A Drum for David Holcombe

Eric Berg, LINGOs Executive Director

It is considered a good governance practice for non-profits to limit board members to two successive terms before they must cycle off the board for at least a year or more. This keeps a board from becoming stale and injects fresh ideas into the organization. However, one of the downsides to this practice is you must lose board members that you would rather still have on the board.

This past week, I had the opportunity to recognize David Holcombe, co-Founder and CEO of the eLearning Guild and retiring LINGOs Board member in front of his “Guild family” at the Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando. David is finishing his second term on the board and will be leaving the LINGOs board after our next meeting. Needless to say, I hate to see him go.

Community spirit and corporate social responsibility

It seems like only yesterday that I first met David and the Guild’s other co-founder, Heidi Fisk, at what was then called the Annual Member Gathering in Boston. I was so impressed with what they were doing to build a community among eLearning professionals that I knew I wanted David’s help with LINGOs which was simply a start-up operation at that time. David graciously agreed to help and after I “set the hook” I slowly began to reel him into more involvement with LINGOs – first as an advisor, then as a board member and ultimately as the Chairman of the Board. During that time, LINGOs grew from our first half dozen members to the over 75 international organizations that are currently members. Each year we not only expanded our membership but also the services we provided to them and to the sector at large.

David made it possible for each LINGOs member to have a premium membership in the Guild and with it access to the rich library of resources and events on technology-supported learning. I hesitate to point this out – but knowing David, I suspect he has already done the math – that benefit alone is worth over $125,000 each and every year.

The Guild has also been instrumental in supporting the Global Giveback program and since we began that effort, over 100 courses have been completed by volunteer developers. If you put even a nominal value – let’s say $5000 on each course, that is a “donation” worth over half a million dollars to LINGOs and our members.

And David has given unselfishly of his time and traveled at his own expense to LINGOs board meetings and events. In short, David has done everything reasonably or even unreasonably asked of him.

Witches+DavidH But, as I told the audience in Orlando, it hasn’t all been hard work. For example, this past fall at the DevLearn Conference in Las Vegas which happened to coincide with Halloween I snapped the picture bat left of David and the Witches of DevLearn. (I know they say “what happens in Vegas – stays in Vegas” but that is only if there isn’t photographic evidence) You might recognize the witches as Shannon of PATH, Catriona of Conservation International, Sam of Save the Children and Jenn of Ipas. I don’t think I have ever seen a larger smile on David’s face.

A Djembe Drum for David

DavidsDrumOver the years, David has assisted me with awarding djembe drums to Finalists and Winners of the Global Giveback Competition. David has always looked longingly at those drums and we even have had to pry his fingers off the drum he was awarding to participants. So we thought it would be a great way to acknowledge our gratitude for all he has done for LINGOs and presented David with a drum of his own. Alison Smith, Executive Director of InsideNGO and incoming board chairperson and Alfredo Leone joined me on stage to present David’s drum.

Alison acknowledged she had very big shoes to fill and if you aren’t aware, David is at least as tall as my six foot four inch height so she is quite right, both literally and figuratively. She also acknowledged that David’s entire team at the Guild from Heidi to all the rest of the staff made LINGOs members feel like part of the family and their support made it easier for David to be available to LINGOs.

In receiving the drum and with characteristically modesty, David praised the Guild members and Guild staff that have been so supportive and made it clear that despite leaving the board he still intends to support LINGOs and our members as he always has done and encouraged anyone interested to get involved in way that made sense for them.

We will miss David and I am personally grateful to him for his unselfish support of our members and his willingness to be available to me whenever I needed his counsel and experience. Hopefully, from time to time, David will tap on the drum LINGOs gave him and smile knowing how much he has helped enable.

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What’s LINGOs got going at the Learning Solutions Conference?

LINGOs will be at Learning Solutions Conference and Expo on next week in Orlando – and has lots going on.  In addition to spending quality time with our members, partners, volunteers and several of our board members at the eLearning Guild’s always interesting event, we will be announcing the return of the competitive element to the Global Giveback and representatives from International NGOs and eLearning volunteers will join LINGOs staff members at the SolutionFest 2013.

Back by Popular Demand

ImageThe eLearning community’s high level support and volunteerism is bringing back the popular Global Giveback Competition. LINGOs Executive Director Eric Berg will announce the fifth Global Giveback at the Learning Solutions Conference General Session on March 7th.

