Recession and global economic crisis have made organisations progressively adopt a sustainable approach to how they operate. Organisations offering humanitarian learning must increase the value of what they are offering to remain relevant and competitive.
The process of integrating and implementing sustainability in organisations is complex in that there is no clear definition of organisation sustainability as different organisations have internal mechanisms in place. What they need to know is precisely how they can implement sustainability in their daily operations and in their medium and long-term strategies.
One of the principles guiding the Academy’s work is “build for sustainability”. The Academy works to make its activities and that of our partners as sustainable as possible, through supporting learning and development providers to develop sustainable business models. The Academy seeks to support the strengthening of learning providers through a service designed to help increase the scale and sustainability of their humanitarian learning products. This is born out of the need to support a faster, more effective and efficient humanitarian response with increased local participation and ownership.
Organisations that benefit from this service will gain access to results of a self- assessment plotted against a sustainability maturity model to identify opportunities for improvement. They will also acquire tools that will help improve their learning products. As part of the continuous support, the Academy will provide advice on how to benefit from existing and upcoming products and services as well as access to the Academy’s extensive market research on local humanitarian learning supply and demand.
Among our partners, the first beneficiary of this service in East Africa is Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) in Uganda. Makerere University has been implementing an E-learning/ Distance Certificate Course in Disaster Resilience Leadership (DRL). The course has successfully trained individuals across Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Liberia and Syria through a fully distance/ E-learning blended mode of learning.
With support from the Academy, Makerere University was able to review the content of the DRL course with the view of broadening and improving its quality so as to reach a wider range of learners in Uganda and the wider East Africa region. The sustainability advisory service was offered to Makerere University with the main objective being to review the new course – the Humanitarian Disaster Resilience Leadership (HDRL) course – on its relevance to the East Africa market, sustainability, and scalability of the course as well as share methods and tools for improvement.
The service had a three-phase approach. In phase 1, Makerere University filled in a sustainability assessment survey form. This was done as a team, comprising of members from different departments. The survey was to help map their learning product against the sustainability model and identify support needs. This was then shared back to the Academy for analysis and informed the next phase which was a one day workshop. The workshop was held on 19th January 2018 at Makerere University School of Public Health – Resilient Africa Network (RAN) Lab. Ten participants from Makerere University took part in this workshop. During the workshop, feedback from the survey was given, tools and methods introduced and guidance given based on identified support needs. In phase 3, the Academy will make the toolkits available and will provide regular support on the use of the tools & resources.
The deliberations centered around 4 key support areas. These were: market awareness, business model, learning design and delivery and processes and governance. The team was introduced to different components under each of the focus areas. The main highlights the team discovered from the assessment are the need to understand their customers or clients’ needs, clarity on who their target audience is and most importantly the need for rebranding to attract more customers.
“We are grateful to the Academy for having selected MakSPH/RAN as the first pilot hosts of the Sustainability Advisory Service Workshop in East Africa and we pledge to make use of the workshop tools to enrich the HDRL learning product”, said Dr. Julius Ssentongo, Program Coordinator RAN and HDRL course facilitator.
Makerere University appreciated that it was a great eye-opener for them and that it will not be business as usual. One of the immediate things they plan to do is to interrogate the entire HDRL program using the toolkit provided by the Academy. They also found the financial model useful and relevant to their programs. In addition, they foresee incorporating some aspects of the Academy’s impact measuring tool and impact stories template to capture stories and lessons learned more effectively.
“We thought we clearly knew and understood our target audience from the market research we did and that our brand was good and was attracting many clients but from this workshop, we realise that we had not put many aspects into consideration”, said Doreen Tuhebwe.