The top 3 things the LINGOs community wanted the new CEO to know

Guest Post by LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx

Chris_Proulx

LINGOs members consistently want more community and networking opportunities. That is the most common message that I have heard from members of the LINGOs community during my first three months as CEO. Through a variety of formal and informal listening events with LINGOs members, I have heard a lot of what you value about LINGOs and also what you aspire it to become.  Now, I am able to summarize some of the key themes that have come from feedback exercises at the Portland Annual Meeting and the London Members Meetup, the 2015 Membership Renewal Survey and individual conversations with many of you.

Community and Networking

By far, the most valued component of your membership is your ability to network and share best practices with each other. So, naturally you want even more value from the community. First and foremost, you’d like additional opportunities to meet in-person, not just virtually, and not just at the LINGOs Annual Meeting. (Shameless plug: this year’s Annual Meeting is being hosted by Heifer in Little Rock, AR, USA on October 15 and 16—and, attendance for one participant is included in your 2015 dues!) You want smaller sessions where we can have more focused dialogue and more opportunities to build local relationships.

So, we are going to facilitate more regional LINGOs events in 2015:

  • London: I facilitated a UK/Europe members meeting at Plan on Jan 14—about 15 folks attended, networked and heard from Speexx, our new language learning partner.
  • Boston: a self-organized member meetup at HREA on Feb 5 with ideas and feedback sent to LINGOs staff.
  • Nairobi: I am organizing a LINGOs member meetup for members and key contacts in the region on Feb 24. There’s still time to sign up!
  • Orlando: Gus Curran and I will be meeting with members attending the Ecosystem and Learning Solutions  conference Mar 25-27.
  • More on the way: we are looking to host a DC area meeting and perhaps a Bangkok/SE Asia meeting and very likely will do another London meeting later in the year. If you want to host something in your area, let me know.

In addition, you are also interested in improving how we develop and share best practice deliverables around topics of interest. So, you want to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. This is on our radar screen, and we have a couple of interested members willing to take the lead on a couple of topics. Stay tuned for more details.

Reach, Reach, Reach

I have also heard a lot about reaching your field staff, including more support for occasionally connected users, mobile content, and content in more languages.  As you all know, there are a number of complex and inter-related issues, but we share your commitment to deliver learning to the last mile. To start, thanks to the financial support of two members, Goal and Relief International, the LINGOs Last Mile Learning online courses for PMDPro, as well as the PMDPro guide, will be available in Arabic later this spring to complement their availability in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Please reach out me and/or connect us with your country and regional staff to we can continue extend the reach of our PMDPro expertise to where you are working.

In addition, the new LINGOs Learning Platform will be mobile-ready, so that will be a big step forward, especially for mobile-ready courses that you are developing. However, many of our commercial content providers are not yet providing us with mobile-ready courses. So, we will need to work with our content providers to help prioritize this need.  Our Last Mile Learning courses provide us with more flexibility but there is also work to be done. If your organization is interested in supporting our effort to develop and deploy these modules in a mobile format, please let me know.

Ensuring that we reach the field with appropriate, accessible, and affordable learning is a value that is shared by the LINGOs team. Let’s continue the dialogue to help us prioritize the most important courses and benefits, and where needed, to identify the financial support to make it happen. LINGOs has a long history of deploying new solutions thanks to the shared financial support of several of its members that helps us to leverage the engagement of private sector partners.

Onboarding and Curation

The third big theme was how LINGOs could do a better job in making new member start-up more of a turnkey process and how, for all members, we could do a better job packaging and curating the benefits and courses. LINGOs has become a victim of its own success; there are so many benefits available, that it has become difficult to manage. As the newest member of the LINGOs team—I agree; it has been difficult for me to get my head around it, so I can appreciate your needs.

Tacking this is a big challenge, but I would like to highlight two items in the works. First, based on our lessons from the LLP training, all new LINGOs members will now be on-boarded to LINGOs in quarterly cohorts. This will provide two benefits: a more focused opportunity to work with others on how to best deploy LINGOs internally and an immediate community for new members upon joining for broader best practice sharing.

