Heifer International Named 2015 Member of the Year

heifer logoCongratulations to Heifer International, which has been named LINGOs’ 2015 Member of the Year! The annual award honors a LINGOs member organization that has demonstrated commitment to LINGOs’ mission:  providing affordable, high-quality learning solutions to those working to improve lives in developing and vulnerable communities. Chris Proulx, LINGOs’ CEO, presented the award to Hilary Haddigan, Holly Dunning and Tamidra Marable of Heifer International in a ceremony Wednesday night at the Global Learning Forum.

In a statement before the ceremony, Hilary Haddigan, Chief of Mission Effectiveness at Heifer, thanked LINGOs for the “recognition of the journey Heifer is on,” noting that it was an honor for Heifer to be in service to the communities where it works.

Heifer International, a longtime LINGOs member organization, is dedicated to ending hunger and poverty, and to caring for the Earth. In support of this mission, Heifer has worked closely with the LINGOs community to develop and share best practices for organizational learning and capacity building.

When a new Learning Management System was rolled out to the LINGOs community this year, Heifer consistently provided the community with its findings and solutions to shared challenges.

“The idea was to go through [the LMS rollout] together,” says Holly Dunning, Talent Development Manager at Heifer. “We were creating a lot of materials that we were sharing with the rest of the [LINGOs community]. We didn’t want to miss a second of it.”

In its push to build capacity across the organization, Heifer has also been a leading champion and adopter of PMD Pro, a training and professional certification designed for project managers in the development sector. Tamidra Marable, Talent Development Manager at Heifer, says that PMD Pro is “a central tool” in Heifer’s goal to help 4 million families achieve a living income by 2020, adding that as staff and partners are trained in the approach, everyone “gains a common taxonomy and understanding of our way of working.”

In short, it’s about collaboration – and strategy. Proulx calls Heifer International “a model organization in terms of linking business strategy to learning and performance improvement.”

For NGOs that are developing learning plans of their own, Proulx says that “the takeaway from Heifer is to align the learning activities that you’re doing with your organization’s specific business challenges or objectives. [Learning success] is about focus, more than it is about breadth and depth of resources.”

About the Global Learning Awards

Presented annually at LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum, the Global Learning Awards celebrate individuals and organizations that have significantly supported LINGOs’ mission: ensuring that its members and the NGO community at large have access to affordable, appropriate learning wherever they work.

Vicki Aken Named 2015 Eric Berg LEAP Award Winner

VIcki 3When it comes to humanitarian responses to the ongoing crisis in Syria, the risks to aid workers are beyond debate – bombings and kidnappings are frequent in the region. For Vicki Aken, Country Director at GOAL Syria, the danger can lead to the question of whether GOAL should be operating in Syria at all. But as she says, “if you put that same question to my staff inside Syria, they say, ‘How can we call ourselves a humanitarian organization if we don’t work in areas like this?’”

To a bystander, the task of professionally developing humanitarian staff in Syria can seem a luxury for later times, given the stakes. But with her team inside Syria 100% committed to the crisis response, Vicki sees it as her role to find ways to support them.

Vicki, who is currently based in Antakya, Turkey, said that although she has over 400 staff inside Syria, only seven people can cross the border point at a time. “We just have to figure out new ways of getting [our staff in Syria] training,” she said.

Vicki is the inaugural winner of the Eric Berg LEAP Award, named for LINGOs’ Co-Founder and CEO Emeritus. The award honors a leader in the learning and capacity building sector who has demonstrated a commitment to “leaping while trusting the net will appear” – an old maxim of Berg’s about not missing opportunities to make a difference.

Vicki’s commitment to field-based training and local capacity building has been long-standing, beginning with her work managing a community technology center in Tonga as a Peace Corps volunteer. In 2008, she developed a prototype online course for the Project Management for Development Professionals (PMD Pro) training, a professional certification that has now reached over 10,000 development and humanitarian workers in over 140 countries globally.

As GOAL’s Country Director in Sudan, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, and now Syria, Vicki has advocated for and disseminated a range of online and offline training to develop and build the capacity of the staff and partner organizations working most closely with communities—workers who don’t always receive access to world class learning. Of her dedication to developing staff in tough locations, Eric Berg, a longtime mentor of Vicki’s, says: “It’s not something you can toss off and say, ‘I could do that, too.’ I think it takes a different kind of person, and that’s one of the reasons I think so highly of Vicki.”

