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.”
A message from Ross Coxon, Director of the Learning Collaborative
I 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!
A message from LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx about the 2016 LINGOs Co-Creation Agenda
Two 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:
- Digital Badges: Credentials that transfer with employees from organization to organization mapped to a list of competencies with evidence the competencies have been retained.
- Professional Competency Frameworks: Shared competency model (80% solution) – with focus on tools/resources/guidance for implementation for your organization – for common key field positions.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Accessible 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!
- 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:
- 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!
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.
The 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!
What would it take to get your organization abuzz about learning?
The 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
In 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!
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?
Stay tuned for Portuguese!
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.
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
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.
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.
ACDI/VOCA Provides Online Learning Opportunities to Staff Worldwide
by John Leary, Director of Training, ACDI/VOCA
Through our programs, we teach farmers, entrepreneurs, parents, citizens and others new skills to improve their yields, profits and lives. But we also recognize that to do this well, we need strong support systems, careful stewardship of our funds, accurate monitoring and evaluation, and expert, up-to-date technical knowledge, all of which means maintaining a high level of skills among our own employees.
ACDI/VOCA provides its staff worldwide with access to learning resources through a learning management system called ASPIRE Online. ASPIRE has 700 e-learning courses on management, leadership and communication skills, Microsoft Office applications, and technical topics and best practices.
Time and Space No Obstacles to Online Learning
“Online courses are accessible on my schedule and I can access them anytime from any location, as long as I have an internet connection,” says ACDI/VOCA’s human resources manager in Afghanistan. “Sometimes I download course materials, print them, and read them while traveling in a car or on a plane. They are very accessible.”
There are many advantages to learning online, the most obvious being convenience. Learners can take courses when and where it suits them, as long as they have access to the internet. They can hone in on the information they need by jumping to specific modules of an e-learning tutorial, instead of sitting through an entire class waiting for one particular piece of information. They can view a course repeatedly, if necessary. Because staff can access information they need when they need it, e-learning has now become part of everyday working.
“ASPIRE Online’s e-learning tutorials have helped me to better understand the job description of an HR manager and how to relate with employees. With this, I have used new job skills and built better relationships with staff and volunteers,” says Adam Suale, who works for ACDI/VOCA in Ghana.
“It’s like having your own trainer on hand any time,” says Mr. Suale, “You simply log in and start learning.”
With internet capacity expanding around the world, geography, time and transportation costs no longer pose hurdles to designing or taking courses. When a learning need is identified, ACDI/VOCA can create interactive tutorials and make them immediately available through ASPIRE Online.
Online Courses Keep Skills Fresh
“The most widely used courses are our ACDI/VOCA tutorials, which introduce staff to our administrative procedures as well as technical interventions, like our Farming as a Business or value chain approaches,” says Maura Bookter, director of employee development. “They were created in-house by our small team of developers in collaboration with technical experts throughout the company.”
Online courses may be self-paced or facilitated by an instructor. They guide the learner through a topic and reinforce learning through quizzes, games, and clickable Flash, audio and video features. Each tutorial provides downloadable documents and handouts, and learners can revisit the tutorial at a later date if they need a refresher.
ACDI/VOCA is constantly adding new tutorials to ASPIRE. Many come through our membership in LINGOs – Learning In NGOs, a consortium of over 65 international humanitarian relief, development, conservation and health organizations. LINGOs provides the latest learning technologies and courses to its members so nonprofits like ACDI/VOCA can improve the skills of their employees, thereby increasing the impact of their programs.
In addition to the ACDI/VOCA courses available through ASPIRE, there are many self-paced courses provided by LINGOs’ corporate partners, e-learning companies like Harvard Manage Mentor, Ninth House and MindLeaders, and more than 60 courses in 12 languages were contributed by CEGOS, Europe’s leading e-learning training provider on topics such as management and leadership, sales and marketing, individual and collective effectiveness, finance and more.
Top-notch Educators are Within Reach
ACDI/VOCA employees also have access to online classes through Cornell University. “eCornell is becoming increasingly popular with our field staff” says Ms. Bookter, “These courses give professionals abroad the opportunity to earn professional certificates from a prestigious American university and interact online with other professionals around the world. We have staff working in countries where this is their only option to achieve this kind of high-level instruction.”
The practical subject matter, taught by Cornell University professors, ultimately provides ACDI/VOCA’s learners with critical skill development in the certificate subjects. The courses involve cohorts of individuals spread around the world who engage in interactive learning modules. They view videos and recordings, participate in interactive exercises, analyze scenarios and participate online with an instructor and fellow students. Although learners are interacting with other individuals in these courses, participation can take place at any time, in any time zone. Learners’ reactions and course work are gathered through the course discussion boards.
A Thirst for Knowledge
While over 700 ACDI/VOCA employees in 31 countries are using the learning system, field staff in Iraq leads the organization in usage: 78 employees in Iraq are currently enrolled in ASPIRE Online, with many earning certificates.
