For international NGOs working in multiple regions, the ties that bind are often virtual. “eLearning is the biggest component of our learning and development approach,” says Pauline Rooney, operations systems officer at GOAL Global, a humanitarian organization currently working in 17 countries. “And our learning management system is at the center of our eLearning, where we gather, measure, and share information.”
LINGOs, a learning consortium of 80+ international development, aid, and conservation organizations, and Principled Technologies, an award-winning provider of custom learning solutions and fact-based marketing, are excited to announce the release of several specialized elearning course templates for LINGOs members.
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 cross between the founding principles of eCornell, Cornell University’s online-learning arm, and LINGOs, a global development capacity-building consortium, might sound something like “All the world is a classroom.” For NGO staff working around the world, however, learning can be impacted by issues of internet accessibility and dangerous working environments, not to mention distance between offices. As LINGOs’ longtime partner, eCornell is changing the stakes by affordably delivering eCornell courses to NGO learners wherever they work. In the last five years, over 2,200 NGO staff in 120 countries have furthered their professional educations through eCornell, and their numbers are only growing.
eCornell’s generous partnership gives LINGOs’ 80+ Members – all development, humanitarian, or conservation organizations – access to eCornell courses at highly discounted rates. With courses in topics ranging from management to accounting, human resources to plant-based nutrition, eCornell has spurred an enthusiastic response from LINGOs Members, whose staff have taken over 10,800 courses since 2010, at a combined retail savings to their non-profits of over $6,000,000. For Paul Krause, eCornell’s CEO, the partnership “has been a great way for us to provide premium Cornell courses and professional certificate programs to those engaged in the important work of NGOs.”
Learning for a Stronger Sector
TechnoServe, a new member of the LINGOs community, began offering eCornell courses to its staff in May 2015. Since then, enrollment has accelerated. “It’s a combination of a huge demand for learning and just the right type of courses,” says Agnieszka Zieminska Yank, Vice President of Human Resources at TechnoServe. By the end of 2015, more than one hundred TechnoServe staffers had already enrolled in over 460 courses, in topics like “Project Teams: Mining Collective Intelligence” and “Dealing with Difference.” In all, over 90% of TechnoServe staffers surveyed reported that the courses met their expectations “very” or “extremely” well.
“It’s the design of the courses that sells them,” says Libba Ingram, Senior Learning Specialist at Management Sciences for Health. eCornell courses are rigorous and short (most take just two weeks to complete), with no fixed class times, so learners can easily jump into discussions and submit project work from any time zone. Katie Taylor, a Talent Development Specialist at MSH, adds that eCornell is covered as a benefit in employee onboarding, but says word-of-mouth has been a major driver of its success at the organization. Case in point? “Nigeria,” she says. As it turns out, although MSH works in over 65 countries, approximately half of its eCornell enrollments in 2015 came from staff in Nigeria – the result, Ingram and Taylor surmise, of a communication line between colleagues.
For staff looking to deepen their perspective or shift to new roles, eCornell’s certificate programs have proven to be a popular – and global – credential. Certificate programs, usually comprised of five or six courses in a given subject (although master certificates can require twice as many courses, or more) culminate in most disciplines in a certificate from Cornell University. In the past five years, the University has awarded over 700 certificates to the staff of LINGOs Member organizations.
For Francis Rogers, a capacity building coordinator at ACDI/VOCA who recently earned a certificate in HR, eCornell bridged the distance between Ithaca and Liberia, where he’s based. “I do not know whether I would have had the opportunity to attend an Ivy League university had ACDI/VOCA not provided that means,” he writes. To Ross Coxon, Director of LINGOs’ Learning Collaborative, eCornell’s generosity gives LINGOs Member NGOs another way to invest in their own top talent, and more: “The effects of high-quality learning reach not only the staff of LINGOs Members, but also the communities they serve,” he says.
Sergey Hayrapetyan, Senior Advisor (Operational Excellence) at Catholic Relief Services, has completed ten certificates and master certificates through eCornell. In many cases, he says, his coursework has been a lens for approaching his concurrent work with CRS. In a course on scenario planning, for example, he used the homework exercise to develop and apply real strategic objectives for his country program at CRS. “So I was not making anything up,” he says. “I was doing the real thing.” Not only that, but his class discussions and projects incorporated the new perspectives of classmates who came mainly, he says, from the for-profit world.