“Looking at Vicki’s current leadership role, it would be easy to offer reasons for why Syria is perhaps not place to invest in the human capital of her team—to take a more ‘fire fighting approach’,” said Chris Proulx, LINGOs’ CEO. “But Vicki is unwilling to accept that as a status quo. She’s continually finding creative, flexible ways to invest in her people – to professionally develop staff doing difficult work in a near impossible situation.”

Most recently, Vicki has spearheaded a number of capacity building projects in Syria—building the skills of local NGOs in one of the world’s most challenging crises. For example, she deployed innovative uses of technology such as Blackboard Collaborate to continue developing and remotely managing staff in Syria across the closed border.

It’s a familiar page from the private sector’s book, Vicki says. “[Organizations in the private sector] hire the best people no matter where they’re located, and they figure out how to work with them virtually. So why do we have to keep thinking about it as remote management? Why not think about it as just a different type of management?”

This ability to turn constraints into stepping stones resonates in her advice to young professionals looking to make their start in the sector. Touching briefly on her experience working with the Common Humanitarian Fund in Sudan, for which she eventually was an Advisory Board Member, Vicki says: “I had no idea how it worked, and when the [NGO I was with] was looking for someone to be the representative liaison with it, I volunteered to do it, because I figured that was the best way to [learn] how it works.” She laughs.

“To just start working with it and with the people who set it up – you have to be willing to do things like that.”

About the Global Learning Awards

Presented annually at LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum, the Global Learning Awards celebrate individuals and organizations that have significantly supported LINGOs’ mission: ensuring that its members and the NGO community at large have access to affordable, appropriate learning wherever they work.

ANNOUNCEMENT: New Partnership with the Humanitarian Leadership Academy

Following conferences the Humanitarian Partnerships Conference in Nairobi and World Humanitarian Summit Quest for Humanitarian Effectiveness in Manchester,

LINGOs is delighted to announce a new partnership with The Humanitarian Leadership Academy.

Together both organizations will be developing an exciting context-specific project management learning program called PMD (Project Management for Development) Pro Starter. We know that basic project skills are vital for the efficient and effective delivery of aid and yet, access to learning opportunities for local staff remains limited. This partnership will begin to improve the quality and accessibility of project management training and ongoing support for those managing projects in the field.

PMD Pro Starter will be a carefully curated set of learning materials and tools that will ensure that best practices from both professional project management (PRINCE2 and PMP) and aid-specific tools (PMD Pro) are utilised to maximize the capacity of in-country staff and aid partners to deliver effective humanitarian response.

By co-creating the PMD PRO Starter course with key stakeholders, the partnership will develop a course that meets the needs of local NGOs, community based organizations, local government, local private sector and national organizations that manage humanitarian projects in the field level.

If you would like to become involved in this program please email academyenquiries@savethechildren.org.uk for more information.

Follow us both on twitter to keep up-to date with this project @AcademyHum @LINGOsOrg.

MOOCs4Dev – Beyond the Hype to Best Practice

Guest post by CEO Chris Proulx, about the expert panel he’ll be moderating at LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum!

LINGOs logoOverhyped? Or a misunderstood innovation in learning?

Since their launch in 2012, massive open online courses (MOOCs) have generated lots of buzz, controversy, and investment. Much of the attention around MOOCs has been focused on their disruptive qualities – enormous scale, big data – against the landscape of higher education and other traditional educational models. I lived through that frothy discussion during my last couple of years as CEO at eCornell and have a few bruises to show for it.

As the debate around their role in learning continues, MOOCs and other higher-volume, higher-engagement online learning models have quietly been making inroads into private and social sector organizations. There, they’re being used to explore innovative solutions to complex problems, build broad-based skills for next generation workforces, develop leadership teams, and more.

At the LINGOs Global Learning Forum in October, we will be exploring MOOCs’ implications for learning and capacity building in the global development and humanitarian sectors. We’ve invited four experts who are leading the way in terms of innovation and application of MOOCs. Together, we’ll unpack several of the more vexing questions regarding what works and what doesn’t.

