the Grand Bargain to: “Achieve by 2020 a global, aggregated target of at least 25 per cent of humanitarian funding to local and national responders as directly as possible to improve outcomes for affected people and reduce transactional costs.”  This was the big success of the consultative process leading up to the summit and campaigns led by Adeso and Charter4Change.

However, what I heard from local voices at the summit was that this needed to be about more than just getting a more proportionate share of money to local organisations.

  1. Degan Ali spoke powerfully about looking at what happens to power and risk, as well as money.  For too many local NGOs they get all the risk, not enough money and almost no power.  If the money provided is too inflexible and does not take into account the local NGO’s strategy and their analysis of local needs, then all the Grand Bargain will be is sub-contracting.
  2. I heard several Local NGOs speak about the inadequate cost recovery and lack of flexibility offered by donors and international NGOs, which means local organisations have insufficient funds to maintain their organisations, let alone develop their organisational capacity.  Fair overhead recovery and tracking this is included in the Charter4Change, but is not explicit in the Grand Bargain.  Mango’s cost benchmarking study has shown that smaller NGOs usually have higher % overhead rates.  We need to make sure the Grand Bargain does not provide more money but with inadequate or capped indirect cost rates, as otherwise local NGOs will actually be even more exposed to the “starvation cycle” rather than gaining what they need to develop their organisational capacity.
  3. Peter Ochieng from the Uganda National Association of Cerebral Palsy spoke passionately about how we shouldn’t think that getting more international money to local NGOs is always the best solution.  In his view the best projects he saw where when the local community raised modest amounts of funding for projects.  Then both the organisations and communities work together to get the best possible value for money, compared to what happens in externally funded projects.  This made me wonder if the revolution we need in cash-based programming should be extended, so that community members could actually fund the local NGO projects they need as well as using cash to meet their own individual needs?

Local Capacity Development

There was a great session where I heard about how Crescendo International worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to share a global survey of humanitarian response workers, whose key findings were as follows:

  1. Local and national organisations have a realistic understanding of their current capabilities and want to be able to do more.
  2. Anger is building among local and national organisations in the humanitarian sector over:
    a. The limited amount of money that actually goes to local organisations;
    b. A lack of transparency in financial arrangements of subcontracting;
    c. An absence of influence at the tables where decisions are made and a lack of support for building the skills to allow them to have more influence.
  3. Current support for capacity building is not responsive to actual needs.  Local NGOs are saying they would prioritise fundraising, governance, leadership and finance, rather than ‘programme-related’ skills.  The survey also suggested that local NGOs prefer peer to peer training and mentoring as more effective ways to develop their capacity.

This analysis agreed with something I heard in another session from Degan Ali, who said “We don’t need any more technical training in things like SPHERE standards, we need things like financial training and help putting in new systems.”  I hope work like this survey and the much needed new NEAR network will create a variety of ways that capacity development can be provided locally to meet the real needs of local organisations.  As Mango, we are committed to listening and building provision of what is most required, and that is at the core of the commitments we have made as part of the WHS process.

Voices of the powerful

As was feared, the most powerful voices did not even turn up to the summit, making it very unlikely that progress could be made on key aims around conflict prevention and upholding international law.

It will be important for NGOs to analyse what the powerful voices that did attend the summit actually committed to. NGOs will also need to mobilise and collaborate to hold the powerful to their commitments and monitor implementation.

Despite the many side-events promoting the greater use of cash programming, the Grand Bargain statement on cash was the sort of pathetic phrase that often emerges from a process where consensus was not achieved: “Aim to increase use of cash programming beyond current low levels, where appropriate. Some organisations and donors may wish to set targets.” The failure of the most powerful donors to make any measurable commitment to increasing cash programming shows how much they still cling to power and are afraid to trust local actors with the flexibility to respond to their own needs.

No monitoring process has been specified for the Grand Bargain and the 25% target for local funding described above. I attended the Grand Bargain launch event and was concerned that not one of the leaders who presented this had the courage to be the one to commit to the 25% target in front of the cameras. There have been too many previous occasions on which groups of donors commit to actions but do not create mechanisms to hold each individual donor accountable. We need to push for concrete and measurable targets for each individual donor as part of the Grand Bargain process as well as transparent tracking mechanisms.

What will the future echoes of the World Humanitarian Summit be like?

The leaders of many international NGOs did come to the summit and appear to be concluding that it was broadly positive. I am not sure we have the evidence to conclude that yet. The greatest legacy of the process and the event appears to be a growing consensus around the need for localisation. It is right that Local NGOs should seek to take much more power within the humanitarian system in a world where civil society space is under more and more threat.

