Partner Spotlight: Bridging the Language Divide with Speexx

Like other multinational organizations, NGOs working in multiple countries face a major challenge to their productivity and success: the language divide between staff in various national offices. Take ChildFund for instance, which works to support vulnerable children worldwide: “English is the great unifying language of our business,” says Leslie Crudele, ChildFund’s International HR Business Partner. “We have staff around the world that are non-native English speakers, and they’re asked to use English in their business communications.”

Continue reading “Partner Spotlight: Bridging the Language Divide with Speexx”

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LINGOs Global Learning Forum 2016: Can Your Organization Host?

A message from Ross Coxon, Director of the Learning Collaborative

Ross_CoxonI would like to thank Heifer for their generosity in providing us with such an amazing venue and such great hospitality, as well as thank all the other agencies who have hosted us in the past. We really appreciate a chance to see your working environments and learn a little bit more about your wonderful organizations.

GLF Attendees have asked LINGOs to set a date and location for next year’s GLF so they can start planning. Before we can do that, we need a host.

It is a long and proud tradition that a LINGOs Member hosts the Forum. Would your organization consider joining Heifer International, PATH, FHI360, MercyCorps, TNC, CRS and CARE as members who have hosted a LINGOs meeting?

Hosting the GLF can be a fun and rewarding experience! The LINGOS team does most of the heavy lifting, with help from the Planning Committee.

You are eligible to host the meeting in 2016 if:

-you would like to host the LINGOs family
-have access to a facility that can host up to 140 people
-have an amazing logistics person who can work with us

Please reach out to me directly if you are interested or need more information. I look forward to your responses, and we are already getting very excited about the coming year and the Global Learning Forum 2016!

Making Co-Creation Happen in 2016

A message from LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx about the 2016 LINGOs Co-Creation Agenda

Chris_ProulxTwo weeks ago at Heifer International, 100 learning professionals gathered at the LINGOs Global Learning Forum to engage, discuss, and share their ideas for how to continue to use learning to improve the effectiveness of organizations in the international development, humanitarian, conservation and social sectors.

As part of the conference, we facilitated an interactive brainstorming to identify the top priorities around which the LINGOs community could co-create new solutions in 2016. We invited participants to submit their ideas for projects that would make a difference to their organizations, make a difference to the sector, and have deliverables that could be created in 2016.

We are still looking for input from members of the community who could not join us the Global Learning Forum. You can provide us with your ideas for projects in the LINGOs Online Community.

So far, we have been reviewing and summarizing the input from the brainstorming session.  The top five priorities of the community so far are:

  1. Digital Badges: Credentials that transfer with employees from organization to organization mapped to a list of competencies with evidence the competencies have been retained.
  2. Professional Competency Frameworks: Shared competency model (80% solution) – with focus on tools/resources/guidance for implementation for your organization – for common key field positions.
  3. A Platform for Field Practitioners: Common knowledge/Tool/Sharing L&D platform with user-generated content and best practices organized around topics such as Environment, Economic, Poverty reduction, Health/public health, Agriculture, Food safety, Disaster relief, Gender, Civil society, Education, Water security, Sanitation, Technology.
  4. An Excellence in Leadership curriculum with certificate: Create a peer mentoring network among NGO senior leaders. Group existing courses into a cluster for organisation leadership (on and offline). Develop a learning path and a certificate aligned around core competencies.
  5. Marketing/Branding playbook for rolling out online learning: LMS marketing toolkit and do-it-yourself resources.

We are looking for your continued feedback, ideas, and suggestions for how your organization can contribute to any of these project priorities. The LINGOs staff is reviewing each of these highly ranked initiatives for which ones can be worked on in the coming year. We are considering factors such as: other related resources and initiatives in the sector, potential for reach and impact, existing resources within our member organizations, staff resources, and ability for quick wins. We will have more information before the end of the year on how to join working groups for 2016. Until then, keep sending us your ideas, feedback, and contributions.

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five reasons that blended learning goes viral

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

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

2. Lower costs allows learning to scale

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

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

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

4.  Expanded participation leads to greater adoption of learning

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

5. Blended learning is greener…

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

Quick win!

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

 Want to get involved?

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

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

Stay tuned for Portuguese!