Any course created on a volunteer (pro-bono) basis for any non-profit working globally to improve people’s lives in the developing world in 2013 can be entered in the competition.

This is bigger than past Global Giveback events in that participation is not limited only to international development non-profits that are members of LINGOs.  Stay tuned for Eric’s announcement at the Conference and future posts here on an updated Global Giveback site and in the Global Giveback group on LinkedIn.

Solution Fest 2013™

ImageRepresentatives from several of our member agencies will be participating with us in the first Solution Fest, helping us to demonstrate key learning solutions for people working in humanitarian relief, health, development, conservation and social justice.

We believe that the better they do their jobs, the more the most vulnerable people on earth will have enough to eat, have access to health care and education, have a chance at a secure livelihood and be able to live in a safe and clean environment.

The Challenge: How to make world-class learning opportunities available at no cost to anyone working to improve lives in the developing world?

 

The Solution:

Image Last Mile Learning – a LINGOs initiative using the latest instructional technologies, the collaboration of the public and private sectors and the creativity and energy of volunteer learning professionals to create and deliver world-class learning in multiple formats and multiple languages contextualized to the development sector.

LINGOs Staff and Members including Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, ACDI/VOCA, InsideNGO, Management Sciences for Health, Samaritan’s Purse and others will demonstrate explore five enabling solutions from Last Mile Learning:

1. Last Mile Learning: Multiple Delivery Modes

2. Last Mile Learning: Creating a Certification System

3. Last Mile Learning: Learning Paths for Motivation

4. Last Mile Learning: Scenario-Based Performance Management

5. Last Mile Learning: Blended Learning Nodes (HoTspots)

We look forward to seeing you there. LINGOs Volunteers and Members attending Learning Solutions are invited to contact Marian (at) LINGOs.org in advance of the meeting.

Thankful…

Guest post by Eric Berg, Co-founder and Executive Director, LINGOs

ImageI have spent a lot of time on airplanes this past year. I am about to cross the reward-rich 100K mile mark with United next week and while traveling isn’t what it used to be, one of the benefits of all that “seat time” is that it gives me lots of opportunity to stare mindlessly out of a window and let thoughts just drift through my consciousness. Inevitably, maybe just because it is “in the air” this time of year, feeling thankful floats in. Working in international development we are keenly aware of people who are challenged every day by the most basic needs of survival so it is easy to feel a need to be thankful for our comfortable circumstances. This thought quickly gives way to thoughts about what we are trying to do with LINGOs and how dependent I am on so many people.

Last Spring, I wrote about our volunteers and how important they are to LINGOs and how grateful I am for them. And perhaps with Last Mile Learning, they are more important than ever. But I realized when I was thinking about this post, that I didn’t begin to do justice to all the people I am thankful for within the LINGOs family. The earlier post did not express my thanks for the LINGOs members themselves – the agencies we owe our existence to. Without their steadfast support since we began, LINGOs would not have been able to grow into a serious force for staff development in the sector. Our member’s patience with our start-up growing pains and occasional missteps has allowed us to continue to take chances on new and better ways to serve their missions.

And I hadn’t noted how grateful I am for our partners – the many companies that have provided their products and services at little or no cost so they could be used by so many to create and deliver new learning opportunities. Those learning opportunities turned into more skills for field-based staff who translated those skills into higher impact programming for the beneficiary communities and individuals that are at the center of our work. Without our partners, LINGOs couldn’t begin to provide the services our members come to LINGOs for.

And within both our Partners and Members there are so many individuals that go above and beyond in their contributions to the larger LINGOs community. In most cases, it takes an individual or a small group of individuals to realize the potential of the LINGOs collaboration to bring the real value to their organizations and to understand the importance of supporting us. These are the individuals that become champions within their organizations to engage more people and to push their organizations to do more to support the effort and to share the work of their organizations with others in LINGOs.

Finally – and here I intend to name names – in last year’s note I neglected to express my thanks to be able to work with an extraordinary team of people. Most LINGOs members first learn about us from Marian – who wakes up each day thinking about how we can more effectively serve our members. She is supported by Ana Raquel and Lourdes who wear a number of hats supporting not only our members but also our work in Project Management and without whom questions would go unanswered and follow-up would be lacking. And of course some members believe that without Robb and Joey there would be no reason to join LINGOs. They are the lifejackets in the temperamental seas of technology.

