LINGOs: A new look, a new site

10-years ago LINGOs began as a consortium of international NGOs working to reduce poverty and alleviate suffering in the developing world.  LINGOs members joined together to share ideas and participate in world-class learning opportunities provided by individuals volunteers, corporations and learning institutions.  By leveraging the exceptional products and services that have been either donated  or provided at significantly reduced costs to our members, LINGOs has been able to help those doing good….do it better.

Over the past few years LINGOs has expanded its offerings to members and other NGOs through Project Services and Last Mile Learning.  Both of these program units are rapidly gaining momentum as the demand for their trainings, courses and services increase.

Today, LINGOs is so much more than what we started with back in 2004.  We have – and continue to – evolve to reach more and more relief and development organizations and volunteers even in the most remote areas of the world.

This year as we celebrate our 10-year anniversary we are launching new initiatives for our organization, our members and our community.  Included in these initiatives is new branding for LINGOs and its three program units together with the introduction of new websites.

Logos & Websites

We started with one logo: LINGOs.  The familiar star burst logo, with its arm stretching across the world encompassed our entire organization.  Today, we officially introduce the new LINGOs logo together with the logos for our three program units.

The LINGOs website has served us well over the years – and today we are very excited to launch our new site(s) with an updated look and feel; easy navigation, and add user-friendly tools.

2014-04 New LINGOs Logo with Tagline - CLEAR 744x200

The LINGOs logo has maintained the same look and feel of our original logo, but we’ve updated the colors and added a new tag line.  Our updated website now reflects the more comprehensive programming LINGOs offers. You will find the updated LINGOs landing page at the same address:  http://www.lingos.org.  This site has an “updates” section, where you can read news from LINGOs, including the recent announcement of Chris Proulx as our next CEO.   From the LINGOs.Org website you can access the  three program area websites or you may visit them individually.

2014-04 New Membership Logo - CLEAR 669x200Membership’s logo represents community coming together to build capacity, knowledge and skill.  The new membership site, http://www.membership.lingos.org is the outward facing site for membership. This is a helpful site for those interested in learning more about the LINGOs membership consortium. For now, Members can find detailed information about member benefits and resources on the long serving member Sharepoint site http://ngolearning.org.

2014-04 New Project Services Logo - CLEAR 774x200Project Services logo represents LINGOs helping development professionals work together more effectively in the management of projects.  http://www.projectservices.lingos.org. This new site highlights the many resources our team offers for organizations seeking to build capacity to deliver their projects and programs better. The site includes communities of learning and links to open and closed project management courses.

2014-04 New Last Mile Learning - CLEAR 780x200Last Mile Learning’s logo, which debuted with the launch of the Last Mile Learning site a year ago continues to accurately represent its objective to bring learning to the people on the ground in the most remote and hard to reach areas of the world.  http://www.lastmilelearning.org.
All four logos will be utilized in our communications so you can readily identify its origin.

2014 is turning out to be a banner year for LINGOs and we invite you to keep an eye out for more exciting news as the year progresses!

 

 

Catching the PMD Pro Fever!

By John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

JohnCropper

Seven thousand. I just received the latest statistics from APMG and over seven thousand people have sat the PMDPro exam. I get excited by every landmark with PMDPro but I was reflecting over the weekend on just how incredible this is and on what has happened with PMDPro since it was launched in 2010.

World Vision engaged at regional and country level, training hundreds of staff and they now have their own trainers in East and Southern Africa. Mercy Corps merged its program guidelines with PMDPro and has rolled this out globally. Staff in one Mercy Corps office even talks about “PMDPro fever.” Catholic Relief Services has trained hundreds of staff and partners across Africa and PMDPro now forms part of its CRS Fellows program. Rainforest Alliance has trained staff across its global operations and has started a project to standardise their project management approach. The Inter- American Development Bank trained its local partners in Latin America and as a result, local training organisations are now delivering PMDPro. Plan International has trained staff across Africa and two of their staff still hold the highest pass mark! Heifer is in the process of training staff and developing their own trainers. Save, AFSC, Oxfam, the Aga Khan Foundation, UNICEF and Islamic Relief have held courses and many more organisations have sent staff to ‘open’ courses. One organisation is even talking about how to take PMDPro to two thousand staff!

