Training! Workshops! Trainings! …Oh, hang on a minute…
Going to trainings can be useful. And you might even get to stay in a luxury hotel. But Pyae Phyo Maung argues that we need to think more about whether training is effective in building capacity.
In the development sector, when we ask ourselves about building the capacity of communities, we often look to trainings.
Even though there are many other means of capacity development, trainings and workshops still remain very popular strategies.
Trainings and workshops are good for those people attending. People often get new knowledge and they can network with like-minded people from other areas. And there can be other, usually unstated, benefits like getting daily per diem or if lucky enough, they can stay in a luxurious hotel.
The underlying assumption for this is that the more people increased their knowledge, the more likely are they to make positive changes in their behaviour.
But we have been spending so much money in this area, we should reflect more on the effectiveness of training. There are a couple of simple questions should ask ourselves.
One is whether we are really reaching the most appropriate audience?
Sometimes, the available person, instead of appropriate person attends the training. I’ve seen some training where irrelevant people showed up because their seniors forced them to attend. For example in one case, a program support staff attended a technical workshop which he knew very little about. He was not able to contribute and felt a bit uncomfortable.
Sometimes different people attend different days of a training. On one trip I was surprised to see that different members of a family (in a rural area) joined different sessions of a training, as they had casual work responsibilities.
The second question is whether the content of training is relevant for the target audience?
I’ve encountered an international organization that replicated a training curriculum in Myanmar that was originally designed for a country with very different context and culture.
In another case, I was called to act as a co-trainer for a workshop with another facilitator. There, I found out that the engineering examples and case studies were going to be used with rural farmers. Luckily, these examples were replaced with more appropriate ones in the last minute.
Thirdly, there is the question of whether the training was provided by the appropriate resource person for target community.
I once heard that a training organizer (with good intentions) invited an experienced trainer to work with a rural group. Although the technical competency of the trainer was really good, they were not able alter the content in a way that that rural audience could follow (and apply back).
There are many questions to ask ourselves before and after conducting trainings. I think nurturing such reflective practice will be really helpful for designing trainings or workshops.
In terms of a good training model, a development worker reflected that they had seen a workshop for farmers run by a local organisation.
In that workshop, each participant brought their own lunch box. From the local organisation, they provided nothing but a vegetable soup for their lunch. The participants seemed engaged compared with attendees from other trainings provided free of charge. This development worker concluded that if everything is provided for free, people may not value it.
This might be one example. But there will definitely be many other good models out there.