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Support to Aid
Training & Learning
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Introduction to Training
Good training can make a great difference. But there is a shortage of training in the aid sector.
Training and education are different. Education teaches knowledge and understanding; training teaches you a skill, then practises you in it until you can do it yourself.
There is no minimum standard of training for aid workers. In almost every relief or development agency there are large numbers of staff who have had no training for their specific job. This is a serious weakness.
Of course, many of them are experienced and have learned on the job. They may well have training from a previous employment, which is partly relevant to the current one. But specific training is often desirable, and in some cases ought to be mandatory.
A few aid agencies, notably the ICRC, have rigorous training requirements for all of their staff. Not surprisingly, those agencies have the strongest reputations for quality.
How can intelligent managers allow this situation to continue? One of the reasons is probably money. Aid agencies are under great pressure to make sure that almost all their income is spent on poor or needy people. They feel it would look bad to their donors if they spent more than they currently do on training.
But this is false logic. Spending a little more on training would result in much more effective spending of the rest of the money. The donors and the public (who are also donors) are intelligent enough to understand this.
Another reason could be that most aid agencies began as small groups of people who wanted to do something immediately to help. Understandably, they didn't begin by sending themselves on a training course. Something of that attitude persists today, even among agencies that are multi-million dollar organisations.
A third reason may be that there are few high-quality training courses available in the sector. Few aid managers have been on a training course that they really thought was excellent. So they are reluctant to spare staff from their busy job is to send them on courses in which they have little confidence.
Commercial organisations have long since discovered that if they do not train their staff, they will lose them, and their profits will evaporate. It seems obvious that aid agencies would be more effective if they trained their staff routinely, to a good standard. The failure of most aid agencies to provide adequate training is lamentable.
Training is not the answer to everything. Good management (for which management training is a good idea) and many other factors play important parts. But without training, the quality of most aid agencies' programmes will remain compromised.
Where to find Training Courses
Good training courses, as opposed to education courses, are few and far between. A list of courses related to relief is kept by ReliefWeb (www.reliefweb.int), the UN's humanitarian hub. Click on the Training link on the home page. Make your own enquiries as to the quality of each course.
Increasingly, training courses are being run at educational establishments in Africa, Asia and South America. If you know of registers of these courses, or wish to recommend particular courses, please let us know.
A Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance is run jointly by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool University, Bioforce, Mango, Merlin and NutrionWorks. It lasts 6 weeks and is gathering a strong reputation. www.liv.ac.uk/lstm (click on Taught Courses, then Post Graduate Diplomas).
Financial management training is run by Mango. See www.mango.org.uk/training.
The Fritz Institute provides courses in humanitarian logistics: Certification in Humanitarian Logistics (this course runs in both English and French) and Certification in Humanitarian Medical Logistics Practices. Scholarships are on offer for both courses. Details at www.fritzinstitute.org.
Management training: we know of just one course, tailored to aid managers, that comes well recommended: the International Management Development Programme run by the Management Centre in the UK. Click here for more details. And please let us know of other good management training courses.
www.studying-development.org was set up by a group of former development students to provide an easy to use directory to both short and long courses in international development.
The ECHO Security Training Directory lists providers of security training courses and other resources.
The Australian Aid Resource and Training Guide lists the main aid-related training courses on offer in Australia. Click here.
Networklearning.org - a great resource
At www.networklearning.org there's such a good selection of links to manuals, field books and training courses that when we first came across it we at www.aidworkers.net felt rather jealous. Then we dived in and made use of them. Management to Medicine, Fundraising to the Disabled, Micro-finance to report-writing - they're all there. An excellent site.
See the Advice for First-Time Aid Workers page for some further thoughts on training, from the perspective of someone looking for their first aid job.