Diverse Approaches

What is striking is the variety of approaches. Some want their own trainers. Others want to engage at a regional level. Some focus on the country. Some organisations are going for face to face training approaches. Others want the training to be virtual/blended. Some want to train their partner organisations. Others want to include their finance and support staff. Some organisations want to focus on PMDPro 1 – others are engaging with PMDPro 2 as well and some want to do a combination of all of these.

Common Need

Amongst all this diversity, it is interesting to think about why this is happening. Clearly, there are many motivations and needs being addressed. However, there are some common themes. One major area is that organisations want to professionalise their ability to deliver projects and take advantage of the skills and techniques that the profession of project management can offer. Some want to develop a career stream for project managers. Some organisations want to develop a common language and even processes across their projects. One senior manager told me that for the first time, their finance and program staff were holding productive conversations! Some organisations are reaching out to develop their implementing partners’ capacity and also develop a shared vocabulary for project management. Other organisations are seeking to tackle identified project management issues such as under or overspends, audit weaknesses or donor perceptions.

Overall, I feel that this represents a fascinating picture of change. Project management capacity building is clearly being used to solve a wide range of organisational challenges and what is especially rewarding is that the message is being spread by participants themselves.  There has been almost no publicity or marketing and yet … seven thousand people have engaged.

Catch the Fever – Register for a blended online course

Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro1) Course / February 4th – February 27th, 2014

Eventbrite - LINGOs – Curso de 4 Semanas en Gestión de Proyectos (PMD Pro1) – Del 4 al 28 de febrero de 2014

Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro2) Course / January 7th - 30th, 2014

 

For a complete 2014 calendar of Project Management open courses, please see http://lingos.eventbrite.com

LINGOs Project Services Group offers a range of training and learning opportunities for organizations. For more information, please click here.

“When Can I Do PMDPro 2?”

By John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

JohnCropper“When can I do PMDPro 2?” This is pretty much always the first question that I get asked as soon as people have passed PMDPro 1! I always suggest that people spend a few months putting the tools into action in their projects before they think about level 2. However, as more than seven thousand people have been through the level one certification, the question – and providing an answer – has become more pressing.

What is PMD Pro?

The Project Management in Development (PMD Pro) is a certification which has been developed with experts from several of the world’s best-known and highly regarded non-governmental organizations. These organizations are committed to improving the use of the resources entrusted to them for development, relief and conservation projects. The PMD Pro certification is seen as an important benchmark for continuous improvement.


There are currently two examination levels within the qualification scheme, PMD Pro Level 1 and PMD Pro Level 2. Certification is offered through APMG-International.

Pilot of Blended Online Course

Through September and October, LINGOs piloted our first blended PMDPro 2 course. We had organised face to face courses before but we really wanted a blended option that would allow people the flexibility to work and learn together. At the same time, many iNGOs may not have enough staff in a given country to make a face to face course cost effective – another reason for wanting a blended option.

So, how did it go? Overall, I believe it was a great success. The group filled up very quickly and we had people from fifteen different organisations and countries. Completing PMDPro 1 is a pre-requisite, so the level of project management knowledge in the group was high – as we anticipated – and from an instructor’s point of view, it was very rewarding to be able to ‘go deep’ and really focus on participants’ project management challenges and issues.

PMDPro 2 Course Structure

The course follows the same format as the level one blended courses: 4 weeks, online facilitated classes, structured reading, assignments, participation in a community and asynchronous learning via PMTV- a rather grand name for a series of project management videos we have developed that focus on how to apply the tools to projects. We seek to help participants get ready for the PMDPro 2 certification – but also cover more advanced material and really focus on application and how to get the tools to work in practice. To help with this, we provide bonus readings to help participants explore areas of interest in more depth.

