During the last two decades, civil society organisations (CSOs) have experienced exponential growth in Uganda. Despite their increasing number, CSOs’ influence and participation in political processes are often restricted and instead their role is often limited to service delivery. In many cases, limitations on CSO outreach is compounded by insufficient capacity. In 2018, the Civil Society in Uganda Support Programme (CUSP) was launched to address this.
CUSP focuses on three action areas:
- Strengthening an enabling environment for civil society,
- Improving civil society participation, and
- Strengthening service delivery and advocacy of CSOs.
To achieve these goals, CUSP supports both state and non-state actors at national and sub-national level to promote a productive dialogue on the role of civil society and integrate civil society perspectives more effectively into policy processes. The programme has a strong focus on technical assistance and capacity development both of CSOs and relevant state institutions.
Training to strengthen operating skills
NIRAS was contracted in March 2019 to support GIZ in the implementation of CUSP’s training component to increase the capacity of Ugandan CSOs in eight pre-defined topics: Resource mobilisation; Internal governance; Lobbying and advocacy; Leadership; Mainstreaming; Result-based management; Financial management; and Computer skills.
While initially standardised in-classroom trainings for nation-wide implementation were developed, NIRAS switched to a blended learning approach during COVID-19 to facilitate continuous learning progress even during nationwide restrictions.
The blended learning approach combines interactive e-learning sessions (6 hours/week), which include educational interviews, diverse explanations, tools and tests. The e-learning sessions are hosted on the GIZ digital learning platform atingi (www.atingi.org). In addition to working through the online content, participants are asked to submit weekly practical tasks that must be done offline to apply the new theoretical knowledge. In addition, the NIRAS team offers offline/in-person 1-on-1 coaching and feedback to the weekly tasks from training professionals and weekly consulting hours for participants to discuss individual or organisational challenges.
Advantages of blended learning
While NIRAS is aware, that the online-trainings are not the best solution for everyone – especifically for CSOs in rural areas with little or no access to IT equipment and a rather weak internet connection – the offering of online trainings is the only feasible and COVID-safe solution in the meantime. It has several advantages for the participants.
- Practice-oriented trainings: experimental learning where participants have the chance to learn by doing;
- Real-life coaching: participants receive one-on-one mentoring with an experienced trainer who they can contact to ask questions about whatever issue their own CSO is currently facing and get immediate feedback;
- Learn how to learn: Introduction of learning diary and professional self-reflection on learning styles and personal time management through online coaching and telephone service;
- Uganda-specific customised content: Case studies and exercises are taken from the Ugandan context;
- Peer to peer learning: Participants have the chance to learn from each other. They can connect with each other, share ideas and discuss solutions to challenges.