The Global Classroom
In addition to developing individuals, eCornell is also impacting NGO learning at an organizational level. While the skills training offered by eCornell might not be specific to the non-profit sector, “we’re still an organization. We still have to have people well-versed in skills like HR, management, and accounting, whether they’re HR professionals, or senior leaders, or project staff,” says Bridgett Horn, Learning Manager at The Nature Conservancy.
For NGOs operating between far-flung offices, eCornell can provide a creative means of fusing teambuilding with learning. Catholic Relief Services offers its staff some dedicated eCornell sessions – courses just for CRS learners. Jean Marie Adrian, Senior Advisor (Leadership and Career Development) at CRS, notes that for LINGOs Members facing the cost of gathering staff for trainings in Nairobi or Dubai, eCornell is a clear alternative: “For the price of one airfare, you can train everyone in-depth [through a dedicated session] for two weeks.” Adrian also notes that the cross-section of CRS learners is larger and richer in the eCornell sessions than is often feasible in an onsite: “You have mid-level managers taking a course with country representatives, or higher-level managers,” he says. “The mix is very, very interesting.”
Chris Proulx, LINGOs’ CEO (and formerly of eCornell), is not surprised by the positives that CRS and other LINGOs Members are seeing. He says that “eCornell has had a model for now 15 years that has always been social in its construction, yet it’s not what people normally think about when they think about social learning.”
And although the type of social learning happening with eCornell “isn’t taking place in 140 characters,” Proulx continues, “it’s helping people to exchange knowledge with peers and colleagues who they may not otherwise have had an opportunity to connect with.”
Open University awarded Plan International its Learning at Work Day Award for Inspiring Learning. Sasha Smith holds the award at UK headquarters in December 2013.
The Annual Learning at Work Day/Week is a wonderful opportunity to engage staff in learning, motivate them for further learning and promote the learning resources available to global staff. Plan International has successfully leveraged this event in the past, and will build on that experience – and its LINGOs membership – as it expands Learning at Work Day to Learning at Work WEEK May 19-25.
The annual Learning at Work event encourages employers to organise a day of informal training sessions for employees to learn something they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do. Plan’s event was such a success that the team won the Open University Learning at Work Day Award for Inspiring Learning. The judges commented that were very impressed with Plan’s objective for the event, the partnership work and the promotion of further learning.
Plan International’s 2013 Learning at Work Day was an opportunity for our team to highlight the fact we are an organisation that promotes and encourages staff to embrace learning within their role on a day-to-day basis.
With so many employees with such a wide variety of skills and knowledge, the focus was on utilising the expertise of colleagues and the day proved to be hugely popular. Sessions and workshops ran throughout the day and included Spanish and Italian lessons, Microsoft Office training and help on how to make the most of social media among others.
Learning at Work Day Going Global
Plan began Learning at Work Day as a UK initiative, but after last year’s success the aim is to now get offices around the world involved. The team is already planning for Learning at Work Day 2014 and working hard to make sure that it isn’t just an International Headquarters initiative.
What do we seek to achieve?
- To successfully engage employees in learning and motivating them to learn in the future
- To promote and engage employees with our current learning offerings and resources
- To encourage employees to take responsibility for their learning and to start actively planning their development with their managers
- To go global with the Learn at Work Week by encouraging our Regions to get involved as well as offering some IH sessions as webinars to include Plan’s global audience.
Resources for Field Offices
The HR Operations and Learning & Development teams are creating a resource pack to equip both national and country offices with ideas, inspiration and resources to run their own Learning at Work Day. They are also planning to host webinars using Blackboard Collaborate to encourage participation from around the globe on a range of subjects, too.
Resources for all LINGOs Members
LINGOs is celebrating Learning at Work Week by hosting several virtual classroom events that may be of interest to the staff of any member organization. Click the buttons to learn more and register. Registration is free – but space is limited. Please share with your global teams! We’d love to have your learning champions, potential eLearners and mentors participate, engage, share and learn with us!