What difference does this make?

Well, the pilot has just finished but one participant said she hoped there would be: “a consistent process of project management on the organisation level; more cooperation/engagement between different departments; more effective and successful projects, increased reputation of the organisation”. I couldn’t put it better myself!

Interested?

LINGOs is running the next PMDPro 2 blended course in January. For information on dates, times, and fees and to register: 

Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro2) Course / January 7th - 30th, 2014

Read more about LINGOs Member Experience with PMD Pro

5 Reasons Blended Learning is Going Viral at Rainforest Alliance

Blended approach gets learning to where learners are

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five reasons that blended learning goes viral

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

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

2. Lower costs allows learning to scale

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

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

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

4.  Expanded participation leads to greater adoption of learning

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

5. Blended learning is greener…

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

Quick win!

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

 Want to get involved?

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

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

Stay tuned for Portuguese!

Two steps forward and one step back

Guest post by Roger Steele, LINGOs Senior Project Manager

rsteeleAccording to contemporary wisdom (Wikipedia), my title is a catchphrase about a frog trying to climb out of a well; for every two steps the frog climbs, it falls back by one step, making its progress arduous, but progress nonetheless. The catchphrase feels like a fitting title for today’s post.

While I’m making steady progress in my eLearning journey – it is strenuous at times. Exactly two years ago, I wrote a post on the topic of eLearning in Southern Africa. Since those earlier efforts, LINGOs has expanded its PMD Pro work to over 20 countries all over Africa — one (big) step forward. I also contributed to a recent blog on virtual coaching for graduates of PMD Pro courses — another step forward. Upon re-reading those posts, I’m hoping readers didn’t get the impression that we are making continuously smooth and uncomplicated progress. Probably not – as most LINGOs members are in touch with the “frog’s arduous climb.”

Ok, now you should be asking: “what is the one step back, Roger?”

Allow me to start with a story. Last September, I led a successful face-to-face PMD Pro1 course for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) staff and partners in Zimbabwe. To encourage learning transfer and application of PMD Pro tools to real work, CRS asked LINGOs to conduct five hours of online virtual coaching with the class participants – a couple months after completion of the course. We scheduled four one-hour virtual classroom sessions. The participants, both CRS staff and their partners, were notified in a timely manner and all was ready to go.

That’s when we took one step back – or in a slightly different direction. Apart from the usual challenges anyone faces in first time log in to a virtual classroom environment, the Zimbabwean participants had an extra special challenge. Out of the 30 invited participants, we were lucky to have five online at any single time – with several regularly popping off and coming back on at regular intervals.

Now don’t get me wrong, the participants did the best possible. It was just a matter of internet connections that came and went! Sometimes those in the capital city, Harare, were the strongest. Other times we had great connections from Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, Bulawayo. Somewhat surprisingly, a participant in the remote town of Chinoyi had an almost perfect connection.

The CRS Zimbabwe story is somewhat typical of our PMD Pro online coaching sessions in African countries, largely because the students are dispersed in numerous locations. As described in an earlier post, the HOTspot approach has shown considerable promise in African locations where a strong internet connection can be secured.

Climbing forward …

We did come up with a solution – a time-tested distance learning approach. Using a software program called Camtasia (techsmith.com) that integrates into MS PowerPoint; I advanced slides and recorded my voice as I talked through each coaching presentation on PMD Pro tools. In total, I produced almost 3 hours of video on tools like Work Breakdown Structure, RACI, Issues Log, Risk Register and Gantt. I ended up with 15 coaching videos with an average length of 10 minutes each. I performed one other step — converting the voice to captions. These were burned under each slide and appear in sync with my voice during video play. The jury is still out whether the captioning step was worth the effort. I know my American English accent is hard to understand for many Africans. English is a second or third language for many. The captions can also be easily translated to other languages.

