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Creating a Transformative PSHEA Learning Experience

March 30, 2020

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Sarah Arnason

Learning & Development Advisor

As the INGO sector has continued to grapple with our response to Sexual Harassment, Exploitation and Abuse (SHEA), the need for meaningful, robust, and proactive education and awareness-raising has become clear. In late 2018, CARE’s Learning and Development (L&D) Team of two quickly moved into action to support this effort.

First, we focused in on the learner experience. We started by creating learner personas in coordination with a small group of Country Office staff to understand how global perspectives on this topic may vary. We recognized that each cultural context in which we work has its own specific nuances, challenges, and environments when it comes to issues of power and gender. No off-the-shelf or one-size-fits-all training could address all the complexities.

Second, we chose to start with Country Office leadership. Country Office senior leadership teams are pivotal actors that can be a positive catalyst for creating culture change or can set a harmful tone.  Ensuring our leaders understood how acts of SHEA manifest and are thought about in their context and gaining their buy-in to support prevention was a number one priority.

With this in mind, the team decided to focus first on an in-person workshop in each Country Office to allow the leadership teams to dig into their specific context.  The L&D team worked quickly to develop a 2-day instructor-led workshop in 3 languages, that would be rolled out individually to 35 offices. We knew this was an ambitious task, but instead of worrying about logistics upfront, we simply began to move. We defined learner success, drafted content, and developed metrics in approximately one month.  The CARE Prevention of Sexual Harassment, Exploitation and Abuse (PSHEA) Leadership Workshop was ready to be piloted.

Our Key Learnings

1) Work with a mixed group of stakeholders on content creation. It is critical to have a mixed group of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in order to achieve the right messaging and balance of content. If SMEs from only one background create content, the risk of having one-sided content is very high. When coordinating, you also want to think about the diversity of the SMEs. Staff from the Safeguarding & PSHEA, Gender Justice, and Safety & Security teams worked with L&D to create and review content.  L&D provided oversight of proper instructional design and acted as a non-SME to review content with an outside perspective. The material was then piloted in 3 very different locations before being confirmed as “final.”

2) Ensure intellectual and emotional connection. For a subject such as PSHEA, you are looking for a truly transformative learning experience.  This means that participants must connect with the material intellectually and emotionally.  They not only need to understand the policies, terminology and resources available to them, but they also need to see and feel how this topic connects to them personally and in their everyday lives.

Examples of how we approached this include:

  • Begin with participants sharing why this issue is important at a global level, an INGO-sector level, an organizational level, and then at a personal level.
  • Have the group identify cultural norms and stigmas that are “normal but harmful” within their own context and think about how these affect their staff and program participants.
  • Help them examine the relationship between power and fear and the privileges they hold as leaders that may intimidate others.

Figure 1. Workshop participants’ responses to why PSHEA is personally important to them – CARE Nepal

3) Allow space for participants to contextualize the material. As you are designing the flow of the learning, ensure you allot more time than you think may be necessary for each module.  You do not want to rush important or difficult discussions.  This is a topic that should lead to discomfort, and discomfort is where we learn and grow the most.  Give the participants room to explore the nuances and traditions that exist in their culture.  Be prepared for topics or questions that you may not have initially considered.  As a facilitator you will not have all the answers, however, allowing questions to be put on the table for further consideration by the group is enough in itself.  Lean gently into the areas that are clear pain points, letting them dig deeper.  Provide time at the end for the participants to come up with Action Plans and next steps.  Use the time they have together to make commitments on actions that they need to take in their context and assign accountability.

4) Be conscious of cultural and gender dynamics in room. If you are not a member of the community in which you are facilitating, gather information ahead of time about your audience. Talk to leaders in the office, HR staff, or others with whom you might have relationships.  This can also help you prepare for topics that may be unexpected to you as an outsider (e.g. marriage customs, ethnicity dynamics, witchcraft traditions, etc.). In discussing SHEA specifically, you’ll want to find out if the group needs to be broken out by males and females for certain topics (recognizing this does not account for other gender identities). Acknowledge the racial, cultural, gender, etc. dynamics of the facilitators as well so that participants can address any hesitancies, they might have about you and your background upfront and this does not become an impediment to their learning.

Figure 2. Workshop participants preparing their Action Plans – CARE Tanzania

5) Continue to adjust and evolve. Once you have created training don’t let it sit and become stagnant. Pilot your content with a variety of groups and adjust it as needed. Move forward with a final version but recognize that each training is also a learning opportunity for the facilitators and the L&D  team. This is especially important for sensitive topics, such as PSHEA, because context-specific issues manifest in many ways and the materials may need to evolve.

The Impact

The roll-out took just over a year to complete and involved the support of several regional staff as facilitators and 1 external contractor. Each participant was asked to take a pre- and post-assessment to reflect their knowledge, comfort level, and confidence in dealing with SHEA. Responses were recorded from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree” on a 5 points scale. The results of the post-assessment showed an average increase of 14% agreement on each question. Here are a few of the questions asked and the increases in their ratings:

  • I feel confident explaining what PSHEA is to my staff. – 17% increase
  • I have a clear understanding of the actual and perceived power I have. – 17% increase
  • I have a clear understanding of the SHEA risk areas for participants in our work. – 21% increase
  • I have a clear understanding of the SHEA risk areas for staff in our work. – 21% increase
  • I understand the potential warning signs of SHEA taking place. – 21% increase
  • I know the steps I need to take to handle a SHEA allegation – 22% increase

Figure 3. Participants engaging in a workshop activity – CARE Nepal

All post-assessment scores were above a 4, which shows a significant increase in the learner’s confidence and knowledge across all aspects of PSHEA.

What’s Next?

  • Developing a Community of Practice (CoP) for our PSHEA Focal Points across the globe.
  • Developing in-person training to be adapted and delivered to more junior staff and partners in-country.
  • Releasing our CARE-specific PSHEA e-learning series. Through Humentum, we connected with the e-learning company Ingenuiti to develop these modules.  This new material will be based on the PSHEA Leadership Workshop content, using similar learning principles, but at a level that will be comfortable for all staff. Content will be available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

Note: Humentum has also recently released PSEAH e-learning modules that are a great alternative for an organization that does not have funds or capacity to build their own.

This has been a learning experience for us, which we are proud to share, and we’re looking forward to what comes next!