One Iraq staff member says her favorite aspect of ASPIRE are the e-Cornell classes. “It is a great opportunity,” she explains, “for me to be in Iraq and still get valuable information and experience from Cornell university lecturers and experts from all over the world.”
ACDI/VOCA is a member of LINGOs. The Aspire Learning site is powered by LINGOs IntraLearn LMS and loaded with many self-paced courses from the LINGOs catalog, in addition to those developed by and for ACDI/VOCA.
By Ruth Kustoff, Principal, Knowledge Advantage
As a guest blogger here, I will be writing several posts that I hope will help both new and existing LINGOs member agencies. We will take a look at how to plan a learning strategy, and start learning with LINGOs courses.
So, how do you begin to identify top learning needs and develop a plan? This will vary by organization, but in most cases, you can start from the organizational mission and strategic plan already in place. Recognizing the goals of the organization, ask yourself what are the specific skills, or knowledge requirements for any of your staff in order to contribute to those goals? For example, are these areas important for job success?
- project management
- management and / or leadership skills
- meeting facilitation
- communication skills – written and oral
You may want to look at the different job functions in the organization to determine where gaps may exist between identified requirements and current knowledge levels.
Another consideration as part of the first planning steps is to determine the scope of the assessment. Do you want to assess the entire organization’s learning needs, or break it into smaller groups? You may want to select a specific job type or function within the organization as a pilot group, or choose a potential group of learners based on priority and need within the organization.
Role of Senior Management
Before moving ahead too much with the planning process, you’ll want to get senior management support that there is a need for a training plan, and the recognition it will require staff resources. Additionally, senior management should identify at least one individual to spearhead the planning, and allocate time for this to be completed. Prior to approaching senior management, you may want to outline the high-level steps required for the plan, and what type of review and approval process will be in place.
Since the learning plan will be based on organizational strategic goals, leadership may be interested in revisiting strategic goals prior to pursuing a learning plan. They may also like to explore how learning and knowledge align to organizational goals. One way to do this is to complete a SWOT analysis. This process takes an in-depth view of internal factors (strengths and weaknesses) and external factors (opportunities and threats) that impact the organization. This exercise, if carried out completely and given the time and thought it requires, can shed light on creating new processes for growth and success in the organization.
Leverage learning in the community: Join the June 16 LINGOs Member Virtual Coffee Break to discuss this further. Peter Balvanz of FHI will share his organization’s recent planning and pilot process, and Guest Blogger Ruth Kustoff will be on hand to participate.
Posted by John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Management Services
Whenever I ask NGO staff this sort of question, I usually get answers like, “safe and healthy children” or “peaceful communities.” Advanced practitioners may even manage something like “gender sensitive enhanced livelihoods.” OK – I admit to being facetious – but my point is serious. These are not the “products” of an NGO. If you buy a car, you don’t describe in terms of a safe and trouble free journey. You describe it as a car. NGO work and projects have many positive and planned outcomes – but the product, the vehicle of achieving these outcomes is the project.
I think this ambiguity is symptomatic. NGOs talk about the importance of project management but project management is not treated as a profession within NGOs. Job descriptions for a Project Managers list a raft of technical competencies – but have just one line saying “project management experience” for what should be the core skill. Imagine if you took an experienced project manager from (say) an IT firm and gave him (or her) a job as the country gender specialist. If you then compounded this by not having any organizational standards or training, but just told him not to worry as he would, “pick it up”, there would be outrage. Yet we do this with project managers. We hire specialists in agriculture or WASH or whatever and then tell them to manage projects – no training, no standards … and no reaction, much less outrage.
But…we have project cycle management (this can be said in hushed and suitably reverent terms, if preferred). And so probably do you. Unfortunately, most organizational guidelines on PCM are not about project management. They focus on project design – Logframes and monitoring and evaluation, etc. There is nothing wrong with this at all. Project management, however is much more than this.
Starting in 2007, LINGOs convened a group of NGO staff to help look at project management in the sector. This led to PMDPro – the first certification in NGO project management. The materials are free and available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French at: http://ngolearning.org/pm4ngos/pages/PMD%20Pro1%20Prep.aspx
There is also a free practice exam. Log on and see how you do! We have tried to stick the three principles as we developed this: Accessible (online); Appropriate (contextualised for our sector) and Affordable (certification costs US$20/pax for local NGO staff through to US120/pax for HQ staff).
What we tried to do was merge best practice from our sector – project identification and design and monitoring and evaluation – with best practice from the profession of project management – project initiation, project governance, project planning and implementation. We have tried to develop a framework that takes into account how our sector works but link this to best practice and over 30 years of work and research in project management.
Ask your colleagues how many projects are late, overspent or underspent? Ask your beneficiaries what they think? Just think what a difference we could make if we could achieve a 5% increase in effectiveness and efficiency.
If you would like to learn more, please register to join us in a webinar on June 2nd.