Capacity development, learning, change, poverty/power/progress
“I have got the best experience in my career in the last 5 days.” This is an example of the great comments we received from participants in a training for new grantees of the Ethiopia Social Accountabiltiy Programme phase 2 (also on FaceBook). So, what was so special about this training?
“It was so real, I almost felt like I was attending the interface meeting between citizens and government officials,” one of our team said during the facilitators meeting at the end of the third training day. Initially, the facilitators were a bit skeptical: would it work to bring the whole project team together, and to train finance officers together with M&E officers, District Coordinators and Project Coordinators in the same week? Well, it worked great, and here’s why. Participants learn best when they are put in situations that resemble the real work as close as possible. This training therefore followed the Social Accountability project cycle, and each group of participants was learning about their specific job in the project along the way.
This is the visual representation of our training design. Each box represents a session, and the boxes with a red border are attended by everyone in the project team.
As an example, some District Coordinators were invited to facilitate the interface meeting, using the findings from the community score card exercise they had conducted in the morning session. During the interface meeting, for which the trainers had prepared various roles for citizens, Service Providers and District Officials to make it as real as possible, other District Coordinators were observing the dynamics in the interface meeting: who was helpful, who was challenging? Observation is an important skill of facilitators that is often overlooked. Meanwhile, the Project Coordinators were observing the facilitation by District Coordinators and learned to give appreciative feedback. Finance officers attended the interface meeting as well, and one of them commented later: “This gives me a better understanding of the type of costs involved in organizing interface meetings.” In this way, everyone was learning what they had to learn in the same practical session.
I call this approach to learning “Reality Training”. All the sessions in the training program are designed so that participants are prepared for their upcoming work, individually, and as a team. At the end of each day, the team came together to share important learning from the different sessions they had attended. This proved to be a real team builder, an additional benefit of the training. We are pleased that the evaluation showed that our design worked very well, but the proof is in the pudding. Will the new grantees do better with project start-up than the grantees that have started before them? To be continued…
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