However, to really hold the powerful to account for making the changes needed, the whole global civil society movement will need to work together: north, south, east and west. We also need to develop new collaborations with business and social enterprises so that diversity promotes greater innovation. Charter4Change, the NEAR network and Connecting Business Initiative are examples of new collaborative networks that have emerged from the summit process. As we seek to ensure more resources are available locally and can be used more flexibly, let us not get caught in a trap where we let those with most power use their control of resources to divide us. The increasing proportion of funding which will go to local organisations should not create a conflict over resources, but an opportunity for deeper and more equal partnership.

The Road Ahead from the World Humanitarian Summit

Last week, Ross and I traveled to Istanbul to take part in the World Humanitarian Summit. We set up our both in exhibition hall to showcase our work in Turkey and Syria to build the capacity of local NGOs in Syria and promote our new mobile-first product, PMD Pro Starter. Our friends and partners from Orange and Syan also joined us to discuss their local capabilities in the region—and Ross seemed to know everyone already!

IMG_6348 2

I had the chance to run upstairs to several of the side events and to network with other INGO and capacity building leaders. We also had many opportunities to deepen our conversations with others who share our passion for building capacity for humanitarians: CHS Alliance, Humanitarian Leadership Academy, PHAP, Mango, Institut Bioforce and Genome Consulting to name a few.

 

There was much discussion about whether the WHS was a watershed moment for the humanitarian sector or a failed attempt at much needed reform. I will largely leave that argument to others, except to make the following observations from someone new to this sector:

 

  1. Wow! 8000 people came to Istanbul for three days to, at least attempt, to create a new Agenda for Humanity. In our age of cynicism, political retreats to nationalism, and hyper-capitalism, this is, itself, remarkable–and we should celebrate it.
  2. Rome was not built in a day and we did not get to the (still imperfect) Paris climate accord in one try. For real reform, it will take more than one World Humanitarian Summit to get to the real change that so many at the Summit wanted to see. Maybe the bar was set too high. Let’s consolidate our small victories and look ahead with solidarity.
  3. We talk about “reforming the sector” or how, as a sector, “we can become more innovative.” These are perhaps the wrong questions. The “sector” can’t innovate—it is simply a compilation of our collective individual and organizational actions. It is up to each of us to drive our own innovation. Waiting for others (donors, governments, northern INGOs, southern INGOs, local NGOs—it’s all based on your perspective) to create the right environment, is a recipe for the same-as-usual results. Innovation does not happen by committee and certainly not by a UN forum; it happens because brave leaders drive it and nurture it—and then—others in the sector will follow, imitate, adapt, etc. (Stay tuned! We are working on curating some learning in the innovation space to help your organizations take the lead.)

FullSizeRender

From a learning and capacity building perspective, this biggest news from the Summit, was the Grand Bargain which included a (non-binding) commitment to have local and national NGOs receive 25% of humanitarian funding by 2020. That’s an ambitious goal which represents an 800% increase over the current ratios in four years. Nonetheless, it means we need to get “real” about why our current capacity building efforts by and with local NGOs may not yet be as effective as they could be. For our part, we’ve drafted our own commitments as part of the WHS agenda and have focused them on local capacity building while supporting northern INGOs as they adapt as well. I’d love to get your feedback, critiques, and hopefully ideas and commitments of support!

 

So, maybe I left Istanbul more optimistic than other Summit participants. And my optimism was bolstered by my five days in Delhi that followed. The national and local NGOs that I met are doing really innovative work, embracing digital technologies, strengthening their networks and peer-to-peer approaches, and raising most of their money locally in India. To be fair, these were development, not humanitarian, organizations—yet, maybe we just need to look with our eyes wide open to see the change we want to see.

Learning and the Art of Transformation

Guest post by Chris Proulx, CEO, LINGOs

Earlier this week, the LINGOs European team and I attended the BOND conference in London where over 900 members of the UK international NGO community gathered and networked. In the spirit of BOND’s new Futures and Innovation agenda, the conference focused heavily on the external and internal forces that are shaping the future of the international NGO. Many of the panels and speakers focused on a wide range of topics from agile humanitarian response to changing donor strategies to the impacts of climate change to role of youth-led social movements. The overarching question was what should be the future role of the international NGO. A few insights jumped out to me.

Where were the learning professionals? We had lots of rich conversations with heads of programs and fundraising, CEOs and COOs, and many technical leads. We enjoyed networking with our colleagues from partners such as the Humanitarian Leadership Academy, Inside NGO, Mango, the CHS Alliance, and the Cornerstone On Demand Foundation. However, there was a distinct absence of HR and Learning professionals from the NGOs at the conference. If any of the NGOs in the room are going to transform as they many hope they will, it will only happen because people are able to change what they do or how they do it.