Probably the biggest knock on MOOCs has been low completion rates and mixed levels of learner engagement. But you will be surprised what you’ll hear from some of our panelists about what they are seeing in their metrics. Chris Pirie will talk about a MOOC at Microsoft that had an over 80% completion rate. Clint Korver from NovoEd and Nick Martin from Tech Change will share innovative approaches to technology and pedagogy that are driving social learner engagement in a range of courses:  How does the design of successful MOOCs differ from that of traditional courses?  Do we need high-charisma experts to lead them?  What role can facilitated post-course networking play?

Taking advantage of the theory of cognitive surplus, MOOCs are potentially powerful tools for developing the wisdom of crowds into truly co-created new solutions. Sheila Jagannathan from the World Bank has been leading the Bank’s effort to develop open MOOCs on complex challenges related to climate change, citizen engagement, and the evolving role of public-private partnerships.  How can we bring new ideas to our organizations for scaling up learning options for beneficiaries, donors, partners, and the engaged public?

The scale opportunities may be different between large and open public courses like the World Bank’s and smaller cohorts for internally-focused courses (aka the SPOC). So, what have we learned about the production and business models to make each model viable depending on the use case? There is a range of options available today for content development formats and delivery platforms, as the field has been expanded well beyond the better-known Coursera and EdX platforms. Microsoft, the World Bank, Stanford and others are leveraging different partners and platforms to deliver more courses and reach diverse audiences. Which will be the right choice for your organization?

In the Forum panel, you’ll get the information you’ll need to begin implementing your own MOOC at your organization: The panelists are prepared to share the inside story on their lessons learned as well as their aspirations for the future of this course format and how it can be applied in our sector.  Through LINGOs alone, we can reach over 200,000 employees of international NGOs and hundreds of thousands more at local partnering organizations. Let’s brainstorm on how we can build increased engagement and highly scalable courses from our collective expertise that will benefit our broadest base of stakeholders.

Introducing the LINGOs Learning Collaborative

Guest post by LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx

Chris_ProulxEleven years ago, six international NGOs interested in improving their learning technologies and training for field staff began meeting informally, to co-invest in and learn from each other. From those early meetings LINGOs was born, and it has since evolved to become a learning and capacity-building community of over 80 international NGO “members.”

Now in its second decade, LINGOs continues to grow: In the past several years, we’ve developed our first sector-wide credential, PMD Pro, and partnered with other NGOs on deeper learning initiatives. Even so, in the eyes of many in the sector, LINGOs remains a “membership organization.”

Starting today, we are taking big steps towards expanding our community and the concept of what learning in NGOs (and beyond) can mean. I am pleased to announce that after a three-month search, we have selected Ross Coxon as our first Director of the Learning Collaborative!

First, a bit about Ross: While he has been with LINGOs for a year in our Project Ross_CoxonServices group, facilitating PMD Pro training and developing and enhancing our curricula, many of you may also know him from his nine years as the Head of Learning and Development for Islamic Relief. While at IR, Ross grew the L&D department into the highest-ranking internal department on staff surveys, co-authored an entirely new management development program grounded in the culture and values of IR, introduced LINGOs to IR (thanks!) and was active in the various L&D communities in the UK.

Ross stood out as the ideal candidate to lead our transition from “membership” to the “Learning Collaborative” based on his passion for learning, experience in the field, ideas and vision for a broader and more engaged community, and his overall tenacity and energy for results. Congratulations, Ross, and we’re excited to see all that you’ll do in this new role!

So, what’s behind the idea of the “Learning Collaborative”? For those of you who attended our Annual Member Meeting in Portland last year, you heard me discuss my concept of the “learning ecosystem.” Following that meeting, I spoke with members, field staff, CEOs, and learning providers about the future LINGOs learning ecosystem, and found that three key points emerged from our conversations:

  • It’s about learning; no matter where, how or by whom it is deployed. LINGOs got its start in technology, yet it’s clear that the distinction between e-learning and learning has blurred. Our focus needs to be on the broader spectrum of learning – while highlighting and providing solutions for the powerful role that technology can play. The sector has also recognized that learning is being created both inside and outside traditional L&D departments, at headquarters and in the field. As a result, LINGOs can and should work to meet the needs of this wider community of professionals engaged in learning and development. The decisions to launch the Global Learning Forum this year as an open event and to focus a Forum track on local capacity building are just a few of the ways that we’re bringing innovative ideas and new practitioners into the conversation.
Learning leaders from NGOs in Asia gathered in April at IUCN Bangkok with LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx and Project Services Director John Cropper.