After some editing of both the voice and captions in Camtasia, I produced the videos in WMV (Windows Media Video) format. I also uploaded the videos to the LINGOs YouTube library. Finally, I added the voice transcriptions as speaker notes in the PowerPoint decks – to assist anyone who wants to use them as a guide to their own Face to Face coaching sessions.

Steady progress

I am writing this blog from Tanzania where I am interacting with some of the World Vision East Africa Operations Directors. After doing a demo of one coaching video, they asked that asked for copies of the WMV files. The World Vision East Africa team plans to burn DVDs for physical distribution to the 800 PMD Pro1 graduates in World Vision East Africa’s 9 National Offices. They seem genuinely excited about this solution.  While not what I initially expected, my eLearning success story is distribution of quick-and-dirty videos on DVDs.  What is most important is that the frog is still making overall progress in the climb.

For more information about LINGOs 4-week PMD Pro1 blended learning course, March 4-28,  see http://4weekpmdprocourse.eventbrite.com

Is your agency ready for the revolution? (in education/learning?)

Post by Marian Abernathy, LINGOs Director of Membership & Communications

Thomas Friedman’s Sunday Jan 27 column in the New York Times “Revolution Hits the Universities” is right on. Friedman writes about the transformational potential of the “massive open online course” or MOOC. These courses are online, open to all, and for the most part available free of cost to learners around the world. International NGOs that provide learning services to their staff should be paying attention!

LINGOs Executive Director Eric Berg and I experimented with a MOOC last fall offered by Stanford University and VentureLab entitled “Designing a New Learning Environment.” Just as with face to face training, virtual classrooms and eLearning, a MOOC can be designed and delivered from abysmally to beyond superbly.

LINGOs’ vision is for anyone working to reduce poverty and alleviate suffering in the developing world to have access to world-class learning opportunities at little or no cost.  We believe that the more effective they are, the more people will have food, shelter and be healthy, the more people will be educated and the more people will live in a clean and safe environment.

MOOCs, open to anyone, presently at no cost, have the potential to create massive leverage for people who otherwise do not have access to university education. There’s enormous potential for the motivated staff of NGOs to learn along with others from around the world.

Lectures are pre-recorded so that students can attend at their convenience. This is great for students in multiple time zones, or international development professionals and humanitarian relief workers who have meetings pop up, long trips and disasters that may spring up and keep them from attending a set-time event. However, the flexibility has a cost, as it can require more self-discipline than many of us have. I did find taking a course with my boss to be a significant motivator!

A central feature of MOOC is crowd sourcing, which allows the course content to go beyond simple quizzes and interactions that are assessed as correct/incorrect and permit fellow students to review each other’s assignments and give feedback.  This means that individual students, as well as teams of students can submit thoughtful and complex assignments and receive comments and advice from fellow students around the world.

Talk about leverage! The faculty don’t have to respond to the individual assignments of each student (some MOOCs start with over 100,000 students!), but they can learn together and gain from the wisdom of the crowd.

We’ve been experimenting with some of the elements of a MOOC with our blended learning courses on Project Management. We learned from our 5-week PMDPro course last fall and are adapting our lessons and experiences in two four-week courses, one in Spanish in February, and the other in English in March.  These courses include self-paced eLearning, discussion boards, assignments and three hours of virtual classroom training and coaching per week. Given the live instruction, coaching and feedback from instructors and that we don’t have backing from venture capitalists, we aren’t yet able to offer this type of learning free, but can do it at a significantly lower cost than face to face training. We are looking at ways to leverage our learning from the MOOC to learn how to offer this type of learning at lower costs to reach greater numbers of those working to improve lives of people in the developing world.

Our Project Services Team is in the process of designing a “mini-MOOC” on Project Management in Development. This will be an asynchronous blended approach with no direct instructor feedback but with opportunities for interaction and feedback from other course participants. It will probably have a small fee – so not quite free – but will also include the opportunity for a certificate for participants who successfully complete assignments and the final exam. Look for more information on this later this quarter.

