On November 29, 2017, Action Against Hunger took home the “Silver” award for “Best Learning Technologies Project” in the international public and nonprofit sector from Learning Technologies. The organization won the prize for their use of a cutting-edge, interactive skills development and learning platform they launched in the midst of their response to a humanitarian crisis in northeast Nigeria in 2016.
More than 800 people gathered at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel in London for the awards ceremony, which recognized the very best in learning technologies across the world. Sixty-seven gold, silver and bronze awards were handed out to nominees shortlisted from across the globe, representing 30 different countries.
STRENGTHENING SKILLS AND CAPACITY IN A CRISIS
In response to an enormous food crisis and near-famine in northeast Nigeria, Action Against Hunger launched a massive emergency program to provide humanitarian assistance to more than one million people suffering from hunger. The needs of people displaced by conflict in Borno State in northeast Nigeria were overwhelming.
The scale, urgency, and pace of Action Against Hunger’s response to the crisis required rapidly scaling up the organization’s staff and operations. Hiring a large number of new staff was a challenge, but an even greater challenge was training and strengthening the capacity of Action Against Hunger’s entire team of about 500 staff members in Nigeria — and providing the right tools and support for them to be able to manage all their projects effectively, under pressure, in the midst of a massive humanitarian crisis.
Working in various program locations across northeast Nigeria—often in remote areas far from the organization’s main bases of operations—Action Against Hunger’s existing and new staff needed to adopt and implement consistent, coherent project management policies and procedures in order to manage and achieve their critical objectives, while also adhering to important deadlines and budget requirements. Conducting traditional face-to-face training to support staff to use and benefit from these tools was almost impossible due to cost, distance, and other logistical challenges.
Action Against Hunger’s field human resources team partnered with the senior management team in their Nigeria country office to find a solution. In collaboration with a leading not-for-profit capacity building organization, Humentum, Action Against Hunger adopted PMD Pro Flex – a virtual but social and self-paced way to take the Project Management for Development Professionals course and obtain the standard international development sector certification. The course was delivered through a social learning platform called Curatr, created by HT2Labs.
Through videos, e-learning modules, structured readings, learning tasks, and discussions, the technology allows learners to earn points and progress quickly through the course.
The HT2Labs technology allowed Action Against Hunger’s staff to benefit from the facilitation of the course through remote moderators: the online learning platform was accessible for staff in locations across northeast Nigeria, even on smart phones in hard-to-reach camps set up to assist people displaced by conflict. This e-learning technology delivered obvious benefits very quickly: a large number of staff received training across multiple locations at the same time at an affordable cost. Over 14 weeks, nearly 100 Action Against Hunger staff completed the online project management course—even in the midst of extremely demanding and intense conditions, where their priority was to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance to populations affected by conflict and extreme hunger.
“Thanks to the H2Labs Curatr platform, while I was facilitating this course, I knew at any given point in time which staff members were progressing, and what conversations were happening among them as they learned,” said Terver Kuegh, Project Management Specialist for Action Against Hunger in Nigeria. “Action Against Hunger was able to monitor and manage the training, and because the platform allowed us to customize to course, we could confirm which staff had read our organizational policies and procedures, and what discussions they were generating about what they were learning. We got their feedback on what was easy and what was difficult.”
Action Against Hunger’s Nigeria team worked to develop and pilot this interactive e-training course, which has shown immense potential to improve the organization’s approach to project management in other country offices.
“We now find it easier to plan because of the tools we learned from the course,” said Titus Avindigh, one of Action Against Hunger’s community mobilization officers. “The course has improved our efficiency and use of resources.”
Benjamin Ogendi, project manager for Action Against Hunger’s health and nutrition team, said, “This course helped us manage our work more efficiently, which improved our ability to rapidly deliver lifesaving services to women and children in need.”
One of Action Against Hunger’s drivers, Raymond Iortim, didn’t have an office computer, but was able to complete the entire e-learning project management course on his mobile phone. “I literally carried the course in my pocket, and I completed my modules when I had time to focus, at my own pace.” After completing the course, Raymond applied for a new role with Action Against Hunger as Assistant Logistician. He was hired, he says in part because of the skills and training he acquired through the PMD Pro e-learning course.
Although Action Against Hunger is proud of having won the silver prize at the London “Learning Technologies Awards” this month, the true prize is the organization’s enhanced ability to boost the skills and capacity of their vital frontline staff, no matter their schedule or location.