Second, we will be co-hosting a webinar on April 16 with David Kelly from the E-Learning Guild on the topic of Curation that will be followed by an in-depth workshop at the Annual Meeting in Little Rock in October. Let’s use this to jump start our collective efforts to curate the best of LINGOs and provide all of us in the community with new tools and techniques to help our organizations and learners be more effective and more focused in their professional development.

So, these are the big three topics. I also heard plenty more about blended learning, social learning, technical course content, management and leadership development, monitoring and evaluation, employee onboarding, online communities, LINGOs working groups, and more.  The team and I have ideas and potential projects around many of these topics as well and we will share more on some of these topics later in the year.

In closing, it has been exciting for me to discover this robust, generous, and committed community at LINGOs and one that I look forward to working with on a number of initiatives where we can clearly be “better together.” Thanks for your hospitality in welcoming me to LINGOs. I hope to see each of you in the coming months.

Last Mile Learning Releases its first Learning Path: Project Management

Posted by Marian Abernathy, LINGOs Director of Member Services & Communications

For years, LINGOs member agencies have asked us, “How can we train our staff around the world on the contextualized Project Management skills promoted in the Guide to the PMD Pro?”  Well, here you are!!

As the new year gets under way, LINGOs is pleased to offer new series of seven Project Management courses ready for deployment.  These courses, which were developed in collaboration with PM4NGOs and Virginia Tech University, are the first of four learning paths that will be released by Last Mile Learning over the coming months.

As with all the courses made available to LINGOS members through the work of Last Mile Learning, the project management courses have the following unique features:

  • Multiple Languages:  Each course is available in multiple languages. Last Mile Learning courses will be available in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. Note that this first release includes English, Spanish, and Portuguese. The French courses are coming soon.

  • Contextualized to the Development Sector:  Courses are contextualized for people working in international development, with examples, case studies, and images reflecting realities of this sector rather than of the corporate world.

  • Fully modifiable:  LINGOs member agencies who wish to update these courses need only ask LINGOs for the source files to the content.  Modules can be updated to include member agency logos, customized information about organization-specific project management processes, or any other unique text that a member agency would like to include. And, in the case of this learning path,

  • PMD Pro-Ready – The learning in this course sequence is fully aligned with the PM4NGOs newly revised Guide to the PMD Pro. An additional bonus for those who complete the Project Management Course Path is that they will be prepared for the PMD Pro Level 1 exam.

Courses Available in Learning Paths

The seven project management courses now available to LINGOs members comprise the first Learning Path that the Last Mile Learning team is developing.  Expect to see the second Learning Path, People Management, released in February.  Courses from the third and fourth learning paths (Self-Management and Team Management) will follow.

If you would like to learn more about Last Mile Learning, be sure to view Mike Culligan’s closing session at the LINGOs 2012 Member Meeting,  “Are You Ready for Last Mile Learning?”

Available to LINGOs members now

Course Path

Course Title

Languages   Available

(Jan   2013)

Project Management  Module 1: Introduction to Project Management  Eng, Span, Port
Project Management  Module 2: Project Identification & Design  Eng, Span, Port
Project Management  Module 3: Project Set Up  Eng, Span, Port
Project Management  Module 4: Project Planning  Eng, Span, Port
Project Management  Module 5: Project Implementation  Eng, Span, Port
Project Management  Module 6: Project Monitoring, Evaluation & Control  Eng, Span, Port
Project Management  Module 7: End of Project Transition  Eng, Span, Port
Project Management  Project Management Learning Path Assessment  Coming soon!

These courses are now available on the LINGOs catalog and Level 1 member portals. Level 2 and Enterprise Members who would like to add them to their portals should follow standard process as outlined on the LINGOs LMS Administrator Community site to request they be added.

I can’t end this post without expressing immense gratitude to the 100+ individual volunteers as well as academic and corporate teams of volunteers who have worked with us, to the leading LINGOs member agencies that have stepped up, and the leadership of Mike Culligan to transform content so that it can be deployed not just for LINGOs members, but also in coming months, for anyone who is working to improve lives in the developing world. Last Mile Learning will include appropriate content that is accessible in multiple formats and multiple languages, at little or no cost to a global audience.

