Giving Back: Donors and Volunteers Are Key to Training Employees of Nongovernmental Organizations

Article excerpt

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) may be unique in being named for something they are not. Estimates place the number of these cause-oriented international entities at about 40,000, most of which face these two daunting challenges: lack of funding specifically for employee development, and staff dispersed around the globe in hard-to-reach places.

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For retired software and training company executive Eric Berg, who was looking for a way to give back to the profession, this situation was an opportunity calling. In 2005, working with the leaders of several large, international NGOs, including CARE, Save the Children, and Habitat for Humanity, he co-founded Learning in Non-Governmental Organizations, known as LINGOs. Its mission--to provide learning to the employees of international NGOs operating in three or more countries--is made possible with donations of courses and technology by for-profit training companies, and donations of time and expertise by workplace learning professionals.

"The learning technologies and courses given by our partners help these nonprofits increase the skill levels of their employees, and therefore increase the impact of their programs," says Berg. "We can show them they are making a difference."

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LINGOs members are international NGOs involved in the fields of relief, development, conservation, and social justice. LINGOs's partner companies from the learning industry include Articulate, Blackboard Collaborate, eCornell, eLearning Guild, Harvard Business Publishing, Ninth House, The Performance Management Institute, and many others. Their donations enable LINGOs to provide e-learning development tools, virtual classroom software, and course catalogs to LINGOs members as part of their low annual membership fees.

LINGOs operates a learning management system that contains hundreds of courses on leadership and management development, information technology, project management, stress management for humanitarian workers, personal safety, and other topics. LINGOs's member agencies can access the content through branded portals or through a shared portal, depending on their level of membership.

"Over 80,000 courses have been completed by NGO employees around the world," notes Berg. "And 10,000 were completed in the first quarter of 2012 alone."

Volunteer opportunities

Individual volunteers and corporate teams from the training profession also play a key role in helping LINGOs achieve its goals. An annual competition, Global Giveback, provides the opportunity for course developers to work with international not-for-profit organizations to develop online courses.

LINGOs needs volunteer developers to develop learning content in four formats:

* Self-led format--e-learning content that can be accessed via the Internet (or shared via CD-ROM) that allows people to learn, practice, apply, and assess new skills

* Face-to-face format--curricular guides that allow facilitators to lead workshops

* Facilitated online synchronous format--curricular guides and slide decks that allow facilitators to lead classes in an online virtual classroom

* Facilitated online asynchronous format--curricular guides and support materials that allow facilitators to instruct groups via online communities and discussion rooms. (This format is most useful for situations in which individuals want to learn in a group but only have intermittent access to the Internet or are unable to attend regularly scheduled classes.)

This year, for the first time, Global Giveback will focus on a single area of content--people management. Teams will work on a collection of courses that are intended to complement one another. Together, the courses will comprise a learning library, entitled Last Mile Learning, targeted to the staff of local, rather than international, NGOs. …