Coronavirus 101: “Learning where there is no internet”

If you are anything like us, you have spent a lot of time scouring the web following the latest news on COVID-19, the new strain of the Coronavirus.  But what if you didn’t have access to the web? Or, a computer at home? Or, a newspaper.

Count yourself lucky! Because almost 4 billion people lack access to the internet, most (but not all) living in developing countries.  They, like us, are vulnerable to COVID-19, but lack access to information about the disease.  What is it? How is it spread?  How do I protect myself against the virus?  How do I protect others in my community?

That’s why we developed a Coronavirus course that is delivered through text messaging, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.  Using the Arist platform, the free, 9-day course is designed to address the needs of learners in the developing world.

Registering to take the course is easy. Open WhatsApp and send the code for the language you prefer to the number below.

ENGLISH – Text 1001 to +1 415-915-7741
SPANISH – Envía 1011 al +1 415-915-7741
FRENCH – Textez 1021 au +1415-915-7741
SWAHILI – Text 1041 to +1 415-915-7741
KINYARWANDA – Text 1051 to +1 415-915-7741
BANGLA – Text 1061 to +1 415-915-7741
HINDI – Text 1071 to +1 415-915-7741
PORTUGUESE – 1081
HAUSA – 1091
BAHASA INDONESIAN – 1101

ARABIC –
أرسل 1031 إلى +1 415-915-7741

While internet connectivity lags in developing world, penetration rates for mobile subscriptions exceed 98 percent.  Even in the least-developed nations, the International Telecommunications Union estimates penetration is at 70.4 percent and rising.

You can learn more about the course (and sign up to participate in the course via text message) by visiting https://pyramid.arist.co/  We would like to enthusiastically acknowledge and effusively thank Translators Without Borders for their work translating content and Arist for this incredible learning platform.

Do Our Projects Have Permission to Fail?

At a recent conference, Robert Jenkins, an assistant administrator at USAID, was quoted saying, “There are a few things maybe that we don’t do very well. One of them is admitting something isn’t working, and two, acting and moving at the speed of relevance.”  

Jenkins’ quote reminded me of a recent conversation I had with course participants at a recent PMD Pro workshop. They were talking about how valuable it was to have opportunities to practice with the project management tools.  One person, in particular, said he especially appreciated the workshop’s learning games, because they gave him ‘permission to fail’. 

Note – readers who have attended workshops I facilitate, know that I like using games in training. Participants make bridges out of straws, build spaghetti towers, make paper aeroplanes, design pyramids etc. Here are a couple of pictures from recent events. We have all kinds of fun playing games &, of course, they are all linked to different learning objectives.

learning games at a PMD Pro workshop

One of the reasons learning games are effective in training is because they provide an opportunity to experiment, learn, and then try again.   It doesn’t matter if your drinking straw bridge collapses. There are no real consequences – so I suppose, failure IS an option.

Which led me to ask, why don’t we have a safe space to fail in our development and humanitarian relief projects?  

My efforts to answer that question led me to a wealth of articles and blog posts on the topic of learning through experimentation (and occasionally through failure). Most of these articles are written from the perspective of businesses in the private sector. For example, one article in the Harvard Business Review was entitled Permission to Fail and explored the importance of  experimentation (and potentially failure) when managing risk.

So it seems that there is a developing awareness in the private sector that permission to fail is important – but for various reasons, we are not very good at doing it in the development and humanitarian relief sector.

As one article in Bright Magazine points out, “But for all of the sector’s eagerness to share their success stories, there is a taboo F-word: failure. This is not by accident. Not only does failure hurt, admitting to it can have serious ramifications for NGOs because much of their funding depends on success”.

As I reflect on my workshop participant who was looking for opportunities to experiment and learn from mistakes, I asked myself, “How does s/he get permission to fail in real life projects?” I don’t think I have yet come across an NGO that did not claim to be a learning organisation & yet, is this even possible, if people do not feel they have permission to fail?

 If we wait for our organisations to adopt a ‘permission to fail’ agenda, we will, I fear, grow old(er) waiting. Are there things we can do at a Project/Programme Manager level? I would love some ideas about what you have done or would like to do to create project cultures, where people feel able to talk about problems and failures.

Please don’t be shy – you have permission to fail!

P.S. In my exploration of learning from failure, I also found this website: https://www.admittingfailure.org/. It is based on the following belief “Failure happens. This is a community and a resource to encourage new levels of transparency, collaboration and innovation across the for-purpose sector”. Have fun reading!

PMD PRO VERSION 2 LAUNCHES MARCH 23: ARE YOU READY?

We’re excited and ready!  For almost two years, we have been working with the PM4NGOs team preparing for the update – reviewing content, updating learning plans and planning for launch.  As part of our preparations, we will facilitate the first virtual PMD Pro course aligned to the new version of the Guide. The course starts on February 24th and finishes on March 20th.  So this is a chance to learn – using the new new Guide and preparing to take the new exam as soon as it is formally launched.

In some ways, the launch of the PMD Pro Version 2 has us feeling nostalgic.  The team at Pyramid Learning has been involved with the PMD Pro for thirteen years,  In fact, both our principals were at the meeting where the PMD Pro was first pitched.  John Cropper delivered one of the first trainings – in Zambia with World Vision – and since then, PMD Pro has formed a significant part of our professional lives.  

Looking back at the beginning, it has been incredibly rewarding to hear stories of the difference that better project management has made to people’s lives.  Clearly, the most important factor has been dedicated and skilled NGO Project Managers.  Time and again, people have told us that PMD Pro has made their lives easier. It has given them some simple tools and techniques that help them do more with less and sometimes, do it better. 

That’s not to say we didn’t get a few things wrong.  Lots of things could have been better, which makes the new version all the more exciting. The new PMD Pro reflects years of learning and reflection and it also syncs with Program Dpro. We think the new version will be fantastic and, among its many improvements, will make it easier to apply DPro tools and processes in humanitarian/emergency contexts.

So, are you ready for PMD Pro Version?  We can help if you prepare.  Register for the course or let us work with you to plan your new project management capacity building strategy.  Good luck!