Lesson #11: the longer we walk together, the deeper we will change
Longer CB processes provide with more opportunities to assess how capacities and skills are built; capacity developed through online courses could be strengthened by continuing to engage with trainees in some specific and practical way
As time goes by, I become increasingly convinced about allowing processes the time they need to be what they are: processes. Indeed, in the case of online courses that we have extensively analysed here and here, the fact that they unfold throughout several weeks (vis-à-vis face to face workshops of 3-4 days), has helped us deliver what we know much better, in smaller doses. It also allows us to build knowledge that is being shared on what participants find more revealing, challenging and/or interesting in their daily work.
Spreading learning events through time also enabled us to much better assess the practical usefulness of the tools that are presented in modules and the appropriate equilibrium between theory and concepts and tools that could be used to work in the field. Most of the trainees expressed that they had shared the contents and exercises of the course with their teams and their organisations (a suggestion made by tutors who insist on the benefits of doing so), while some of them made presentations within their institutions to share knowledge and raise awareness about the importance of advocacy.
We still think there are ways to make the process last longer (and thus amplify chances of changes becoming embedded in the organisation). One of the ways we think we could improve sustainability of capacity development is to select a group of the most committed and promising participants to: 1) provide them with technical assistance/mentoring to develop some specific change/s related to what has been learned after the course has ended, and/or 2) provide them with co-funding (some funds should come from the individual/organization to promote buy-in and sustainability) to develop this change.
Longer processes also provide the opportunity to link what is being taught with other relevant organisational projects, challenges, changes. This means that participants, knowing that they will work on a specific issue (i.e. policy influence planning) for a sufficiently long period of time, will be more likely to detect opportunities to use and apply what they learn to ongoing discussions, decisions and activities. Time also helps participants really digest what they are learning and understand how it links to their current challenges and problems. Consequently, they are able to feed back into the learning space with real and concrete questions and experiences which in turn enrich the knowledge that is being shared. Furthermore, colleagues can work as an encouraging device by providing specific ideas, or socializing concrete tools or methodologies that they have implemented to address similar challenges.