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Trainings that lead to change

July 5, 2012

Jogging around Shinyanga with a colleague

We all need to learn – after all Nobody is perfect.  There are many ways to learn, but one way is often training.  The development community is often plighted by high cost trainings, where people all get paid transport fees and have accommodation and expensive consultants to train us.  Often the training gets squeezed into 4 or 5 days.  The results of these trainings are rarely reviewed, and by that very fact, we could assume not always very positive in terms of change.

And then comes the exception.  Myself, and a good number of my team were introduced to an on-line training programme.  It required that each participant had access to a computer and internet, which can put it out of the reach of some, but for many development workers these are now tools of the trade.  The training was done through a series of on-line sessions over a period of about 8 weeks, but in total, we were together (virtually) for only about 12 hours, so the equivalent of 1.5 days.  This training came with no real additional costs to our organisation.  And the thing that I personally liked, there was no certificates for participation, only for passing a test.  Adding to that, a pass mark was set at a level of at least 70%.  This was no easy target, and the fact that a few staff did struggle to pass is testament that it was a true test.

The training was completed a few months ago now.   Recently, I was with some members of the team that took part in the training in a general meeting, which was bringing together people from the private sector, universities, research institutes, government and fellow NGO’s to review and confirm the allocation of responsibilities under a newly awarded donor contract. 

Impressive it was to see some of the familiar slides from the training up on the projector.  But that would be easy, just copying and pasting.  What was impressive is that the team had learnt and adapted the training tools to the piece of work that they were sharing.  More than that, in the process of the meeting they were training others on what they have learnt so that their work is improved as well (and doing this in a low cost way).

It was great to see.  And it makes me think about how we should be approaching more skills development with the people we work with and for.   While a computer and internet may not be accessible to everyone, radio and increasingly mobile phones are.  Can we be doing more to train through these means rather than focusing on bringing everyone to one place at the same time?  This would allow people to learn around their own schedules – something so very important for rural Tanzanian’s. 

I also think the challenge of needing to pass was critical to the learning.  A certificate of participation, so often means a certificate of attendance.  When there is a pass mark involved, the incentive to learn is greater.  While a pass mark may not always be wise or practical in every situation, other ways can surely be achieved.  Ideas around this are most welcomed.

A case where training has created learning that has turned into change.  There is improved quality of work and increased commitment to share ones learning.

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