Is Traditional L&D Still Relevant?

mikeGuest post by Mike Culligan, LINGOs’ Director of Last Mile Learning

Last month we published a survey, based on Jane Hart’s recent blog post, that asked readers to rate 10 different ways they learn at work. We did not receive 3,500 responses from 55 countries (as Jane did), however, 69 individuals from our sector responded to our survey. Their responses reveal a number of interesting trends about the way development/relief organizations learn, identify the similarities/differences between “our learners” and learners in other sectors, and raise the challenging question, “Is Traditional L&D Still Relevant?”

First, there is one very strong area of alignment between development/relief learners and learners in other sectors. Both surveys’ results identified knowledge sharing within teams as the most important source of sharing in the organization. Over 90% of LINGOs respondents identified team knowledge sharing as either “Essential” or “Very Important.” In Jane Hart’s survey, this category also took the top prize, with 87% of respondents identifying it as Essential or Very Important.

Interestingly, while respondents to both surveys agreed on the importance of knowledge sharing, they disagreed significantly on other points.

In Jane Hart’s survey, the second most useful source of learning was identified as web searches, while company training/e-learning was the lowest-rated way to learn at work. Respondents to LINGOs’ survey did not agree! LINGOs respondents identified general conversations and meetings within their teams as the second most important source of learning (which Jane Hart’s blog respondents put in third place.) However, what is probably the most interesting contrast between the two surveys is that LINGOs respondents identified Training/eLearning Provided by Your Company (73%) as the third most important source of workplace learning, just behind general conversations and meetings (77%)! In contrast, only 37% of Jane Hart’s respondents identified Training/eLearning as Essential or Very Important.

What does this mean? While it is clear that LINGOs survey data needs improvement, beginning with more respondents from more locations, representing a wider variety of backgrounds, there are several very interesting takeaways. First, Social Learning is king! Both surveys identified knowledge sharing and conversations in teams as being the most important avenues of learning. Secondly, it appears that eLearning and Trainings continue to be very important in our sector (while not nearly as much in other sectors). Why this discrepancy in results?  It could be because our offices are so remote that eLearning a pragmatic/practical approach to reach staff on limited budgets. It could be that the social components of our training events allow for the hallway/watercooler conversations that are critical to social learning in our agencies. The survey does not ask why, but it clear that respondents still value eLearning and Training.

Below you will see a summary of the responses from the two surveys. They are definitely thought provoking. LINGOs will also be discussing the results of these surveys at the LINGOs Global Learning Forum (Little Rock, Arkansas; October 14-15, 2015.) There, we will review the challenges these responses pose to our agency learning strategy, and explore approaches and products that will allow LINGOs members to better serve the next generation of learners in the workplace.

LINGOs’ survey results

Mike's survey data

Jane Hart’s survey results, available at

Jane Hart survey

You Asked For Accessible, Interactive, and Collaborative – Meet Philanthropy University!

Philanthropy University logo


On July 16, NovoEd and LINGOs hosted a preview for LINGOs members of a nonprofit e-learning initiative, Philanthropy University. Missed the webinar? Read on for more information!

Social, accessible, workshop-style – there are no shortage of attributes to describe the future of NGO learning. Across the sector, however, one thing is certain: to truly leverage our resources and common goals, the future must be collaborative.

Enter Philanthropy University: a new initiative powered by NovoEd that offers online organizational learning geared specifically towards the learning needs of nonprofits. Philanthropy University is partnering with LINGOs to offer community learning opportunities through expert-taught courses. Fall 2015 courses include:

Each 5- to 8-week Philanthropy University course is free to attend, and participants have the option to receive a Statement of Accomplishment upon course completion. Discussion forums & workspaces allow learners to share content, team up on projects via video or message, and get feedback on ideas and assignments. Participants from LINGOs member organizations can easily find and team up with other LINGOs learners in their courses, and use the Philanthropy University platform as a springboard for ideas to improve the entire community.