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:

On the road from training to application: virtual coaching

Have you ever gone to a great course or workshop, been inspired by what you learned, and have every intention of putting your new knowledge into practice as soon as you got back to work?

Have you also experienced finding a mountain of work awaiting you after the inspiring course — and as you dive into catching up on that week away, you find yourself going back to your usual practices, and that you were unable to put what you learned into practice?

Have you been to the inspiring course, been able to summit the mountain of waiting work and had trouble explaining the new concepts to your colleagues and supervisors so that you can put the new practices in place?

Over the past two and a half years, LINGOs has deployed virtual coaching as an effective and cost-efficient performance support and learning transfer mechanism for global participants of the LINGOs Project Services learning programs.  We saw the need for performance support after the first very successful training courses in our work with World Vision’s Southern Africa Regional Program to build capacity in project management.

Knowledge & skills alone don’t lead to behavior change

We all know that knowledge and skills alone are insufficient to lead to a change in behavior –think of all the anti-smoking and “just say no” campaigns!  While the vast majority of participants successfully passed the PMD Pro 1 online exam, the leaders of the program initially saw relatively low application of the newly learned tools and approaches in the participants’ daily work.

While first piloted in Africa, we’ve done more virtual coaching in Latin America. “Coaching is a necessary complement to any training process,” said LINGOs Senior Facilitator Juan Manuel Palacios. “Without it, you can’t expect change — you can’t ensure transfer of knowledge, change in behavior or achievement of intended organizational outcomes.”

Coaching for performance support & learning transfer

Coaching is a widely-used performance support and learning transfer tool. It is a particularly good approach when participants are asked to develop an action plan at the end of their course work.

Traditional, in-person coaching involving high costs and time for both trainers and participants to travel to a central location was not an option, especially as much of the Project Management Training was offered through a blend of virtual classrooms and other on-line platforms. LINGOs began to offer virtual coaching as a strategy to give learners a chance to apply new skills and receive additional instruction and guidance when they came up against real-world challenges.

We built coaching into the Latin America work that we’re now completing with the GEPAL Project (Gestión en Administración de Proyectos en América Latina) with the Interamerican Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and in additional project management capacity work we’re doing with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), ChildFund-Americas, Islamic Relief,  Mercy Corps,  Oxfam GB, PATH, as well as with World Vision.

Technology improving, but still a limiting factor in parts of Africa

“Technology is improving monthly in African cities,” said Roger Steele, LINGOs Senior Project Manager, who has led training efforts with World Vision, CRS and PATH in Africa.  “Virtual coaching is becoming a very viable option.”

Based on the circumstances of each training cohort, LINGOs has used various technological options for virtual coaching including,

  • Groups that trained in a face-to-face environment participating via World Vision’s HoTSpots in Southern Africa,
  •  Individuals in disparate locations logging into the same virtual classroom platform in which they received training online,
  • Participants connecting via Skype when their internet connections were unable to support connections to a virtual classroom.

Roger noted that “participants are often eager to join online sessions but technology access and literacy is still limited in places. Some participants got their first email account to be able to participate in virtual coaching after a face-to-face workshop.”

“At PATH sometimes our people gathered informally around one person with a computer with a good connection and speakers,” noted Julie Baker, Trainer and eLearning Developer, who has overseen the PATH effort to strengthen staff skills among 54 participants in Kenya and Tanzania.

In Latin America, internet access has not been a limiting factor. Through the GEPAL project, LINGOs and partner organizations trained to facilitate training and coaching sessions have found no significant barriers in Brazil, Panamá or Guatemala. However, participants in Paraguay on some occasions did have some connectivity difficulties accessing the sessions offered on the Blackboard Collaborate virtual classroom platform.