For more information about Project Management, see:

For those who want to learn PMD Pro in a different learning format, please note that LINGOs is offering several 4-week, blended learning courses, similar to the PMD Pro course offered last fall. Registration is open for the Spanish-language course in February , and will open at the end of the month for an English language course scheduled for March. See Current Events on the LINGOs Member site for more information, including links to register.

 

For more on Last Mile Learning, see:

What’s Project Management Training Got to do with International Women’s Day?

Posted by John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

“It’s so great that you could do this training in Kotido (Northern Uganda) whenever there is any training, it is in Kampala and we can never go.”

A recent male partcipant said this to me after a PMDPro workshop in February (PMD Pro is the contextualised Project Management certification, developed with experts from several of the world’s best-known and highly regarded non-governmental organisations).

Downtown Kotido, Uganda, 2012. Photo: John Cropper

What this has to do with Internatonal Women’s Day is a very good question. Let me explain.

So much learning in NGOs is still focused on stopping all work, flying (often to another country), sitting in a hotel for week and then flying back. Guess who this training gets focused on?

That’s right – junior staff never get a look in. You need to be in some kind of “senior” category before it’s decided that you are important enough to be flown around and put up in a nice hotel somewhere – and who makes up the senior staff? You got it again – mostly men.

Yet, but and however – these senior staff are not actually the ones implementing projects on the ground! So, again and again we see the people who most need top boost project management skills through training being squeezed out. And given the realities in many countries (developed world included), when a woman is senior enough to be considered for training opportunities that involve travel – she may not be able to leave family responsibilities behind. Obstacles all the way.

This is why an initiative LINGOs is piloting with Oxfam GB in East Africa is so interesting. We are running PMDPro training in three countries: Uganda (hence the visit to Kotido), Ethiopia and Tanzania.

  • Uganda gets traditional NGO learning. Trainer rocks up, training happens, trainer leaves and application of learning to actual projects is in the hands of the Gods.
  • Ethiopia gets face-to-face training plus virtual learning – let’s see what difference this makes to application.
  • Tanzania is by the far the most interesting as the approach will be both 100% virtual and take 3 hours per week – so people can fit learning in around their other commitments.

This is where it gets interesting. In Uganda, 20% of partcipants were women. In Ethiopia, 32% were women (teams travelled to Addis for the training). In Tanzania, we will have just over 50% female partcipants. To be fair, Oxfam is still finalising the participant list – but what a difference!

So,  if your agency really values women: plan to  cut back on the travel, reduce your  carbon footprint and subsidies to the airlines, expand your focus from train on senior managers and start virtual learning! PMD Pro – just do it! – but do it virtually wherever possible! Take a first step on March 8.

More LINGOs blogs will follow up on this really interesting experiment.

     

For More information on PMD Pro

See what’s happening with PM work in Latin America – virtually and face to face through the Gepal Project

Watch the Gepal Video

 

Are NGOs in Southern Africa Region ready for eLearning?

Guest Post by Roger Steele, LINGOs

I answered with a resounding ‘yes’ when I was asked that question about six months ago — perhaps a bit too enthusiastically.  At the time, I had just started managing the LINGOs project to ‘Strengthen Project Management Capacities’ in collaboration with World Vision International’s (WVI) Southern Africa Region. (For background on LINGOs work in cross-cutting area that affects every member NGO, please see the blog post on Field staff capacity building models)

With almost a dozen week-long PMD Pro1 introductory courses under my belt, I still say ‘yes’ – but – you might sense some hesitation in my voice (check out http://pm4ngos.org if you don’t know what PMD Pro is).  Not totally unexpectedly, we have encountered challenges on our eLearning journey.

As I shared here back in September of last year,   the World Vision/LINGOs project has embraced a blended learning approach.  We decided to lead with a combination of face to face and virtual instructor-led courses.  The future blend will incorporate more self-paced learning, small group (hubs of training) and coaching (performance support).  I’ve written about the face to face (F2F) courses in this blog.