Capabilities, culture, staffing and partnering models are all likely to change and they all will require innovative approaches from HR and Learning. In our busy, hectic, and cost-constrained worlds, we often retreat to networking within our professional circles. That’s great for sharing best practice but it is a huge missed opportunity for cross-fertilization of ideas—which is exactly what is needed in high doses during dynamic or even turbulent times.  I am motivated to make sure we have speakers from diverse roles and perspectives at our Global Learning Forum, so here’s an early hint—invite a colleague from your programs team to join you in Seattle.

Partnership and collaboration, but how? Many speakers advocated for more collaboration: North-South, Public-Private, Local-International, Small-Big, Cross-Sector, and more. What was less clear is exactly how to do it. I was chatting with the CEO of a large corporate foundation later in the week who expressed her concern that INGOs are not particularly good at partnering. She went out to give examples of innovative ideas emerging at smaller NGOs that could benefit from the scale of a large INGO, but there are no proven models for how to identify, adapt, and scale those ideas.

One of the panel chairs at BOND, Gillian Caldwell of Global Witness outlined 10 principles of a good partnership, which included typical things such as shared vision, communication, trust, clear expectations—all things that are ample supply in many of our learning programs. But some less so—awareness of differentiated power dynamics, willing to subordinate your identity, and love! Here in our LINGOs community, we know how to partner—you have often come together to work on shared deliverables, and we know have access to resources that enable internal partnering. So, we have something to offer here. We could work together across organizational boundaries in real partnership to take many of the key competencies we embed in our learning programs to foster internal cohesion and team effectiveness and re-orient them outwardly as the competency model and training for effective organizational partnering. Are you up to the challenge?

The Art of Transformation. The opening speakers on Monday were Danny Sriskandarajah, CEO of Civicus, and Aya Chebbi, a blogger and social activist who was part of the Tunisian revolution is now leads the African Youth Movement. Together, they made a strong case for radical change within the international development community. Danny highlighted concerns about the big NGOs getting bigger, an eroding of trust in NGOs by the public as many have prioritized branding over advocacy, and he worried that donors now only see INGOs as implementers. Aya talked about the speed of new social movements, the urgency of youth and their need to be drivers of development not the objects of it, and need to create transnational solidarity across borders for civil society. At the end of his remarks, Danny lamented the conflict between the “science of delivery” and the “art of transformation.” This comment has stuck with me because so much organizational learning focuses on the “science of delivery” as we strive for competency maps, performance management, learning metrics all layered on top of courses designed to improve technical, managerial, or professional skills. All are important!

And yet, have we also lost sight of the fact that the most effective learning has an immense power to transform hearts, minds, careers, and lives? Where can we find opportunities to use our learning expertise to create experiences that re-inspire staff around mission, or connect donors and the public the “why” behind the organization’s work, or extends the reach of the organization’s core know-how to new partners and communities? By putting the science of learning to work on the art of transformation, you will be expanding the traditional scope of L&D—which will require more strategic partnering—and maybe, as Gillian Caldwell suggests—a little Love.

Trending ideas in professionalization and workforce development

A guest post from LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx

“We need to build the 21st century workforce.”

Variations on this quote are currently uttered daily by politicians, CEOs of major corporations, local economic development advocates and NGO leaders and others in the social sector. When you probe a ittle more deeply, you realize that not everyone means the same thing. Politicians and advocates may be concerned with the chronic and growing un- and under-employment of certain demographics and sectors of the economy—many of whom lack the skills and expertise that are increasingly in demand by the knowledge economy. However, organizational leaders from all sectors more often are lamenting that the skills of their existing employees are no longer suited to the disruptive changes facing their organziations and/or their sector-at-large. In reality, in both cases, the pace of change in the economy is outpacing the ability of many people to re-skill and re-tool.
Setting aside the discussion of specific skills and competencies, which may vary from industry to industry, we can look at some of the trends and current approaches for addressing this problem.

 

Co-creation among networks and collaborators

The task of creating the new workforce is larger than any one entity can take on alone. Increasingly networks of organizations and in some cases, networks of networks are coming togteher to create new programs and frameworks. The models vary depending on the sector, but the theme of collaboration is the same. In some cases, these may be content-development and program delivery initiatives, and in other cases they may be an effort to agree on future competencies and credentials for which any employer or training provider may align their programing to ensure a workforce with the appropriate skills.