Philanthropy University for LINGOs Learners

Here’s why these collaboration-oriented courses are a great opportunity for LINGOs learners:

  • LINGOs and Philanthropy University share a common mission: to provide world-class learning and tools to help nonprofit organizations make the most of their resources.
  • Shared knowledge is a powerful stepping stone for innovation: joint participation in Philanthropy University courses will enhance cooperation and learning among LINGOs members – and across the sector. These free courses also provide a great way for staff, volunteers, and stakeholders within an NGO to learn together, and leverage their learning for greater impact at an organizational level.
  • Accessible learning builds a better sector: Philanthropy University uses Amazon Web Services to adjust video resolution based on available bandwidth, providing accessible learning wherever users are. Built-in course reporting tools also help organizations gain insights into the interests and needs of their learners – and help the LINGOs community as a whole focus resource development where it’s needed most. To this end, for the pilot year Philanthropy University will provide LINGOs with aggregate member data, and organizations with high participation (to ensure data relevance) will be eligible for individual data reports.

Check out the website, share with your organization, and enroll now! Questions? Please contact Jen Hu at

We’re also excited to be partnering with Philanthropy University on other collaborative learning opportunities in the future, including a panel discussion on MOOCs and social learning at LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum in October. Stay tuned!

Making the Most of eCornell: A Conversation with George Nyamao of MSH

george nyamaoGeorge Nyamao, an Operations Associate at Management Sciences for Health’s Kenya office, has completed a number of certificates in management and human resources through eCornell’s generous partnership with LINGOs. A self-described “family man” who loves people, music, nature, and his work, George also holds a Diploma in Management from the Technical University of Mombasa and an MBA in Finance from the University of Nairobi – a testament to eCornell’s versatility for learners of all educational backgrounds. George was kind enough to speak with us by email about his learning experience, the value of continuing education for his organization, and the colleagues he’s inspired along the way (our words, not his).

George, you’ve earned 5 separate certificates from eCornell through MSH’s program with LINGOs. What led you to seek these certificate programs?

It all started as a compliance effort in my first year at MSH, where it was a requirement for all employees to do the course “The Power of Managing Your Time and Personal Priorities”. I learned many practical approaches to increase my output by just thinking through how I could spend my time to achieve more and still maintain great working teams around me that are supportive and equally productive. Further navigation of this eCornell course showed me it was part of a series of other interesting courses leading to a certificate in Supervisory Skills. [Ed: more about the certificate here]. I discussed with my supervisor Peter about my interest and sought his approval, which he gave readily, and he pointed me to the fact that MSH offers great opportunities for quality personal development. The rest is where I am now!

How has your experience with the eCornell courses impacted you?

I have changed the way I work. It is evident. I have learned to listen more. I have learned to be more assertive and focused on what matters most on my priority list and also the team’s priority list. More importantly, I have gained satisfaction from having to execute my roles even in the midst of time and resource constraints. My interpersonal relations have greatly improved. I can team up with anybody and achieve great results, even the most difficult individuals. I now perceive challenges positively as opportunities for me to offer a solution. Solutions reside in the midst of challenges. Everyone can be enabled to lead in their locality and harness local resources to perform great work that improves the social wellbeing of the people.

George quote 1What has MSH been able to do or do differently as a result of your experience with eCornell?

The most commendable is that staff in MSH have appreciated that it is possible to grow their skills while working and impact the delivery of service. During my studentship at eCornell, I encouraged my colleagues Martin Githungo (driver), Brian Ayugi (Office Assistant), Irene Kihara (Administrative Assistant), Roseline Wandera (Operations Associate) and Rosemary Njue (Procurement Officer) to enrol with eCornell. I am aware that most of them have achieved certification and others are at various stages of their certificate series program. The MSH model with LINGOs is an open cheque to all MSHers to put their names on at total benefit to them and no cost to them. I commend MSH and encourage it to keep offering these courses to employees.