Multiple modalities same objective

In the African context, the coaching approach has been more formal. Starting about a month after training, taking the PMD Pro1 online exam and developing an action plan, participants have had the opportunity to engage in virtual coaching sessions. The sessions, held in the Blackboard Collaborate Virtual Classroom, have provided structured review of different tools and an opportunity to share concerns and questions, and to problem-solve ways to remove obstacles to using the tools.

“In one session, a participant shared her concern specifics of where to keep the project’s issues log,” said Julie Baker. “The group and coaches explored advantages and disadvantages of whether to keep it on a Sharepoint® site versus a local network; who puts the data in the document, and how to make it work day-to-day in that particular situation.”

In the Latin American experience in GEPAL, however, after the training, certification exam and action plans are complete, the groups that trained together start looking at project management tools in which the participants are interested in implementing in their organizations.  They’ve generally started with design, monitoring and evaluation tools. “One participant provides the coaches with a real project to use as case study for coaching,” said Juan Manuel.

Brazil coaching group develops proposal
Participants from AVAPE (The Association for Valuing Persons with Disabilities), had already identified stakeholders and needed to work specifically on the design of a project and develop a proposal (including a logical framework). During ten hours of coaching, the entire group built the logical framework with results, objectives, M&E indicators and assumptions to prepare a proposal for donor. In this case, the group of coaching participants included the project’s donor as well as a consulting group brought in to develop the proposal. Fun follow up fact, this proposal has been presented and will be funded for AVAPE to implement.
Panama plans project transitions
In the coaching we did with the Panamanian group, a participant provided a case where she was working on the project transition and sought coaching on how to build transition planning into the finished project.

Coaching on adapting to local reality

The follow-up coaching allows participants to gain insights into the adaptation of tools. “It provides an opportunity to reinforce learning and adapt tools to specific situations, gaining ideas and inputs from other participants who don’t know an organization as well,” according to Juan Manuel.

“Our Country Leader reports a big uptick in use of the RACI matrix,” said PATH’s Julie Baker. “There was lots of conversation in the coaching session on how to customize it, including additional columns to make it work even better for our reality.” She noted that the coach was able to share an example from another organization where they’d added a new column.

The final product of this learning process (from training to coaching) is to facilitate participants’ ability to apply tools in different contexts, for different projects. “After all,” said Juan Manuel, “you don’t need to have the tools in place when you start the project.  You can adapt the tools at any phase of during the life of the project.”

Coaching makes the difference

Perhaps the clearest case of the benefits of virtual coaching happened in Mozambique. LINGOs provided face to face training but between connectivity challenges and a lack of familiarity with standardized testing, none of the participants were able to successfully complete the online exam.

However, after a process of self-directed learning, Bento Guilovica sought personal coaching from Juan Manuel. “The coachee MUST be interested and motivated to learn,” pointed out Juan Manuel who provided 8-10 hours of virtual coaching via skype.  Bento went on to become a trainer of PMD Pro, who each day after delivering face to face training, was coached through his specific questions on tools and approaches. At the end of his first course, 70% of Bento’s students passed the PMD Pro exam.

Communities of practice

The virtual coaching sessions are creating networks of people using and adapting tools in the real world.  “The community of practice can be used for advice and, guidance on how individuals and organizations have adapted or used different tools,” said Juan Manuel.

PATH is preparing to explore additional ways to foster ongoing communities of practice around project management. Roger Steele noted that “a culture of online interaction will evolve and is improving.” There’s more learning to do in the area of strengthening virtual communities and exploring additional ways of coaching and performance support.

Readers are welcome to join the large and growing international community of practice, with over 2800 individuals interested in project management for development, via the open PM4NGOs group on LinkedIn.

Coaching process encourages participants to apply and share learning

When we went to the Training of Trainers course in PMDPro in Panama, I thought it would be just one more course…,” said José Salvador Aquino Manzo, Mercy Corps– Guatemala M&E Officer. However, the reality of a more comprehensive approach that included coaching is much more.

