just do(ing) it better

A colleague of mine, who’s just started blogging as ‘nobody is perfect’, writes:

“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.”

He’s referring to the three-country trial of some different learning approaches on project management that I kicked off and wrote about back in February. You can read part one, part two, part three and part four. My colleague is in Tanzania, the ‘condition 3’ country – distance learning support only, no face to face workshop. He continues:

“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%.”

At the six month mark (in August) I’ll be doing an end line survey of all participants and discovering what the impact has been in each country – have people actually learned and changed the way they work for the better? But I’m very pleased to be beaten to the punch on this with what he writes next:

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).

Here’s the whole post.


just do it (better) – iv

Mmm.. Jubalicious

Sorry for the delay. Stuff getting in the way. Airports and Life Saving Workshops(TM) of course. Where were we? Oh yeah, self deprecation:

Hasn’t this guy heard of the Open University? Distance learning and e-learning aren’t new or innovative at all, not even in Africa, what a melon head. What’s the big deal?

And the answer is, of course this isn’t anything new. I’m not trying to be Steve Jobs. I’m just trying to solve problems of cornerstone effectiveness down in the cogs of the aid machine. We’re pretty good at giving people heroically crushing expectations of quantity and quality of work and aid delivery. We’re less good at ensuring everyone in that team has the skills to deliver from day one. I think we need a bold view of professionalization of the sector; one that foregrounds teams as much as individuals, nationals not expats, and backgrounds the rest as (necessary) surge capacity.

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just do it (better) – iii

Hello from much cooler, damper and altogether more pleasant Kampala.

On Friday I said I was here in Uganda experimenting. 

Why? Okay. Rant pants on.

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just do it (better) – ii

I said yesterday I hope not to need to see teams like this ever again. Before I get to that, let me give you a quick rundown on what they’re doing. Read the rest of this entry »


just do it (better)

Donors and aid beneficiaries want different things. Everyone moans about it eventually. But it comes to a point where it’s a fallacy. What donors want and what beneficiaries want isn’t completely mutually exclusive. I think there’s a big, fat, intersection in that venn diagram. The trick is to get a hold of something within that space, and give it a tug. No, you’re not The One. No, you’re not going to cast the Ring of Aid into Mount Doom. But you still might just do something useful. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

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