Learning leaders from NGOs in Asia gathered in April at IUCN Bangkok with LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx and Project Services Director John Cropper.

  • Geography matters. When I joined LINGOs, 75% of our members were headquartered in the United States – a fact which did not reflect the geographic distribution of NGOs, or the breadth of innovative learning practice in the sector. So, we’ve committed to proactively expanding our reach and inviting a much broader range of development actors into our community: NGOs and non-NGOs, US-based organizations and global ones. As a result:
    • Two-thirds of our new members this year are based outside the US and the UK.
    • With Ross’ selection as Director of the Learning Collaborative, half of our leadership team is now based outside the US, and most on the team have significant field experience in the Global South – another step towards building a more global LINGOs. (We are currently in four countries and six time zones – not bad for a small team!)
Two-thirds of our new members this year are based outside the US or UK.

Two-thirds of our new members this year are based outside the US or UK.

  • The sector needs deeper community and collaboration. The desire for more frequent, richer, and more diverse ways to build community, share best practices, and co-create solutions is strong. Coming later this month, we will beta-launch the LINGOs Community Site, where you will find and create new solutions, how-tos, and best practices while informally connecting with the community. And at the Global Learning Forum, we are dedicating part of Day Two to designing a shared work agenda for 2016 – with the goal of collaborating to create tools that will benefit the entire sector.

As part of this transition, Marian Abernathy will be assuming a new role as Marian_Abernathyour Partner Engagement Manager (when she has finished planning and managing the Global Learning Forum)! For the first time ever, we will have a person dedicated to recruiting and managing our private sector partners and supporters, with a focus on finding new ways to maximize the value and benefit for our members. At the same time, she will have a little more free time to spend with her family, which is richly deserved after five years as the Director of Membership. Please congratulate Marian on her new role and join me in thanking her for leading our community with so much enthusiasm and energy.

Speaking of the Global Learning Forum:

  • Our session schedule is live!
  • We have the same number of people now registered that we had in Portland last year—with six weeks to go. If you are not yet registered, now is the time…and if you are already registered, invite a friend or colleague who is working on learning in our sector.
  • We have three partners this year who will be providing content, analysis and/or expert facilitation. Look forward to conversation and insight from Brandon Hall Group, the Learning and Performance Institute and the Bridgespan Group.
  • Our lead sponsor, Microsoft, will be showing off some cool technology for learning using the Office Suite at our evening reception (I got a sneak peek last week while in Seattle – you’ll want to see it)!
  • We will be announcing the first ever winner of the Eric Berg LEAP Award for innovation and risk taking in our field.
  • Thanks again to Heifer for hosting us at their fantastic campus. See you there!

Does Your Organization’s Online Learning Strategy Make the Grade?

On October 13, Dr. Sarah Steinberg (of Frogstone Strategies LLC) and Ariela Rosenstein (of Rare) are leading a Pre-Conference Workshop at LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum. Entitled “A Blueprint for an Online Learning Strategy,” this one-day workshop is designed to provide expert guidance as you develop or revamp your organization’s custom online learning strategy.

Blueprint-e1434637111415Accessible and highly adaptable, online learning can play a key role in engaging staff, driving innovation, and forging links between organizations, partners and stakeholders. The road leading to these positive outcomes, however, can be a confusing navigation of buzzwords (MOOC, social, or gamified, anyone?) –and a pyramid of decisions about technology and content sourcing.

So, you need a map. And if you’re already underway but know that your strategy isn’t maximizing reach or ROI, then it’s time to recalibrate the path that you’re on.

In October, Dr. Sarah Steinberg and Ariela Rosenstein are leading a Pre-Conference Workshop at LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum on developing a blueprint for an online learning strategy. We caught up with them earlier this month to discuss online organizational learning, and two “foundational” questions that serve as helpful starting points for Workshop participants – and for anyone charting a path for online learning in their own organization. Take a peek!

  1. Why Online?

Here’s the secret that’s too important to keep: As you consider online learning options, your answer to the question “Why are you going online?” will be your driving force, framing all of your other critical decision points – and your discussions with stakeholders. In a landscape as wide and intangible as the field of online learning, your reasons for steering your organization there in the first place can quickly get buried in conversations about how you’ll get there – and if you’re still gathering your thoughts, it’s probably too early to be talking technology, languages, and content.

