NetDimensions recently had the honor of being awarded Partner of the Year for our work with Humentum, a not-for-profit humanitarian organization striving for social change around the world. Ross Coxon, Humentum’s Director of Learning Collaborative, spoke to us about their pioneering work in providing learning for social change.
Hi Ross. Tell us about how your partnership with NetDimensions came about.
Humentum is about a year old but we were LINGOs before that. We’d been working with NetDimensions for around five years previously.
Eric Berg, the LINGOs founder, met NetDimensions at an event and asked them if they wanted to save the world. They ended up giving us access to an LMS for a million people.
You’re facilitating learning for social change in some of the most challenging countries in the world. How does that work?
These learners are not in Washington DC or London. They’re in places like Kenya, South Sudan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We’ve seen a rise in usage numbers in Yemen, which I find compelling. Yemen is at the height of a civil war with a lot of citizen fatalities. NGO staff are trying to bring about learning for social change in a war zone where literally going to the market is a dangerous experience.
They’re also working to improve the lives of those less fortunate around them, ensuring that girls go through education or children have nutritious food to eat.
In their spare time, they’re not reading a book or spending time with their families; they’re taking training on the NetDimensions LMS to make themselves better managers.
That’s pretty remarkable given the circumstances, isn’t it?
To do self-improvement in that situation is incredible, to me. In some of these places, you can go and buy an AK-47 gun but you can’t do Excel, HR or leadership and management training unless your organization gives you access through a platform like NetDimensions. In many ways the online space is one of the safest places they have to retreat to.
We’re making learning for social change accessible to people in some of the world’s hardest-to-reach places, working in the hardest conditions to improve the lives of others.
Tell us about the most important strengths of using NetDimensions in learning for social change.
What we like is the durability. NetDimensions hardly ever goes down. We have learners in 162 countries at any time. This robustness is vital for people doing what is, in my opinion, the most important learning in the world.
NetDimensions does a good job of removing those barriers. Learners have about 1% of their time to do some discretionary learning.
The last thing you want, in that situation of learning for social change, is not to be able to find a course, or to have difficulties resetting your password.
How does your relationship with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) usually begin?
NGOs tend to approach us. Typically, they’re looking to augment their face-to-face learning for social change or just generally improve their online offering.
They want to offer something more global, because flying experts around the world is not sustainable and the quality of learning in some countries is not ideal.
It’s about access and reach. If they’re going to regularly provide learning for social change in northern Afghanistan, for example, that needs to be online.
We help them set up their NetDimensions portal and choose their catalogue [of learning content]. Then we project-manage the process so they can release and launch their LMS.
We also have an ongoing mentoring and coaching relationship where we help them to successfully utilize their LMS to provide learning for social change.
What about mandatory training, like compliance?
If you don’t have a system like NetDimensions you can’t deliver compliance training at scale across a globally disparate organization.
Compliance can be covered and tracked, whether that means safety and security, dealing with armed presences, unofficial road blocks, bribery or corruption.
Then there are things like child protection. If you’re in a refugee camp, women, children and vulnerable adults are facing their greatest risks ever. Learners really need to understand that.
Getting people to take the courses is the tricky bit. We encourage things like newsletter leaderboards going out to different countries. That encourages friendly competition and puts learning for social change to the front of people’s minds.
Working in non-developed countries must provide a wide range of education challenges.
It’s hard to characterize them collectively. India, for example, undoubtedly has a world-class education system, but the population percentage accessing that isn’t proportional.
In Africa, education is highly regarded above all else, but that doesn’t mean people can access it. There’s an incredible training culture in Nairobi, but if you’re on the border with Somalia, there isn’t going to be management training.
There’s a fairly strong ability in these countries to be able to grab what’s available with both hands. In the places where there is no access to education, this learning is a lifeline.
Many of the people we’re training also leave formal education at secondary school, so informal education tends to be a very precious part of learning for social change. In the learning management system, you can access informal training platforms like YouTube or Google.
How has the basic technology advanced in these countries over the last few years?
The fastest collapsing problem in geopolitics is the inability to access the Internet through a personal device. Ten years ago, only 60% of my organization had access to the Internet and a computer. Now that’s probably closer to 80%.
It’s really rare not to have access to a phone signal with a 3G connection. Lots of courses don’t have video and will squeeze through a 3G connection on a mobile, so you can reach the Tibetan Plateau and rural Somalia.
Kenya, for example, has incredible mobile phone networks. Everyone there has a phone instead of a wallet – you text a restaurant to pay your bill.
And the increase in smartphone ownership out in rural areas is rapid – not necessarily good smartphones, but ones which are Internet-capable.
It sounds like the work Humentum is doing with NetDimensions is only going to grow.
Everybody I’ve spoken to is very excited about the user experience shift NetDimensions has planned. It’s really hot stuff for our clients. It makes courses more prestigious. You feel like learning is exciting.
With all the learners we’ve got, we don’t know what we’d do without NetDimensions’ support. I want having more than a million users to be a problem for NetDimensions.
I want to say ‘next year, we need a million and a half licences’. But we’re a long way from that.
Want to know more about how NetDimensions is supporting learning for social change? Contact us today.
All photos from Humentum training across the world