For those members who have taken on the challenge of project management capacity building – including CRS, World Vision, Path, Plan, Mercy Corps and several others who have worked with our Project Services team – there is no LINGOs without John and Roger and Juan Manuel. They are our globe-trotting team whose families have “donated” their loved one so they could share their knowledge and experience with others in the developing world.

Even before he came to work at LINGOs, Mike was actively involved in not only creating what was to become LINGOs but was also thinking ahead of where it needed to go. He was the lead on moving our organization into the creation of the PMD Pro certification in project management and has now taken ownership of our latest initiative – to extend our platforms to local NGOs and CBOs through Last Mile Learning.

And though you might never interact with them, Martha and Tyler work in the background making sure the details of finance and technical administration get taken care of so others can serve you more directly.

This is truly an extraordinary team and I can honestly say that a day does not go by when I am not thankful for their amazing commitment to you and your missions. LINGOs is very fortunate to have attracted such a group and I hope you will add them to the “things I am thankful for” list you may be reviewing in your mind in the coming days.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Thanks to learning Volunteers, Last Mile Learning helps improve the lives of world’s most vulnerable people

Posted by Eric Berg, LINGOs Executive Director

Last year, during Volunteer Appreciation Week, I wrote a post about the vital importance of volunteers to the LINGOs community, and how they are able to use their highest skills as instructional designers and developers to create distance learning courses that would not be possible without their contributions of time and creativity.

Last Mile Learning Program

Last month at the Learning Solutions Conference, I shared Last Mile Learning, an exciting initiative designed to reach hundreds of thousands of local development workers that simply couldn’t happen without the efforts of volunteers.

 

Just yesterday afternoon, I got a call from Colleen Streigel our contact at the American Refugee Committee. ARC is working with a new NGO on the Syrian border and Colleen asked if there was anything we could do to help that group get access to capacity building resources on project management and IT. This is precisely the kind of group Last Mile Learning is going to reach.

Since its founding in 2005, LINGOs has grown to reach the staffs of more than 70 international NGOs working in over 130 countries around the globe with high quality online learning opportunities. However, for every staff person working in-country for an international NGO, there are ten or twenty or more individuals working with national and local organizations that are in desperate need of professional development. They are the individuals and organizations in the “last mile,” working directly with the communities in need. The better these people do their jobs, the more people will have access to health care, food, education and a safe and secure place to live.

Over the past five years, LINGOs has built a learning management infrastructure that could enable local organizations to access world-class professional development opportunities. However, a substantial amount of the content being distributed by LINGOs today is proprietary and has been subsidized or donated by leading courseware vendors with the understanding that it be available only to the staff of LINGOs member agencies.

Contextualized, Localizable, Multiple Delivery Modes

For us to reach the Last Mile, LINGOs needs to create a curriculum that we have the rights to distribute freely: a curriculum that can be contextualized to the NGO environment and localized to the key languages of development. It also needs to be made available in multiple delivery modes so individuals and organizations without regular access to the internet can still take advantage of the content.

To hire instructional designers and developers to build such a curriculum would be extremely expensive and well beyond the capabilities of LINGOs to afford. So here is where the volunteers come in. Over the years, we’ve learned that when what we need is impossible to afford, it can become possible when we ask the right people. And in this case, the right people are volunteers. We began asking current and past participants of the Global Giveback program whether they would be interested in working on this challenge. The answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!”

Learning Professionals Step Up

We’ve always known that eLearning professionals are great short, single-assignment volunteers. However this is different. This time we are asking people to stay with the effort through at least one course revision cycle and to work in teams on a single topic with more restrictive design parameters (pre-defined templates for example). And still the answer seems to be “Yes!”

In addition to individuals, LINGOs is recruiting corporate learning departments and eLearning vendors to create some of the courses in the Last Mile Learning Library.

Cegos, a major French training company, has donated content for the 18 initial modules that will be completed by the end of this year. Several eLearning companies have stepped forward to volunteer to work on the Library as well. Several universities and corporate learning departments are in discussions about creating content for this initiative.

So Last Mile Learning is on the way. Learning opportunities will be made available to the people most in need of capacity building with the fewest resources and least access. None of this would be possible without the energy and commitment of volunteers.

As I said last year, much of what we do at LINGOs wouldn’t happen without volunteers. In an interesting twist, we sometimes see our role as the support staff who enable the volunteers to do amazing work rather than the traditional view of volunteers assisting LINGOs to do amazing work. We have learned that sometimes not being able to afford to do something makes it more likely that it will get done because we look outside ourselves to see the resources waiting to make a difference.