George quote 2

Any thoughts you want to share with LINGOs and other LINGOs member organizations (80+ international development/humanitarian organizations)?

There is growing demand for skills in monitoring and evaluation, program evaluation and assessment/audit. This is an area to target for course offerings to improve skills in the NGO sector for setting realisable targets/goals.

To existing and potential LINGOs members, eCornell courses are great models for leveraging value, by spreading the benefit of staff development programs over a big team. eCornell offers high quality courses at unbelievably low budget costs per staff member compared to conventional individual staff sponsorship programs.

Anything you want to express to eCornell?

The quality of training materials and faculty is commendable. The print course materials offer great reference. The animated presentations and videos are great learning aids, as are the array of multicultural Teaching Assistants and students who enrich the courses with global cases and experiences shared during discussions and forums. I am glad to remain an active Alumni of Cornell University.

George, thank you!

And to all LINGOs members: it’s always great to hear how member benefits have made a difference for your organization, whether they’re LINGOs learning programs or products donated by our corporate partners. If you have a story you’d like to share, please email

LINGOs member organizations have access to an unlimited number of subsidized seats for their staff in eCornell’s award-winning courses and certificate programs. For more information on eCornell, please visit and reach out to your organization’s designated contact to LINGOs.

LINGOs Global Learning Forum 2015: Why Little Rock Rocks

Holly 4This October, Heifer International will host the LINGOs Global Learning Forum at the Heifer Global Village in Little Rock, AR. We asked our host to share a bit of information about Little Rock. Here’s what Holly Dunning, Heifer International’s Manager of Talent Development, had to say:

First things first: Arkansas is that diamond in the rough that you want to keep secret. But because I am proud of living here (and terrible at keeping secrets), here are some of my favorite things about the Little Rock area, just in time for the 2015 LINGOs Global Learning Forum:

1. The landscape is unforgettable, and much has been invested in creating some of the U.S.’s most beautiful biking paths near the city. One of my favorite rides takes me over the Arkansas River via the Big Dam Bridge, the nation’s longest specially-built bicycle and pedestrian bridge. The River Trail system here allows a rider to ride for hours and hours if their legs will allow it.

2. From the Heifer Village complex, you can walk downtown to Little Rock’s vibrant River Market district. If you prefer, the trolley will also easily get you downtown, and the driver provides a great historic tour of the sites and buildings as you pass them. The trolley will also take you to the Argenta district, just across the Arkansas River (which, by the way, is a stone’s throw from the Heifer headquarters).

Heifer International's headquarters in Little Rock, AR. Photo courtesy of Holly Dunning

Heifer International’s headquarters in Little Rock, AR. Photo courtesy of Holly Dunning

3. Another really cool thing that is close to Heifer is the Clinton Presidential Library.

4. For those of you who are history buffs, you may want to spend some time at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site and learn about the role it played in the desegregation of public schools in the United States. The Historic Arkansas Museum and the Old State House Museum are two other great places to visit and learn about Arkansas. They are all close to Heifer International – the museums are within just a few blocks – and they are all my favorite price: free!

5. Food. If you haven’t tried southern fare before, Little Rock is the place to do it! My favorite all-around restaurant is a seafood joint called Flying Fish. A great dinner-and-show option is South on Main, and Natchez serves up local Southern.

And finally, if you’re giving yourself a few extra days in the area:

6. You may have spent your childhood impressing your friends with your ability to spell it, but have you ever seen it? I’m talking about the Mississippi River, which is two hours due east of Little Rock (in Memphis).

7. And if you can swing it, head north to check out the fall colors in the northwestern part of Arkansas. Have you ever been to Vermont in the fall? No? Well now you won’t have to wonder what it is like.  Fayetteville is a beautiful drive from Little Rock.  While you are there, visit the Chrystal Bridges Museum of American Art – it really is one of the finest in the nation.   Another great town to stop by if you’re taking a few extra days is Eureka Springs, which is a small art community nestled in the Ozark Mountains.  If camping and hiking is more your thing, Arkansas has some of the best.  Another popular spot in Arkansas is Hot Springs – the name says it all, and it’s only about an hour and a half south of Little Rock.