The Africa Skills Initiative, a project of the World Economic Forum Africa, is bringing together several multi-national corporations as well as government and education providers to build the workforce to sustain the economic growth of Africa. The large multi-nationals that are involved all have come to realize that they alone cannot solve the complex challenges that contributing to the lack of skilled workers that are slowing their economic growth.

Several organizations in the humanitarian and relief sector are about to embark on the creation of a Humanitarian Passport. The goal is to define the set of competencies for tomorrow’s humanitarian worker and emergency responder. With the size, number, and frequency of disaster (natural and man-made) increasing, the availability and skills of existing responders can’t keep up—and is outstretching what any one NGO or governmental agency can train on their own. The Humanitarian Passport will provide a map to employers, employees, and training providers for where to put their emphasis in terms of future skill development.

Micro-sized and skills-based credential formats

Another, and well-documented, trend is the move toward newer credentials that are designed around specific skill sets and most often provide recognition upon completion of shorter programs of learning. Employers are looking for more concrete evidence that an employee will be able to perform a specific skill on-the-job rather than having completed a come comprehensive course of study. The trend toward more micro credentials is growing despite continued evidence that completion of at least one college degree is still critical for career advancement and upward income mobility. There is not yet enough evidence of the impact of these micro credentials on employability and incomes.

The “nanodegree” from Udacity provides targeted training and credentials around specific software development skills. The program acknowledges that employers in the tech industry needed more people with skills in specific and emerging development languages and frameworks. The program combined content expertise from many different employers, who like the examples above recognized the need to to pool their efforts at training the next workforce while acknowledging that traditional universities were not always getting the job done.

The TechBac project by City and Guilds in the UK is another example where a new approach to credentials and qualifications is blending traditional training with proven skills, all backed by new digital technologies. It uses Digital Badges, provides for an online CV of skills and qualifications, and uses rich analytics to track performance and effectiveness.

Certifications like PMD Pro are an example of an example of the aligning of targeted functional skills (in this case project management) with development and humanitarian sector-specific concepts, language, and tools (in this case, development and humanitarian work.) By aligning these two, the result is a more targeted and relevant credential that be provide opportunities to quickly up skill existing employees in the sector or create pathways for new sector entrants.

Tools for employee-driven control

Technology is now providing more tools for employees to demonstrate the full spectrum of their learning and professional development and its alignment with specific competency development goals. Until just a few years ago, the tracking of education and training was the domain of the employer or an academic institution; and it usually tracked only the most formal learning experiences. For the employee, there were few tools to set goals, select and track certain learning, and then promote it to potential new employers—across their entire career with portability.

The most obvious tool that has gained massive scale in LinkedIn. The ability to track not only your employment experiences but your educational experiences, certifications, and achievements and awards is changing how employees are able to track and promote their employability. While better than a resume—with the ability to find people with similar experiences and education—LinkedIn is still limited in its ability to help people map their education to potential new career paths.

Degreed is a new could-based platform for individuals and organizations that connects employees to a much broader range of formal and informal learning experiences. The system also ranks each provider and course experience which provides additional options for employees to choose and for employers to evaluate the relevance and validity of certain educational experiences.

Earlier this month, I also got an early peek at a new tool, Red Panda, that will take what Degreed is doing to the next level. Employees will be able to set specific career goals and/or even align their goals to published competency framework. It is built on the OKR model and extends the model to professional development with opportunities for peer assessment. With Red Panda, the employee will be able to find, access, and track relevant learning—from articles to videos to formal courses and more—all targeted and aligned to their professional goals.

How is your organization approaching the skills gap you may be facing? What types of collaborative efforts are you engaged in? What types of credentials are you recruiting for? or encouraging your employees to achieve? Do you feel that you have the right digital tools to take your efforts to a new level? No organization is immune from the challenges and can take a holistic approach on their own, so now’s time to find new ways to work together.

Learn more about our latest initiative in the NGO sector to set new skills standards and get involved.

3 Proven Strategies for Increasing Adoption of Online Courses at International NGOs

A guest post from LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx

Chris_ProulxAt the end of 2015, I was reviewing data from our 85 members in the LINGOs Learning Collaborative—looking for insight into which programs were generating more adoption and usage. What jumped out to me was that there was a marked difference between a small number of members who were seeing amazing utilization of their online courses (as measured as completions per employee) compared with the majority of organizations.

Online course engagement at any organization is difficult, but encouraging employees to focus on learning while they are working in challenging development and humanitarian contexts can be even more of an uphill battle. So, I dug a little deeper and spoke to some of the L&D managers at these over-performing organizations to find out what was working.