Our face to face instructor-led courses have been conducted over a period of 5 days. Each course is delivered in a fairly typical NGO format for the first four days. The facilitators combine techniques to engage participants in active learning to complement lectures that introduce fundamentals of Project Management for International Development.  On the fifth day, Friday, facilitators proctor an internet-based examination that presents 75 multiple-choice questions to each participant. The set of questions has been carefully validated and normed to measure knowledge and comprehension contained in the PMD Pro1 Guide.  A unique feature is that each exam is automatically computer-scored.  Each test-taker is given his/her score and pass-fail result immediately upon exiting the exam.  I was a little surprised that this feature proved so popular with participants.  They love  getting immediate results.

 So far, our team has facilitated the face to face PMD Pro1 courses in five WVI Southern Africa countries: Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, DR Congo, and Malawi.  Without fail, we have encountered significant eLearning challenges during the examination on the fifth day, of the each and every course.

PMD Pro1 Course participant with Roger in Zambia

These Friday problems have always happened in spite of the fact that our team works hand-in-hand with the WVI National Offices to secure reliable Internet connectivity.  In Zambia, our first pilot country, one hotel in Lusaka has hosted all three PMD Pro1 courses over the past nine months.  At the first course, the hotel proved incapable of providing sufficient Internet bandwidth, so the IT office from WVI-Zambia arranged for a dedicated connection from an internet service provider (ISP).  The ISP ran their wires down from the hotel roof and through hallways to our classroom.  Even with that dedicated line, the internet connection dropped numerous times during the exam period causing several test-takers to time-out prior to exam completion.  During the second and third Zambia courses, the host hotel’s internet provider agreed to increase bandwidth on the morning of the exam – but we still experienced connectivity problems and exam delays.  We recently secured approval from the testing authority to increase the total block time from 1.5 to 3 hours as a mitigation strategy for future exams.

 The venue of the one course we completed in Malawi was a relatively isolated hotel on the shores of Lake Malawi.  While the hotel had assured WV-Malawi that a strong and reliable Internet connection would be available all week, the reality was another story.   The hotel’s internet signal was very weak and did not even reach the training room.  Fortunately, the WV Malawi IT department came to the rescue by mid-week.  They were able to set-up a portable satellite Internet system (VSAT) next to the PMD Pro1 classroom – allowing all 23 program managers to successfully complete the examination on Friday.

two participants taking practice exam

I suppose some will say that what I’ve describe sounds quite expensive – and the special Internet arrangements that I’ve described will be beyond the budgets of many NGOs.  I acknowledge this concern, but encourage readers to keep in mind that WVI and LINGOs are operating learning pilots and expect to cultivate efficiencies moving forward. 

In Harare, the WVI-Zimbabwe office hired an Internet Service Provider to set up a fiber-optic connection at a hotel for an estimated US$1400 (5 days).  I had sticker-shock when I first heard this quote – but upon reflection realized that those costs must be put into perspective.  It is significant to keep in mind that 33 WVI program managers were trained and certified during that week.   The cost of Internet could be incrementally assigned to each participant at the rate of US$42 – an amount that was considerably less than what some participants paid for a single night of lodging during the course.  I wish I could report that the fiber optic line we used in Zimbabwe worked trouble-free.  However, after enjoying blazing internet speeds from Monday through Thursday, a scheduled power grid shutdown brought the internet to a total halt for the whole of Friday morning.  Fortunately, the national power grid was restored and the Internet-based exam was completed by late Friday afternoon.

I’m sure some are asking; wouldn’t it be quicker and cheaper to administer a paper-and-pencil examination?  Perhaps it would be in the short-run — but once PMD Pro gets past its pilot phase, LINGOs is expecting scale-up to create efficiencies for both internet instruction and testing.   I recently discovered that a group of researchers have been actively investigating online versus paper exams, with some interesting findings that extend well beyond time and cost considerations.   Check out:  http://research.csc.ncsu.edu/efg/teaching/papers/2010-1150_Online.pdf  

 I’ll write about my experience facilitating the PMD Pro1 course with WVI participants in the Southern Africa Region using the Elluminate platform in a future blog. 

 You might also be interested in these 2010 posts about LINGOs Project Management Work

 Sept 2010: Participation and accountability in face to face training: Lessons from Southern Africa   

October 2010:  Field Staff Capacity Building Models for National and International NGOs” the 4As

 October 2010: PM4NGOs Launched as Independent Organization to Promote Project Management in the Development Sector