The NGO* sector is struggling with its e-learning strategies. Aside from a few exceptions, this is what the current e-learning landscape looks like:
- Organisations look to the corporate sector for expertise and end up with a range of one-hour individual training modules.
- Further inspired by the corporate sector, NGOs run webinar programmes – usually the expert-centred type with a short Q&A at the end.
- NGOs have partnerships with universities so staff can upskill by doing one of the university’s online courses (management and leadership are the most popular subjects).
Yet corporate and university style e-learning is only effective for a very small part of the NGO sector’s learning needs. This sector has a very different mission and unique challenges, which should be reflected in how staff and target groups are supported in their learning.
Simply put, the foci of e-learning programmes in the different sectors could be set apart like this:
E-learning in educational sector → assessment
E-learning in corporate sector → compliance/systems
E-learning in NGO sector → … (empowerment)
Based on the NGO sector’s missions, I believe the focus of most learning events in this sector must be empowerment, regardless of the fact that non-profit organisations usually need some basic compliance and systems training as well to support efficient work processes.
However – looking at current NGO e-learning programmes – it seems many NGOs lost track of their mission when devising their e-learning strategy.
For their main capacity building efforts, the NGO sector shouldn’t emulate the e-learning approaches used in corporate or educational sectors. To develop the employees through staff training or to bring about a positive change in society at large, this sector needs distinctly different methodologies.
I have written before about the need for more social constructivism in the development sector. The arguments are valid for a broad range of NGOs.
|The NGO sector needs its own approach to e-learning which focuses on empowerment, instead of emulating corporate and university style e-learning.|
These approaches aim to empower people rather than just train them. The difference between these concepts is important. When we empower people, they become real change agents and have/take the authority to make a difference, to do something to address problems – within their organisations or communities.
In fact, across all sectors we could achieve so much more with e-learning if the focus is on empowerment (an interesting article here), but I feel it’s even more urgent to get this right in the NGO sector because this is at the core of their missions. Ignoring this focus means they are doing a considerable disservice to their staff, target groups and funders.
*To keep it simple I include non-profit, not-for-profit and charities in this group.