For Learning Champions – We are the Champions! Structures and guidance for global NGO Learning Champions
Join LINGOs 2013 Rising Star Nick Walden of Opportunity International has he shares tips and insights from his organization’s highly successful program with Learning Champions.
For All who want to learn via technology – Are you ready? Steps to assess readiness and potential to succeed with eLearning
Join Jim Klaas of Dev Ed International as he shares some the lessons and approaches for helping learners prepare to be successful online learners. Jim willl describe the online learning readiness passport program developed for a global NGO, and what you can do to prepare for success.
For potential Mentors – Mentoring in an NGO
Join Janine Hackshaw as she presents Accion’s successful and popular mentoring program. What does it take to be a good mentor? How can your organization (or country offices) adopt it? She will discuss how to overcome the challenge of finding good mentors, and answer your questions to help you get started with your own mentoring program.
Among the fun and fabulousness at the LINGOs 2013 Member Meeting, we had the opportunity to recognize some rising stars and a member organization that is contributing above and beyond to the LINGOs learning consortium.
Originally formed to be a community of learning in 2005, LINGOs has grown and evolved. As a reader of this blog, you’ve no doubt seen frequent posts on two initiatives that benefit our members, as well as the development/humanitarian community at large:
Our Project Services group works with development organizations to build capacity in project management, and provides innovative learning opportunities for individuals around the world to strengthen their skills and knowledge.
The Last Mile Learning initiative is providing world class learning at little or no cost – not just to our member organizations, but to ANYONE working to improve people’s lives in the developing world. LINGOs members have access to all that is available to others, often before it’s released to the public.
Focus on LINGOs Members
The LINGOs 2013 member meeting was the ninth occasion at which LINGOs members have convened to network, share ideas and approaches and learn with and from one another. Over a third of our 76 member organizations from around the world sent representatives to the two-day event to take part in two dozen sessions hosted at PATH’s Washington, DC headquarters.
It was a wonderful occasion, and at the reception hosted at the offices of the National Democratic Institute, we recognized some key contributors to our learning community.
LINGOs recognized two individuals each one new to the community stood out as exemplifying the ideals on which LINGOs was formed. Both work with organizations that have joined LINGOs in the past two years, and each has contribute to the community in ways large and small – serve on advisory committees, share what they are learning – spotlights on work in progress, espresso shots, share questions and concerns in LinkedIn… provide and share across the community.
- Nick Walden, Training Director at Opportunity International
- Rich Peavy, Training Coordinator for International Projects at Samaritan’s Purse
Member of the year
LINGOs’ 2013 Member of the Year FHI 360 joined the LINGOs community three years ago, and has since undergone significant transition and growth. Paige Layno Winn, FHI 360 Senior Learning Officer and designated contact to LINGOs has played an extraordinary role and is more than a LINGOs star (maybe a sun).
“LINGOs recognizes FHI 360 as its 2013 Member of the Year not simply for using LINGOs resources well within their organization,” said LINGOs CEO Eric Berg. “Rather, the recognition is for sharing and giving back to the LINGOs community that includes 75 + international development organizations and the other organizations and individuals with whom LINGOs interacts via its Last Mile Learning initiative (www.LastMileLearning.org) and our Project Services groups.”
FHI 360 emulates the ideals of a learning community on which LINGOs was founded 9 years ago, and it is an honor to present the 2013 Member of the Year award to Paige Winn for FHI 360.
FHI360 shared its initial learning and process for deploying its LMS with other members in a blog post in January 2011. This relatively simple way to share knowledge and approach to deploying technology based learning, has benefitted the many organizations that have joined LINGOs since then. In an early 2013 “Espresso shot” shared a great update on internal community building, that highlights use of resources they get through LINGOs and other low cost resource such as NING.
FHI 360 is clearly is deploying LINGOs resources well, as can be seen from its learning management system utilization reports in terms of the total number of staff registered and actively engaging in and completing self-paced courses, as well as participating in events.
Our Member of the year has tried out many member benefits, sometimes investing extra resources in getting more than what is available through LINGOs – such as we shared in the January Spotlight article.
Paige Winn recently guest blogged on its approach to building a virtual community of learning.
FHI 360 not only developed important resources through Global Giveback but shared with other LINGOs members, an award-winning resource that benefits any health worker working on HIV and TB prevention.