Strategy #1: Start on Day One

At each of the four organizations I interviewed, employees were introduced to the LMS during their new employee on-boarding process. When Relief International overhauled their orientation program last year, Diane Barish focused on creating an online on-boarding program that had most staff using the LMS within the first 48 hours of joining RI. For Diane, this has been about establishing—from day one—that learning and professional development is a critical part of the organizational culture—and access to the LMS is a primary tool for which everyone can access regardless of work location.  At Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Fund, Leigh Jenkins explained how they developed specific new course modules on EGPAF’s ethics policy that reached more experienced employees as well new employees and provided an opportunity to re-introduce the LMS to the company.

Requiring completion of online courses has given online learning and the LMS a black eye in many organizations. However, when used effectively and rolled out properly, these courses can provide staff with a window into the breadth of training that is available. Tamidra Marable of Heifer International confirmed that by exposing staff early on through on-boarding and compliance courses, you are essentially marketing the range of course options that are available for on-going professional development.

Strategy #2: Make it Sticky

At the conservation organization Rare, Teri Brezner explained how she had worked with her colleagues from the talent development group to launch five learning communities in 2015 around important topics at Rare. By aligning online courses with these communities, they were able to drive increased engagement. This is just one example of several where an organization aligned online courses with other organizational initiatives that resulted in increased adoption.

For example, Rare also rolled out new training programs mapped to the organization’s new Leadership Competencies that combined online courses in the LMS, in-house developed guides, and an online discuss. Relief International goes even further by encouraging use of the online courses as part of the performance management process—in fact 20% of an employee’s performance rating at RI is tied to meeting your training and professional development goals for the year.

Heifer has made an organization-wide commitment to PMD Pro as its project management methodology—for HQ as well as the field. As part of this commitment, all employees are required to complete LINGOs-authored Last Mile Learning PMD Pro courses before attending a more in-depth face to face PMD Pro training. The use of pre-requisites as part of a blended program is not uncommon, but Heifer goes a step further. The online PMD Pro courses are also included as part of one or more learning paths, where the project management courses are combined with other management and soft skills. Employees who complete the learning path are awarded an internal certificate of achievement—delivered by their manager at one of Heifer’s all-hands meetings.

Strategy #3: Don’t Go It Alone

It is nearly impossible for an L&D professional to drive significant adoption and engagement on their own. Each of the four people I spoke with joined forces across the organization to make learning a priority. Teri at Rare is using VPs and other senior leaders as visible experts in their in-house developed courses—generating demand among employees and also encouraging the leaders to advocate and promote the courses. At Relief International, Diane is working with in-country HR professionals—training them on how to help employees match training courses to their performance goals and how they can use LMS reporting features to track progress of their country’s staff. Continued professional development also had support from the top-down at RI which creates lots of energy and discussion around learning in the organization with even the VPs asking for their annual training records to ensure they are leading by example.

Tamidra explained that at Heifer, leaders are now competing against each other for the right to claim that their team has completed the most training and learning in the past year. Leigh at EGPAF works with in-country HR staff to hold brown bag lunch training sessions where teams complete an online course together and then discuss it in real time over lunch.

And, don’t forget that a little sizzle goes a long way. Tamidra’s colleagues at Heifer have been creating Pow-Toons to market learning and generating some excitement along the way.

And…Focus

The other key message I took away from these leaders was about focus. Most of them spoke about only three or four key initiatives last year where they invested significant time and energy to ensure success. So as you contemplate your 2016 strategy, choose a couple of important organizational needs and initiatives and work with other leaders to design a program that will allow you to start to build momentum for learning.

In addition to these strategies, there are some useful resources on the web to help you jump start your program in 2016. Chris Pappas’ blog post on effective blended learning strategies is a great start. The eLearning Guild also just released a new e-book on the role of Context not Content in your learning strategy. Fcousing on relevance and currency, similar to the learning communities at Rare or PMD Pro at Heifer, is far more important and effective for long-term sustainability of learning that relying on compliance mandates alone.

And finally, LINGOs and the Learning Collaborative are your partners in this journey:

  1. Making sense of the data from the LLP is a first step to planning ways to improve engagement. Are you signed up for the data and reporting webinar on Feb 11? Janet Humphries from GOAL is going to demo some of the dashboards she has created to stay on top of her learning program.
  2. The Marketing Your Learning co-creation group is kicking off on February 25. Make sure you email ross@lingos.org to sign up for this year-long working group designed to create and share tools and best practices in marketing.
  3. The Learning Collaborative team has also assembled more learning paths that can help you target specific job functions or learning objectives more easily. To learn more, contact your dedicated LINGOs account manager.