On behalf of all LINGOs members and staff, we want to acknowledge the volunteers that make our work possible and hope that each of them know how valuable they are to improving the lives of the most vulnerable people on earth.

Want to Volunteer for Global Giveback 2012: Last Mile Learning?

 

  Join the Global Giveback Group on LinkedIn
  Look for us in the Connection Center at ASTD’s International Conference and Exposition in Denver May 6-9.
  For more info, check out the Global Giveback 2012 webpage.

 

 

LINGOs Community Grateful for Highly Skilled Volunteers

By Eric Berg, Executive Director, LINGOs

 One of the founding principles of LINGOs was to provide a community of like-minded individuals who could come together to make learning experiences more accessible to staff and partners working in the developing world.  Our members are a large part of that community, our private sector partners who contribute their products and services with the goal of enhancing Learning Where it Really Matters are also part of that community. A third and essential part of the LINGOs community are our volunteers. In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation week and on behalf of all LINGOs members I want to express our gratitude for the volunteers who not only have served LINGOs in the past year, but also those who have volunteered through LINGOs directly with our member organizations.

One of the unique characteristics of LINGOs volunteers is they are able to use their highest skills to contribute to the work of LINGOs and its members. In the past, volunteers were often asked to do tasks that needed to be done like answering phones, processing mail and all kinds of physical labor. However, these were not tasks that exploited the unique professional skills that many volunteers often brought to the work.  While occasionally someone with accounting or legal or marketing skills were used in those areas, for the most part, volunteers simply were viewed as surplus labor.

The volunteers we speak with are eager to be a part of the work LINGOs and its members do in the developing world to build the skills of field-based staff. While most are not able to take time off and travel to these far-away places, they would still like to know that their contribution is making a difference in the field. Fortunately, there is much that needs to be done that can be completed remotely without ever leaving home or office. 

In the past two years through the LINGOs/eLearning Guild eLearning Global Giveback program, over 50 courses have been created by more than 100 volunteer instructional designers, developers and learning professionals. These course have been taken by people around the world and the work of the volunteers is being felt in remote parts of the globe.

In addition to the outstanding Global Giveback Volunteers (179 who signed up for GG2 and the 150+ eLearning developers, instructional designers and gamers who are on the eLearning Global Giveback Group on LinkedIn),  many other volunteers have shared their expertise, advice and time with LINGOs and its members this year.

In the past few months alone LINGOs itself has benefitted from:

Instructional Technology graduate students who have interned with LINGOs on projects, from assessing the need and support for a contextualized curriculum for blended and eLearning for NGOs to helping  define the learning objectives and develop the examination question for the PMD Pro certification– we thank Jennifer May and Jenny McAtee from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Sharing marketing knowledge, skill and expertise to help us build our own capacity to clarify and communicate what LINGOs has to offer to potential members, partners and other volunteers – we are grateful to Bryce Johannes.

Facilitating the identification of needs, processes and resources to update LINGOs’ web architecture, to help us better serve our existing members, our potential members and their global staff, to engage partners and volunteers, we thank Celia Bohle, Kevin Kussman and Bryce Johannes.

Introducing us to potential partners, serving as a strategic advisor to a new and relatively small organization, building templates that will be of use to many new members, we thank Ruth Kustoff.

For providing his engaging and interactive virtual classroom training to build the capacity of over 400 humanitarian relief, international development, social justice and conservation workers from the staff of our member organizations so that they can design and deliver engaging virtual classroom training, we are grateful to Greg Davis.

For reviewing and juding the eLearning Global Giveback competition this year, we thank Jane BozarthGreg Davis,   Linda EnglishJane HartJim KlaasPatti Shank, and  Roger Steele.

The individual and corporate Instructional designers, eLearning developers who participated in the eLearning Global Giveback not only contributed the courses they developed, but also mentored and coached individuals and organizations to build their capacity to create their own courses in the future. Many of these courses will benefit not only the global staff of the organizations that received them, but the global staff of other LINGOs member agencies (probably well over 100,000 international development, relief, conservation and social justice workers), but in some cases, such as Amanda Warner’s winning course for ACCION and the Smart Campaign, will benefit anyone working in microfinance.

We are indeed fortunate to have had so many volunteers give LINGOs and our members this tremendous gift of time, expertise and service.