How the Tearfund charity is improving its skills

Traditionally,
management training in the voluntary sector has been a bit haphazard and
UK-focused, but all that is beginning to change as an increasing number of
international charities devise management training programmes to improve
skills, communications and consistency across their global workforces. Roisin
Woolnough looks at how one charity is driving through change.

The
international christian charity, Tearfund, is piloting a managerial training
initiative designed to improve the competencies, awareness and cross-cultural
communication of its global workforce.

Katy
Murray, international learning and development officer at Tearfund, says it has
always been much easier to train staff based in the UK than those dispersed
around the globe and potentially working in remote locations.

“There
have been gaps in training field staff in the past, but we are increasingly
wanting to and needing to look for a more international aspect,” she says.

“We’ve
always done local training, but my job is to see how we can do more widespread
training in a consistent way across the world.”

Cross-cultural
learning

Called
the disaster management development programme, the initiative is aimed at field
based managers and so far, delegates have been a 50:50 mix of host country
nationals and expats. The field-based managers come from Afghanistan, Burundi,
the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Liberia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and
Sudan.

Murray
believes in the importance of improving cross-cultural learning and networking,
and delegates are encouraged to maintain contact after the modules and bounce
ideas off each other.

“That’s
been happening,” says Murray. “It’s particularly important with specialists,
for example, who can be geographically distanced from peers in their specialist
area.”

The
programme has been validated by the Institute of Leadership and Management, an
unusual occurrence in the NGO (non-government organisation) sector.

Training
modules

The
training consists of three modules, each lasting six days and very much
workshop-based, with lots of delegate participation and knowledge-sharing.

The
first module took place in May 2003 and that focused on concepts of community
involvement and self-help. It covered issues such as capacity planning, project
cycle management tools, technical learning tools, how to build relationships
and programme design and learning.

The
second module, in October 2003, was all about team and people leadership. This
module focused on remote working communication as well as on the management
skills required for multi-cultural teams.

The
next module, which will take place in April 2004, will concentrate on good
practice in areas such as gender and HIV/Aids.

So
far, 25-30 managers have taken part in the training and the idea is that over
the next two years, all managers will attend every module. And in the future,
rather than the training taking place in the UK, as has been the case so far,
it will take place in locations in Asia and central Africa.

Action
planning

The
end of each module involves a lot of action planning, with delegates setting
themselves goals. Murray follows that up with their managers and says the
feedback has been that delegates return to work much more motivated and are
sharing their learning with colleagues. One manager has run similar training
sessions with his team, encouraging them to use the community assessment tools.

Tearfund
is also starting on a new six-month pilot initiative, this time on distance
coaching. A team of external professional mentors and training will provide
telephone and e-mail coaching.

About
Tearfund

www.tearfund.org

Set
up 35 years ago in the UK, Tearfund aims to help impoverished people around the
world. It has an annual turnover of around £39m, with 600 staff working
internationally and 300 in the UK.

Comments are closed.