Also through the Global Giveback, FHI 360 created a harassment and discrimination course that, with minimal adaptation, is now available for the entire LINGOs and InsideNGO community, has shared its approaches to using the LINGOs-hosted LMS for events and reporting.
LINGOs Laureate Award Bestowed
Earlier this year, in a LINGOs LINK Spotlight article, we reported that IDG’s Computerworld Honors Program named LINGOs as a 2013 Laureate for its collaboration with Rustici Software in the creation of SCORM Dispatch. The annual award program honors visionary applications of information technology promoting positive social, economic and educational change. Todd Slater, Director of the Technology Learning Center Director at The Nature Conservancy and LINGOs Board Member bestowed the ComputerWorld Honors Laureate medal on LINGOs’ Director of Technology, Robb Allen. Robb lead the work for LINGOs with Rustici Software that member organizations are now using to provide content from the LINGOs catalog to more than ten portals.
For more info on the meeting
Please view the Spotlight Report from the November 2013 LINGOs LINK.
Guest Post By Paige Layno Winn, FHI 360
In some African countries, the Palava Hut is the central space for social networking, informal learning, and conflict resolution. It’s a place that welcomes locals and guests alike. It’s the cultural hub of a village—a place that promotes dialogue between people of diverse opinions, backgrounds, and cultures.
How do you create community in a virtual learning space?
You might say that an NGO’s training classroom is like a Palava Hut—the organizational learning hub. So how do you create that same sense of community in a virtual learning space? The Learning and Development (L+D) team at FHI 360 has been working on creative ways to do just that.
This year, we launched a series of live, virtual learning events called Cross-Sector Cafés—regular one-hour interactive discussions led by country offices and staff from across FHI 360’s 11 practice areas. Facilitators lead sessions held via virtual classroom (Blackboard Collaborate), giving brief introductions and highlights of staff/programs, with much of the time devoted for Q&A from attendees. This year’s topics include:
- Integrating gender programs
- Exploring FHI 360’s disability projects and resources
- Strengthening economic systems in developing countries
- Extending information delivery and data collection in low resource environments
- Developing sustainable solutions to environmental protection
- Introducing staff and projects in country offices, including Nepal, Kenya, and Thailand
- And more!
Cross Sector Dialogue via Collaborative Platform
After each session, follow up discussions are posted on Café 360, a collaborative networking site we built using the professional social networking platform, Ning. Café 360 is designed to promote cross-sector dialogue between staff through discussion boards, videos, and other cross-sector collaboration tools. Café 360 also provides us a place to post recorded Cross-Sector Cafés , so colleagues who couldn’t attend a synchronous session still have access. And, as a bonus, we have a nice library of virtual interactions between staff that can be accessed anywhere, anytime!
Café 360 has been a great resource where staff share profiles and photos, as well as a place for L+D to post pictures of live, in-country learning events and learning materials. We’ve also set up content interest groups so staff can direct questions to the relevant people. For example, we have a learning champions group on Café 360 where champions can post LMS or eLearning-related questions and get quick responses—often real-time answers in their time zones.
Another outcome of Café 360 is that others are now using technologies like Blackboard Collaborate to facilitate virtual learning across their own global teams. Groups are also seeing the advantage of adopting professional networking sites (such as Ning) and are exploring similar platforms for communities of practice and FHI 360 as a whole. As a result, learners are collaborating across geographies and practices areas, and staff are building their virtual training skills when they facilitate Cross-Sector Cafés.
NGOs often face hurdles with expense, skill, and technology infrastructure. But with a growing variety of social media and mobile learning tools, you’re sure to find one that fits your budget, size, and capacity. In the spirit of a LINGOs Palava Hut, contact me if you’d like to talk about getting started with a virtual strategy to increase global collaboration and learning with your teams. Or better yet—let’s catch up over coffee at this year’s LINGOs member meeting!
The LINGOs 2013 Member Meeting takes place October 16 & 17 in Washington, DC. Staff of all LINGOs Member Organizations are welcome to register and attend. Sessions are tailored for our members: to help you give your learners a “buzz”, help you use a mixture of resources to “blend” your program and give you ideas to make maximum use of the limited “bandwidth” we all have available – both figuratively and literally.