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!

Fun “Cosmo Quiz” vs Serious Announcement?

You’ve got a new course or learning resource and it’s a great learning opportunity for your staff. How do you get the word out?


[  ] Memo from the boss?

[  ]  eMail from the Learning Coordinator?

[  ]  Flyer in the break room?  (or elevator, stairwell, restroom…)

[  ]  Text announcement on your intranet?

[  ]  “Gamified” approach?

[  ]   Hallway conversations from an internal maven?

[  ]   All of the above

Have Some Fun

Most of us don’t think of financial management as particularly enjoyable. Last Mile Learning launched its new Financial Management Learning Path with a fun Cosmo-style quiz to ask viewers to check their financial fluency  (click here for the quiz).

Market Your Learning

LINGOs’ Last Mile Learning is marketing learning resources more than once and in various ways. For busy development professionals, particularly those who travel internationally and may miss an email that isn’t hugely urgent, so it’s vital to have more than one opportunity for staff to learn about it.

Actively market your learning! For-profit-companies don’t send an email about a new product and then sit back and wait for customers to empty the shelves. They advertise! Not-for-profit charities do marketing, as well. Use those marketing resources to increase awareness of your learning resources.

Multiple Contacts

The “Financial Fluency Quiz” was promoted through a newsletter (click here to subscribe), many LinkedIn Community Groups, the Last Mile Learning Facebook Page, tweets (and re-tweets) and various e-distribution groups.  In fact, you can forward it, too!

5 things you can do now:

Eventbrite - LINGOs 2013 Member MeetingIf you are with a LINGOs Member Organization*, you can attend the Last Mile Learning session at the LINGOs member meeting next month in Washington, DC.
checkMark Click to Check YOUR financial fluency

LML-squareRegister for a Last Mile Learning Account and take a free course

LikeUsonFacebook  LIKE Last Mile Learning on Facebook

LINGOs Members, if you’d like the editable file for the financial fluency quiz to use (and direct your learners to YOUR portal), email Marian.

Insights – LINGOs partnership strengthens individuals and teams for global development

Eric Berg, Executive Director, LINGOs

When I was in the software business, there was an engineering manager with whom I never could seem to communicate. Somehow, no matter how much information I gave her, the time it took to make get a decision was always frustrating. After several uncomfortable confrontations I just came to accept that we would always have problems. This was unfortunate because we needed to work together on several important projects. It was only later I realized that what I perceived as procrastinating was her desire to get it right and really was a preference and style difference. Had I been a little more aware of that, I might have been able to provide information that would have improved both our communications and the speed of activities.

I want to share with you my excitement in having Insights ( as a new partner for LINGOs. A global company with many Fortune 500 companies as clients, Insights provides a wide range of products and services that help their customers:

o Develop individual awareness and effectiveness

o Build more productive teams

o Develop high performing leaders.

Insights’ products are based on Insights Discovery, a four color model based on the work of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. It measures a person’s preferences and provides an individual with an extensive personality profile which identifies strengths and areas for development. Each profile includes suggestions for development that can be put into practice the very next day.

Each LINGOs member representative attending the LINGOs Member Meeting in November will gain access to the Insights Preference Evaluator and will receive a custom 20 page personal profile. Members attending the meeting can also register for an all day workshop led by Insights staff to explore the meaning and application of their individual profile.

You are probably familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and may have completed that instrument and studied it sometime in your schooling. You might even remember your “type.” In some ways, the Insights Discovery model is similar in that it analyzes your responses to questions of preference and then feeds back a profile of your preferences and communication style. What is particularly attractive about the Insights’ model is that it has been extremely well “packaged” to make it simple to administer and apply in an organizational setting.


Ibrahim, the CD for Sudan, just sent Simon, the Regional Program Quality Manager, his final monitoring plan for the new microfinance program.

Ibrahim has already sent two versions of the plan, and there’s been a meeting and two tense telephone conversations about its adequacy.

Ibrahim can’t imagine why it is taking so long for a decision to made, while Simon cannot understand why there was such a rush on such an important document.

Both Simon and Ibrahim are considered outstanding in their roles and yet everyone knows they simply can’t get along. Many who know them both say it’s just bad “Chemistry.” 

In fact, it is more probably a question of opposing preferences and styles. With some Insights into these differences, Ibrahim and Simon can take their work and that of their agency to the next level. 