In sum, in addition to attending the LINGOs Global Learning Forum this year, I do hope you will add in an extra day (or three, or five) and visit other parts of Arkansas.  I am looking forward to seeing you all in October!

Holly Dunning

Manager of Talent Development,

Heifer International

Take the Survey: How Does Your Organization Learn at Work?

LINGOs logoA recent survey by Jane Hart asked her blog readers to rate 10 different ways they learn at work.   As you can see here, the results of the survey are provocative, and challenging to Learning and Development (L&D) teams.  However, her results likely don’t represent the reality of the learners we serve in the development, relief and conservation sectors.  While 3,500 readers responded to the survey, very few were from the global South and over 50% of the respondents worked in HR/L&D.

So, let’s explore the different ways that development, relief and conservation workers learn!

Please share the link to this brief survey with your learners around the world.  We want to know how learners in your organization rate 10 different ways they learn at work.  We will keep the survey open for one month, and results will be published in the next LINGOs newsletter.  We will then use the data to:

  • inform a series of articles that outline the challenges of the new world of learning
  • identify models to evolve the traditional role of L&D teams, and
  • introduce LINGOs resources that help address the new realities of learning in the workplace.

Please share the link to the survey widely and often!  The URL is:

If you’re interested in learning more about the resources available to NGOs through LINGOs, sign up for our monthly newsletter here.

NGO Learning: It’s time for greater coopetition

Guest post by LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx

Adapted from my presentation at an NGO sector meeting of learning and development professionals on May 11, 2015 in London, hosted by Plan International.

Chris_Proulx“Often coopetition takes place when companies that are in the same market work together in the exploration of knowledge and research of new products, at the same time that they compete for market-share of their products and in the exploitation of the knowledge created.”

A clue to one of the greatest challenges in providing learning opportunities for the NGO sector lies in the phrase NGO sector.

Although NGOs might be bound together by the common goal of development, this can take a number of forms, and in reality many of us are doing dramatically different kinds of work. In fact, NGOs dedicated variously to microfinance, health care, and conservation might have more needs in common with the private sector or government agencies doing similar work than with each other. Yet, many in learning and development roles for NGOs look to each other as peers rather than from related fields in other sectors. Why?

What ties the NGO sector together, when it comes to the learning we deliver to customers and employees?

For many in the sector, some version of the following statements apply:

  1. We’re charged with delivering learning to a global population in multiple languages
  2. who are working in challenging (often crisis) environments
  3. who are physically and virtually difficult to access and to connect
  4. and we are trying to do with constrained resources.

In the face of these challenges, and the larger macro environmental changes impacting our organizations, how can we as a community effectively deliver learning and development in our sector?

The pie chart below shows recent data from the LINGOs’ learning platform on the types of courses completed by our 80+ member organizations. Over half of the courses completed were proprietary courses, developed by our members for use within their own organizations. While a variety of courses were available for shared audiences, they were less enrolled than their proprietary counterparts. In an environment of constrained resources, this data is a red flag that we may be missing opportunities for valuable shared investments and co-creation.

I am proposing a new 70/20/10 model, not for our learners, but for us a professional community.

70% | Common Curricula and Credentials

To best aid learners, as well as maximize resources, we should be spending the majority of our time developing common competencies and curricula—built around the skills and contexts that most organizations share. One example of common curricula already thriving in the NGO sector is the PMD Pro project management credential authored by a working group of NGO sector experts, so the body of knowledge would be created by and for the sector. Designed to be a common standard for how projects are managed in the NGO sector – providing a common vocabulary and framework – PMD Pro is a truly collaborative effort that’s reached over 10,000 development professionals in just five years—over 80% of them in the developing world.