LINGOs Offers 5-Week PMD Pro1 Certification Prep Course

International development agencies do great work. As John Cropper, Director of Project Services for LINGOs, pointed out in a blog post last year, the product of NGOs is projects!  Non-governmental organizations plan and implement projects to help transform communities and improve people’s lives in the developing world in fields ranging from agriculture to water and sanitation – with key topics like child nutrition, education, emergency response, health, housing, human trafficking, microfinance, natural resource conservation and peace building, to name just a few, in between.

LINGOs is pleased to announce that on September 18, we will open registration for a blended learning course in project management. The five-week course, open to all, is designed to meet the needs of any NGO project manager, program quality manager or supporting staff responsible for the creation and implementation of a development project, and who has access to a reliable internet connection. Participants who successfully complete the course will be prepared to take the PMD Pro1 exam.

At LINGOs, we’ve done a lot of work, especially in Africa and Latin America, helping NGOs build their capacity to better manage projects.  

Over the past few years:

  • The PMD Pro  (Project Management in Development Professional) Certifications were created, came online and were recognized. More than 3,000 people have taken the exams for the PMD Pro1 and PMD Pro2, with more than 2,200 becoming certified. 
  • Many agencies are working internally to build capacity, contracting with international training organizations such as InsideNGO and RedR, local training companies in Brasil, Guatemala, Haiti, Panama and Paraguay and LINGOs directly in countries from Albania to Zimbabwe, with most work being done in Africa and Latin America.
  • We’ve learned that blended and distance learning approaches not only allow a more diverse group of learners to participate, but also can be a highly effective means to lead to change and transfer of training into practice.

Participants in LINGOs’ 5-week blended learning program will spend approximately six hours per week in self-paced eLearning resources and in a virtual community of practice. Three hours will be spent in virtual classroom training and coaching, offered between 9:00 and 10:30am eastern US time on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Oct 16 through Nov 15, and three hours will be spent reading offline.

Several of LINGOs’ most experienced project management instructors,  John Cropper, Eric Berg and Roger Steele will facilitate the course. The course will be taught in English and the content is based on the PMD Pro1 Guide (free download available from www.pm4ngos.org).

Those interested may find more information and register for the course online. The course fee is $180 for staff from LINGOs member agencies and $225 for non-members. The fee includes all classes, access to all materials including self-paced modules and community site and private instructor coaching. Please note the course fee does not include the certification exam fee.

Upon completion of this course, all participants will be prepared to complete and pass the PMD Pro1 certification examination. The last session of the 5-week course will focus on applying the tools and techniques learned during the course in individual organizations. Throughout the course, time will be provided for coaching from instructors to clarify material and to review application of concepts.

Course Schedule

Week One     Tuesday, October 16- Introduction to Course and Technology

                    Thursday, October 18 – Overview of Project Management and Competencies

Week Two    Tuesday, October 23 – Project Identification and Design

                    Thursday, October 25 – Project Start-Up

Week Three  Tues, Oct 30 – Project Planning

                    Thurs, Nov 1 – Project Implementation

Week Four    Tues, Nov 6 – Monitoring and Evaluation

                    Thurs, Nov 8 – Project Transition

Week Five    Tues, Nov 13 – Certification Exam Preparation

Thurs, Nov 15 – Action Planning for Application in Individual Organizations Preparation

About PM4NGOs

PM4NGOs (Project Management for Non-Governmental Organisations) aims to optimize international NGO project investments by enabling project managers to be reflective, professional practitioners who learn, operate and adapt effectively in complex project environments. As a group of international relief, development and conservation organisations, PM4NGOs works together and collaborates with private sector companies, professional organizations and universities to achieve this goal. Visit www.pm4ngos.org/ to learn more.

About LINGOs

LINGOs is a not-for-profit consortium that focuses on enabling international humanitarian relief and development organizations to share their learning resources and experiences. LINGOs also engages Partner Organizations – companies and associations working in the field of technology assisted learning – to provide expert help and other support aimed at alleviating poverty around the world and effectively responding to emergencies. LINGOs Member and Partner Organizations include some of the biggest names in the non-profit and technology sectors, including Habitat for Humanity, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, Care, Articulate, Blackboard Collaborate, Cegos, MindLeaders, eCornell, The eLearning Guild, TELL ME MORE and many more. Visit www.LINGOs.org to learn more.