Skills Development and Performance Appraisal with ProCEEd Partners

From 15 Feb - 5 March, 2016 ProCEEd conducted a series of interviews and meetings with long-term partners DEQP, The Participatory Development Training Center (PADETC) and the Mobile Conservation Unit Vientiane (MCU) of the National University of Laos (NUoL) to collect information for the project's impact-oriented monitoring system.  DEQP, on behalf of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, has been implementing the project in cooperation with GIZ. PADETC and MCU have been assisting the project with non-formal education activities on Environmental Tours and public awareness events in Khammouane, Houaphan and Sayaboury (PADETC) as well as Bolikhamxay and Vientiane (MCU).

 

Skills development of staff members involved in ProCEEd training and field activities

 

Staff members of the mentioned institutions self-assessed their skills development after they had participated in ProCEEd training and field activities. This self-awareness was compared with the external perspective of superiors and trainers. This information was then aggregated on an institutional level as presented below. 

 

Moderation & Communication Skills during Workshops and Environmental Tours

 

Organization

No of staff assessed

Average score self-assessment

Average score supervisors

Average score consultant

DEQP

11

39.1

40

28.1

PADETC

12

37.8

40.7

30.3

MCU

10

26.9

34.6

./.

 

The aggregated format allows a comparison across all partners. All of them report a lot of staff changes. MCU operates with student volunteers from the Faculty of Forestry at NUoL who stay on as students for only four years. Except for 2-3 permanent staff members, DEQP and PADETC mostly work with volunteers fresh from university or high school studies who typically stay on for 2-3 years. All volunteers reported having learned a lot as a result of ProCEEd trainings and environmental tours. All organizations state that volunteers considerably gained in self-confidence, presentation, moderation and other soft methodological skills as well as in the use of a variety of media and non-formal education materials for environmental education and communication.

 

All organizations particularly appreciated the new methods, media and materials acquired during the basic moderation and visualization (MOVE) skills training, the tools and elements of which were constantly applied throughout all ProCEEd workshops, e.g. brainstorming techniques, visualization of tasks and discussion results, facilitating small working groups, plenary presentations and discussions, participatory evaluation, shared responsibility etc.

 

Yet, external analyses by an international consultant who has been responsible for human capacity development (HCD) and ProCEEd senior management conclude that the volunteers' initial 'copy/paste' mastering of basic skills is a success in itself. But it does not mean that these volunteers would be able to apply what they have learned to working situations that are different from the original training they participated in. Partly, the many staff changes mentioned are a reason why the institutions were not able to safeguard sustainable institutional development over the years. PADETC is the only exception from this observation. 

 

At DEQP and PADETC, the self-assessment and superiors' scores are much higher than the external assessments of the consultant: On average, all superiors rate their staff even higher than their staff members rate themselves. MCU is no exemption but the self assessment and superiors' scores are far lower than their counterparts in DEQP and PADETC. At DEQP and PADETC, the highest scores for self and superiors' assessment are close to the maximum (51, 48 out of 55 points per person) and even the respective average scores are both over 40. This means that staff members as well as their superior believe the skills development of employees to be relatively close to the highest possible mark (11 skills x 5 <very good> = total score). The implication is that the employees' skills cannot be much improved further. This assessment does not at all reflect reality which is why the external  score on average is about 42% (DEQP), respectively 35% (PADETC) lower than that of the supervisors, and the staff members themselves.

 

In some cases, the DEQP superiors rated particular employees highly in their external assessment but did not regard these staff members future trainers or promote them from volunteer to permanent staff status. A statement that "volunteers ... have by now accomplished 80% of implementation expectations, 20% of training and close to 0% in terms of specialist knowledge" does not explain the high scores given by superiors, and vice versa. Within the ProCEEd project's life cycle since 2012, only two (out of approximately 20) volunteers were promoted to permanent staff members, and only 2-3 are considered by their superiors to have the potential to be team leaders or become trainers. In a nutshell, DEQP is not a learning organization. The appreciated advantages from ProCEEd training and activities are not used for planned, strategic institutional changes in order to further capitalize on these inputs. 

 

This is distinctively different with PADETC with its philosophy of self-help, experiential and interactive learning and education for sustainable development. As such, this organization was able to develop and produce many media and materials all by themselves: e.g. puppets, backdrops for theatre, posters, models for experiments etc. In some cases, creative learning transfers could be observed even among first-year volunteers, e.g. adapting the FlexiFlan technique to storytelling with photos on a plastic board or using a simulated radio show as part of the evening program of village bus tours. PADETC has been planning and implementing human capacity development efforts. To date, 4 out of 14 volunteers involved in ProCEEd training and activities have become team leaders with a potential to become future trainers. Two of them have been trained in India for six months to improve their English, social, media and environmental skills. Five other volunteers fully master all tasks to be complemented during a village bus tour. The former woman coordinator of bus tours in 2013-2014 founded her own organization (RDA - Rural Development Agency) and took former volunteers with her as project coordinator. Two other female volunteers are now project coordinators in other PADETC divisions. In addition, PADETC volunteers applied newly gained skills in initiatives supported by other donors, e.g. the Science Mobile Film Festival and the Gender Awareness Campaign 2015 or environmental awareness raising in Luang Prabang Province with a French organization in 2016, using a similar approach as environmental bus tours, based on non-formal environmental education with remote villages.

 

ProCEEd regarded the MCU environmental tour related to climate change in 2013 and the one in 2015/2016 on waste management as stand-alone activities. Therefore, different from PADETC and DEQP, MCU has never been involved in training and joint coaching efforts with other partners. However, the ProCEEd senior management intensely coached the 2015/2016 tours and, together with a more pro-active leadership at MCU, introduced new, creative media and tools such as shadow theatre, floor games, and light boxes used for environmental education at festival events.

 

What all three organizations recommend to add to ProCEEd's training and coaching activities is English, new methods, media and materials, and advanced MOVE skills. MCU expressed an interest in participating in MOVE basic training, possibly in cooperation with PADETC, in order to enhance the volunteers' didactical skills. DEQP explicitly asked for a guideline/manual on how to raise environmental awareness through mass media, environmental tours and special events which comprises learning aids, games, exercises, curricula and didactical tools used throughout the projects life cycle. PADETC and DEQP mentioned report and proposal writing using a logical structure and the application of M&E in the field. MCU asked for technical advice on solid waste management and recycling and inner-ASEAN exchange on this topic.

 

Mini-KAP survey on partners' environmental knowledge and attitudes

 

A total of 41 persons were interviewed by means of a limited and adapted version of the 2012 KAP surveyquestionnaire, i.e. without 'practice' and 'media' sections, and with four additional open knowledge-related questions related to forest protection, wildlife, biodiversity and co-management. Partner staff members (14 DEQP, 12 MCU, 11 PADETC) and two superiors each of DEQP and MCU were interviewed. Results from the interviews were computed and analyzed, and will be visualized and interpreted together with the upcoming post-KAP in December 2016.

 

 

 


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