20% | Shared Innovations

The “20%” piece, for us, should be shared innovations. Some of our greatest barriers to providing learning are issues of access – physical or virtual. While learning technologies are evolving at exponential speeds (think next-gen mobile learning, social learning, on-the-fly translation, etc.), many of our organizations are not large enough and do not have adequate resources to be investing in most, or any of these innovations. Yet, often a few organizations begin piloting a new tool with early success.  With appropriate mechanisms, we can identify which new technologies might yield the most transformational outcomes for the highest number of NGOs and we can turn one organization’s innovation into success for the entire sector—at a much greater scale.

One potent example of such shared innovation is from the higher education sector. edX – a MOOC platform founded by MIT and Harvard, and sustained by many other universities is actually a shared investment in innovative technologies. Although these organizations are competitors for students, faculty and research dollars, they recognized that with edX (originally piloted at MIT) they could learn and innovate faster with improved educational outcomes by aggregating both their investment dollars and their course and student data. They recognized that benefits for all of higher education of shared “big data” sets and combined R&D teams and tools outweighed their competitive concerns.

10% | Local Application and Optimization

Lastly, 10% of our effort should go to proprietary investment – or what I’m calling “local application.” In the end, even with common curricula and shared investments, the work that each of us does in our specific organizational contexts is unique. Even so, we can keep our interests in proprietary curricula at just 10% by realizing that in many ways, local applications can focus on optimizing shared investments, or adapting core curricula to address the specific needs of our individual organizations. In our roles as learning providers – for partners, beneficiaries, and for employees – we’re more valuable as expert content curators than over-stretched content creators.

And as curators, we rely on the curricula and technologies of our community to enrich our own organizations. That’s a bright future for NGO learning.

Chris Proulx is the CEO of LINGOs, the international NGO sector’s largest membership-based consortium dedicated solely to training and capacity building. It has a membership of over 80 international humanitarian relief, development, conservation and social justice organizations. The PMD Pro certification, developed by a LINGO-led working group, provides project managers and team members working in the international development sector with training on the skills and tools need to successfully manage their projects. Join us.

Learning Against the Odds: LINGOs Member + Partner Donated Tool

Featured image above: GOAL SYRIA Humanitarian Communications trainee, Al-Baraa Haddad (Image: A.V. Crofts) from

Sometimes, supporting learning and development feels far from the front lines of humanitarian work. Yet, often, it is front and center – we were inspired by this story of how a LINGOs-supplied resource from one of our long-standing partners enabled a member to provide training and support to happen despite some extraordinary challenges. Earlier this month, Janet Humphreys from LINGOs Member GOAL shared an article written by a trainer who had recently traveled to Antakya, Turkey, to lead a workshop on communications for humanitarian workers on both sides of the Turkey-Syria Border.

Border closures kept staff who were intending to come on the training in Turkey from Syria from traveling to the training, and the GOAL office was also closed due to security. However, a number of staff were still able to participate using Blackboard Collaborate from their homes. We also recorded some of the sessions for others who couldn’t make it. The trainer was very complementary re the technology which we get through our LINGOs membership and it certainly meant the training reached staff despite the logistical challenges.

Read the story by AV Crofts on Flip the Media:

Stories That Showcase Resilience and Everyday Acts of Hope: Humanitarian Communications in a War Zone

And THANK YOU to our partner Blackboard for your generous support of LINGOs and our Members’ work.

LINGOs offfers quarterly online training courses that can help staff of member organizations to deliver online training.

The next LINGOs Moderator Training for Blackboard Collaborate is June 11:  Register - Moderator Training Button

LINGOs and Volunteer Extraordinaire Greg Davis offer a quarterly Virtual Training Mastery Series (VTMS) on how to design and deliver virtual classroom training. The next two-part VTMS is July 28 & 29.

Register VTMS button