But don’t let the simplicity fool you; it is extremely revealing. I guess the best way to illustrate that is with my personal experience with the tool. Before we began serious conversations with Insights, I was offered the opportunity to complete the Preference Evaluator and get the personal profile I mentioned earlier. Being familiar with the Myers-Briggs and other instruments, I was eager to see the similarities and the differences. I completed the Evaluator and waited for my “report.” When it arrived, I quickly read through the resulting document and was startled with the accuracy and detail of what was produced. This may be best illustrated by the comments of my wife, Kathy, with whom I shared the report. She said to me, “I don’t know who these people are or how they know you so well but they may even know you better than I do after 30 years of marriage!” LINGOs Director of Member Services, Marian Abernathy, (with whom I also shared the profile) echoed Kathy’s comments when she said with a smile in her voice, “They pretty much “nailed” you.”

Some LINGOs members reading this know me well enough to appreciate some of the specific comments from my personal profile that Kathy and Marian are referring to. For example, under the section titled “Managing Eric” there is a list of “What Eric Needs.” One item says “Eric needs objective, direct and honest feedback…” to which is added the caution “- stand well back!” Everyone that has read the profile has stopped and laughed out loud in agreement at the caution.

Other sections identified weaknesses around listening adequately to others, making decisions hastily and my high sense of urgency creating stress for others. You can ask Robb Allen or Marian or other LINGOs staff members about those and I am sure each will have stories verifying the accuracy of those assessments.

So why am I sharing all this? I hope that LINGOs members will begin to realize the potential for using Insights Discovery to improve the communications and performance of the teams working within their organizations. During the LINGOs 2012 Member Meeting, a group from Insights will share how the Insights Discovery model is being used in corporations around the world. You’ll have an opportunity to see how members might begin to think of ways of applying it to staff selection, leadership development, team building, individual development plans and a host of other targeted initiatives. Those interested in a more in depth exposure will have the chance to attend the post-meeting workshop led by Doug Upchurch and the Insights Team and spend the entire day exploring their own profile as well as techniques for applying the model in their organizations.

If you can’t attend the LINGOs member meeting be on the lookout for announcements of how LINGOs Member Agencies can access this new LINGOs benefit. Corporations around the world are spending thousands and thousands of dollars on this tool. Through the generosity of Insights, it will be part of member agencies’ core LINGOs benefits in 2013. We are very grateful to Insights and look forward to sharing stories of how their generous support has made a difference in the impact of the work of LINGOs members.

The LINGOs 2012 Meeting is focused on engagement. For details, check out the Sept 10 post on LINGOs 2012 Member Meeting 

If you build it, will they come? Creating awareness through a communication plan

By Marian Abernathy, LINGOs and Ruth Kustoff, Principal, Knowledge Advantage  

So, with your help, your organization has made a decision to provide your global staff with a learning platform or portal (or Learning Management System – LMS). You’ve planned it, branded it, launched it… and some of your colleagues from around the world have taken courses, acquired new knowledge and developed some new skills.  Are you ready to sit back, relax, and pull some reports? Think your work is now done?  Not so fast.

In fact, now that the learning portal is established, and courses are available to staff, there still is more work to be done. In fact, your awareness campaign is just starting. For example, after Coca-Cola® launches a new product , it doesn’t sit back… it starts the never-ending work of building and maintaining awareness of its products and ensuring that those who might enjoy a refreshing drink, are never far from a reminder of the refreshing taste of their product(s).

Watch Melinda French Gates TED Talk on What Non Profits Can Learn from CocaColain October, 2010. You’ll see from her presentation, that what we learn from the commercial sector is that we can’t launch a new product, or brand, and then let it sit. This is when marketing and promotion must follow. Your global audience needs to know what is available to them and how to access it.

Building Awareness with a Communication Plan

Now that your learning program is underway, you’re ready to start your internal “marketing” or awareness campaign.

First, identify objectives for your communication plan:

  1. Organization-wide knowledge of course availability – Inform everyone in the organization, including country directors and field staff that the training program is available with relevant courses available to interested staff.
  2. How the portal or LMS works – Explain where the courses are, how to access them, the registration process, and if there are learning expectations or requirements of anyone.
  3. Highlight specific courses – LINGOs provides members with a wide variety of courses, and the catalog is growing regularly. Create a short guide or “cheat sheet”  for staff that highlights individual courses available or recommended for specific staff categories.  Keep in mind that a short dated document offered electronically provides you opportunities to communicate with regular updates and provide “bite sized learning.”
  4. Communicate the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) – Identify how the training program generally will support staff growth and development, and on-the-job performance success.
  5. Ask for feedback – As learners begin to complete courses, provide an avenue for their feedback on course selection, and topics, and ask for input on how to make improvements to the learning program.  

