Home Blog & Media In conversation with Keith Edwards: USAID insights

In conversation with Keith Edwards: USAID insights

October 25, 2023

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Keith Edwards

Associate Trainer/Consultant, South Africa


Dounia Chatto

Digital Content Manager, Morocco

We recently caught up with Humentum Consultant and Facilitator, Keith Edwards, who started with Humentum in 2010. Keith’s journey has spanned a wide range of roles and responsibilities, each contributing to his deep understanding of USAID regulations and organizational development. From his early days in the sector to his current role facilitating trainings and providing consultancies, Keith’s journey is a testament to the power of continuous learning and adaptation.

1. For those who missed the ‘Are You Ready for USAID Funding?’ webinar, could you share some key insights and highlights for our community of learners?

Define: When we think about preparedness, we approach it from various perspectives based on our roles and expectations within the organization. It’s crucial to start by defining what preparedness means to the entire organization, not just limited to the director or president. This could involve collective decision-making by management or designating a responsible individual to consider this on behalf of the organization. Once the definition is established, the next step is to identify the necessary actions to prepare the organization.

Go beyond: In the context of seeking funding from a specific donor, it’s important to remember that preparedness should go beyond accommodating the donor’s requirements. While compliance with regulations and terms is essential, the key is to integrate these elements into the organization’s framework in a way that enhances its capabilities and focuses on the pathway to sustainable programs after the donor’s funding is over. Don’t approach this solely to meet the donor’s needs; ensure that it contributes to the organization’s long-term functionality.

Go deep: Preparation extends to the organization’s foundation, encompassing operating procedures, systems, staff, and structural considerations. Addressing gaps and areas of improvement during this process should result in an organization that’s not only adept at meeting donor criteria, but also well-equipped to sustain its operations and programs after the donor’s involvement.

Growth, not execution: Each new donor engagement isn’t just about funding and program execution. It’s an opportunity to steer the organization’s trajectory towards a more advanced state. The key to preparedness lies in setting a vision for where the organization should stand at the end of each funding cycle. It’s always about growth. So, preparedness equals growth.

2. What are the key reasons learners should prioritize the USAID Rules and Regulations: Grants and Cooperative Agreements course, as well as the benefits?

You don’t have to be an encyclopedia

The USAID Rules and Regulations course is about building your knowledge of the regulations. In fact, the manual –when we used to print them out– is more than an inch thick. This is going to intimidate anyone who sees it because they’re going to be thinking, “do I really need to know everything that is in this manual?”. The sheer volume can be overwhelming.

Instead of having to sit down and read the entire manual, this course guides you through the intricacies. The focus is on the key components relevant to your role. If you work in finance, the emphasis lies in comprehending financial management aspects. Likewise, procurement experts delve into procurement-related regulations. You aren’t expected to be a walking encyclopedia; other team members fulfill specific responsibilities. You’re not going to need to remember everything in there.

You’re not alone

One of the [common] pain points that people have is not knowing “what this means to our program.” One of the things that you get out of this training, out of any of the Humentum trainings, is the reality that you’re not alone, that other people have the same questions, the same challenges, the same best practices, or they might have best practices that you never knew about.

Adapt to grow

Our approach bridges the gap between theory and application, so you can effectively translate your learning [when you return to your workspace]. Regulations acknowledge that each organization is distinctive and permits tailoring practices to align with your organization’s specific nature, to help you carry out your programs. It’s not just about compliance; it’s about adapting regulations to your organization’s advantage.

3. What would you say are the top two benefits learners can gain from this training?

  1. Confidence: One of the core takeaways is getting a real grip on the regulations and a substantial boost in confidence while navigating them. Often, we have newcomers in our trainings who express concerns about whether they’ll ever grasp the regulations, know where to find specifics and reference them effectively. This takes me back to my start at the Population Council – I remember the palpable panic some colleagues felt about audits and potential issues cropping up. My approach then was, “but if you’re doing things in the way that you think is right, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about”. And if you’re doing something you believe is right but turns out wrong, audits highlight that, giving you the chance to fix it. This training equips you with not just knowledge, but also the poise to handle regulations, no matter your background in the field.
  2. Peer learning: The learning doesn’t stop in the virtual classroom; it’s enriched by the insights, queries, and stories shared by fellow participants. You see this prominently in courses like the online Procurement and Sub Awards Management sessions. People post questions and the responses are gold for the insights and best practices provided. This is a two-way street; it’s not just about what you learn from others, but also about contributing your own experiences. This doesn’t end when the course does; it extends into a vibrant community where people exchange directly with one another in, Humentum’s community, where you are interacting with people from all over the world, 24/7, and they’re all your peers.

4. Can you describe the learning experience and interaction attendees can expect, particularly if they haven’t taken an online course with Humentum before?

You start this training, and you’re thinking, “I have a week ahead of me to do rules and regulations. How in heaven’s name am I going to be able to keep awake to do this?” And from the first webinar, you realize that it is not going to be someone lecturing to you. It’s an eye-opener for participants to see that it’s not as daunting as they thought. Especially with some of the online sessions, which are around two hours long, the time flies by. As you join the training, you’re immediately rewarded with engaging interactions, not just with the facilitator but also with fellow participants. Plus, you have all the materials at your fingertips – a one-stop shop for resources.

5. You’ve facilitated numerous Humentum courses (USAID Rules and Regulations, USAID Subaward Management, USAID Procurement, Finance DPro…). What sets these courses apart, and are they suitable for everyone?

Different roles exist within organizations, spanning various functions and units. And while specific regulations and best practices may apply differently, it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure compliance.

It’s vital to recognize that specialization doesn’t equate to isolation. When HR incurs an expense, when program incurs an expense, where does the bill end up? It ends up in finance. Finance is going to need to know, “how does this apply to the program? What are the regulations that guide how this program person determined the item is necessary for the project? What are the regulations for purchases?” They will then have to interact with a procurement person to follow up.

And so the collaboration and the interactivity at the organizations are promoted with the regulations—there are different trainings that will apply to different people.

The USAID Rules and Regulations course is the basics, the foundation. And then, there are trainings that delve deeper; you have USAID subaward management, USAID procurement, USAID proposals, budget monitoring —which is another one that should apply to everyone in an organization. You have Finance DPro, and of course, Fighting Fraud. Everyone at an organization is concerned about fraud because if it happens, it might affect your program. If the organization’s resources are withdrawn by the donor because of fraud, everyone at the organization is in jeopardy.

With a focus on community interaction, real-life application, and career development, Humentum’s courses support learners in navigating complex regulations, enhancing organizational capacity, and making a stronger impact in their fields.

This holistic approach to learning not only upskills individuals but also strengthens the entire NGO sector through knowledgeable and capable professionals.


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