So ask yourself: “Why should my organization take its learning online?” In doing so, you’ll start to analyze some of the tradeoffs, a critical move given the variety of options available. For example: Are you willing to forgo a certain amount of impact for the cost? Is your focus on low-bandwidth field solutions, or a high-resolution classroom environment? Who in your organization would benefit most from online learning? Chances are you’ll spark some ideas about your organization’s specific goals and potential blended solutions, which leads us into the next question:

  1. What are your best-case scenarios?

This runs close to the simpler question of “What are your organization’s needs online?” but it varies in one critical, theoretical sense. Framing your new strategy purely as a solution to your organization’s needs can ground you in the logistical everyday – and start you plodding forward based on the building blocks of your identified essentials, a slow process at best.

No, better here to wonder, “What are the ideal outcomes of online learning for my organization?” This can help you envision your strategy as a line of best fit between your current position and your ideal outcomes. Your answers to this question (there might be a few) provide goals from which you can trace direct lines back – as the crow flies – to your current drawing board.

In the Pre-Conference Workshop, your answers to these questions will become part of a larger toolkit designed to help achieve your organization’s ideal outcomes, not just its needs. Under Sarah and Ariela’s expert guidance, you’ll assess your baseline resources, identify key activities and decision gates in your strategic planning process, and discuss implementation with colleagues who share similar goals and contexts – before leaving the workshop with your own blueprint for an online learning strategy.

Register for the Workshop and find additional details on the Global Learning Forum here.

Questions? Contact Sarah and Ariela – we’re all looking forward to seeing you on October 13!

Do You Want to Help Your Organization’s Managers Succeed? Come Learn With Us!

This guest post is by Mike Culligan, LINGOs’ Director of Last Mile Learning and one-half of the expert duo (with Sam Davis of Save the Children UK) leading the management development
Pre-Conference Workshop on October 13. Check back on the LINGOs blog for more posts from our workshop leaders and keynote speakers! For more information on LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum, visit our website.

chess-e1434637123955The relationship between managers and their employees is a key predictor of the overall health of an organization.  Strong managers result in more productive, engaged and committed employees.  These employees, in turn, contribute more effectively to the strategy and goals of the organization.

However, while the potential impact of strong manager-employee relationships is generally accepted, often organizations have a hard time acknowledging how difficult it is to get this dynamic right in the first place, and fail to recognize the real impact to the organization when teams fail.  Too often, when we retrace our (mis)steps from an undesirable outcome, we focus exclusively on the concrete inputs – budget, calendar, resources (human and otherwise) – without acknowledging that a significant cause can be dysfunctional team dynamics, inadequate communications, or any of a number of weaknesses that contribute to poor management.

So how does an organization avoid this problem?  Too often, we resolve to “hire smart people” – development professionals who are good at their technical area of focus (health, watsan, small enterprise development, agriculture, etc.) – and expect that they will grow into the role of a manager as they are promoted through the ranks.  This leaves new managers in the position to teach themselves, at cost to their own development and that of their employees.

The alternative, developing a training program for new managers, is daunting.  The steep time and development costs of creating a management training program is prohibitive, the skills required to create a curriculum are often unavailable, and organizations often lack the budget to acquire the training materials to implement the program.

Enter LINGOs.  This month, representatives of LINGOs member organizations are initiating a series of meetings in England, the US and online to look at ways that we can improve the management capacity building of our agencies by working together.  The premise is simple: While each of our organizations is unique, good people management is based on several precepts that apply just about everywhere – even in organizations of diverse structures and missions.   Are there ways we can learn from each other and share resources, so that we make good management a far more manageable task (excuse the bad pun)?

These meetings will culminate at the LINGOs Global Learning Forum’s Pre-Conference Workshop, “7 Steps for Creating a Management Development Strategy in Your Organization.”  There, participants will work on developing a blueprint for management training in their organizations.  We’ve been collecting and analyzing the experiences of organizations that already have management development programs, and exploring their curricula, competencies, and skill maps. When you participate in the Pre-Conference Workshop, you’ll be learning from these other agencies’ experiences: tuning in to the commonalities we’ve found between them, discussing their lessons learned, and identifying key success factors.

So whether you have a management development strategy that you’re looking to revamp, or you’re just facing the task of compiling one, the Pre-Conference Workshop will provide a map of what already works for organizations much like your own.

Find more details and register for the Pre-Conference Workshop here. We hope you can join us on October 13!