José Salvador was so inspired by the learning process that in record time, he recruited 40 fellow Mercy Corps staffers and program partners in Guatemala to go forward to strengthen Project management skills in PMD Pro.

 

For more on LINGOs Innovations in project management capacity building, please see

1.      Blended learning blog https://lingos.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/blended-approach/

2.      What’s project management got to do with international women’s day https://lingos.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/pm-training-_women/

3.      What’s your product  https://lingos.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/what%e2%80%99s-your-product/

4.      Are NGOs in Southern Africa ready for eLearning  https://lingos.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/are-ngos-in-southern-africa-region-ready-for-elearning/

 

Blended approach gets learning to where learners are

Posted by John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

Training and facilitating used to be so simple. The trainer would travel to a a pre-selected venue, participants would arrive, training was delivered and after a couple of happy sheets and usually a rather nice group meal and photo, everyone departed. Easy!

 

Old School Training…

The costs of this approach are huge. Apart from the travel costs, everyone would be in the training – not actually doing their normal work. So if you had a group of twenty five participants doing a five day course, you used one hundred and twenty five person days. Run two trainings like this in a year and factor in holidays and you would have used up the best part of a person year – and we all think we are understaffed!

LINGOs is all about learning where it really matters. So, to find a way round this, LINGOs has conducted a number of what we call blended trainings on Project Management  (the PMDPro certification)  We’ve tried several approaches and I’ll describe two of them here: First with World Vision International in Southern Africa and second with Oxfam GB in East Africa. The approaches have been different but in both cases, noone had to travel and participants were able to fit the learning around their other work commitments.

In the case of World Vision, we used a “hotspot” approach to ease connectivity challenges. A number of offices were chosen and World Vision made sure that each office had a USB speaker phone and a projector. One computer would be connected and participants would either look at a shared monitor or the screen would be projected onto a wall. Participants were given a clear timetable and instructions about what was expected of them. They had a program of reading through the PMDPro Guide, using the practice exam, webinars using Blackboard Collaborate, a ning social network where they could ask/answer questions and where we could post all the documents and finally there was an ‘instructor’s hour,’ when a facilitator would be online and participants could ask any questions on a one-to-one basis. Each course was scheduled over a two week period.

With Oxfam, we adopted a similar approach but it was much more extensive. The course had the same components but was designed to be taken over a 10 to 12 week period. Participants were advised that they would need to spend 3 to 4 hours each week. No one component was mandatory and they could spend their time on any of the different components. If the facilitator or the Oxfam sponsor thought that a participant was not engaging in any element, then s/he was not allowed to sit the PMDPro exam at the end of the course.

So what?

Well clearly, the blended approach is much more flexible and obviously more cost effective. One additional immediate benefit was a higher percentage of women participants – as described in an earlier post for International Woman’s Day. Interestingly results from the extended, Oxfam approach have been the best with an exam pass rate of 50%. Best of all was to see this post from the Tanzania Country Director, in which he noted his experience of “a case where training has created learning that has turned into change. There is improved quality of work and increased commitment to share one’s learning.”

Clearly this kind of approach can lead to skill transfer and application.

What learning is there from these pilots?

  1. Setting up a hotspot is a considerable investment in time and equipment – but once it is there, it can be used again and again. We have seen staff use the equipment for virtual meetings rather than travel – another great benefit.
  2.  In both cases, it is helpful to have champions and clear leadership – without buy in from the top, any training is more difficult. Participants need to have a clear structure and they need to understand what they are expected to do, when and why.
  3. Participant selection is as important as  managing expectations – participants need to commit to putting in the time over a two/three month period.
  4. The biggest learning I have taken from all this is simple. Blended learning can work and work well. One participant from Tanzania said in one of the webinars, “I need to leave now. I am in a village with no electricity using a 3G connection and the laptop battery is going.”

 I wish I had had a photo! When we think about virtual/remote learning – or whatever we want to call it, perhaps we should stop ask asking “why?” and start asking “why not!”

 

What’s your product?

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.