These objectives will show staff the value of the learning program, the courses, and that it is easy to access and complete the courses. Your second level of marketing is to reach the end learner at an individual level.

Marketing to the End Learner

As you build on your marketing campaign, you’ll want to highlight the WIIFM aspects of learning, knowledge and course completion. Working with managers and supervisors is important. Managers need to convey to their staff their belief in, and support of continuous learning, and the value the current online courses offer.  Staff needs to get the message that acquiring the knowledge and skills from certain courses, if not a job requirement, is strongly recommended.

 Additionally, you want to help staff to identify and determine which courses are “right for them”by role, job function or competency. Not everyone needs all the same courses or content. You’ll also want to promote success stories of individuals, by showing how completing courses can align to positive outcomes. Highlight how individuals have put their own learning into action, and achieved results that contribute to the organizational global mission. Finally, you want to ensure course choices remain fresh,

with updates to course selection, adding new courses, and managing updates of current courses as information changes.

Building a Liaison or Learning Champion Program into your Marketing Efforts 

If you launched a Liaison program during the planning phase of your overall program, these staff learning advocates can also help during the communication phase. The liaisons are one or several staff leaders who create a team of people from multiple offices who become points of contact across the globe. These liaisons ensure information is distributed to, and received by everyone.

The liaison program may also identify individuals who want to become champions of learning, if they have a special interest in, or are oriented toward online learning. These champions can be trained to become Power Users – individuals who “test” elearning courses prior to roll out, and are given time in their work schedule to do so. Power Users then become identified as individuals others can go to for help.

Building on the liaison program creates a strategy to identify and include local people as learning champions – – similar to Coca-Cola® with its large network of local distributors. As Coke knows, it’s not possible to manage large distribution of products, while keeping interest and demand high, all from the home office. It’s important to recognize the need to work at the local level – to establish central messaging – again, using the Coke analogy – it’s the same recipe for Coke, but packaging may vary and the messaging may be slightly different – depending on the local distributors who are pushing it. The local liaison for your organization, is close to the end user, in this case, the learner, and advocates are needed to be sure local learning needs are understood and met through programming that comes from the home office.

 Ten ideas to build awareness of your learning programs:

  1. Email – blast or individual messages to learners about new courses, offerings – demonstrating alignment with your organizational mission, objectives, projects and themes.
  2. Internal Learning Fairs/Conferences –food or other enticements encourage staff to stop by and see what’s available, sample a course, view posters, and talk with others who have used the resources. These physical space events can be held annually, semi-annually, or more often.
  3. Learning websites with detailed info about courses – such as a conference might have
  4. Informal video testimonials about learning offerings – viewing can be tracked via YouTube or similar.
  5. Radio-style podcasts, conference calls or webcasts about learning opportunities. Some organizations interview fellow staff members who are internal opinion leaders about specific courses or learning assets they want to market.
  6. PDF posters/flyers or brochures with fresh messages that are sent (or emailed to be printed in) each office. Many organizations post info in places where staff is sure to see them (on entry doors, elevators, stairwells, even the restrooms!).
  7. Postcards for each person you want to reach with a certain message – ie, for supervisors prior to annual performance reviews with a reminder of a course or job aid on the topic.
  8. Build the information into performance planning/annual reviews: show individual contributors and supervisors that learning is highly valued in your organization and include reminders and access information into the performance process.
  9. Leverage organizational social media: Yammer, intranets/sharepoint – highlight your self-paced, and instructor led training offerings/resources.
  10. Short videos from your Executive Director, Country Directors or internal opinion leaders: about new learning resources, the importance of staying up-to-date, aligning learning with your mission.

What other approaches have you seen used, used in your organization or want to try? Add to the discussion on the LINGOs group on LinkedIn. Communicating Learning seems like a topic worth of a Virtual Coffee Break or discussion at the Annual Member Meeting in October.

Be part of the discussion: Make plans to attend LINGOs’ 2011 Annual Member Meeting

  • Hosted by PATH in Seattle October 11 and 12, 2011
  • Reception at SightLife evening of October 11
  • Optional Workshops at PATH October 13

For information on the member meeting, please click here.