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Learning Together: How an Organization Trained Together to Implement Better

March 2, 2023

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Author

Dounia Chatto

Digital Content Manager, Morocco

Author

Lynne Cripe

Chief Executive Officer
The KonTerra Group

Lynne Cripe is the Chief Executive Officer at The KonTerra Group, a Humentum Industry Partner. They are committed to supporting organizations and individuals working in highly stressful environments within the international development and humanitarian sector, by providing them with staff care, resilience services, evaluations, and organizational learning services.

We caught up with Lynne to discuss how a Humentum In-house Training helped strengthen their internal systems and policies related to USAID and U.S. Government Contracting.

Tell us about the challenges KonTerra had to solve that made you look for outside help and reach out to Humentum?

Our portfolio currently includes a small number of U.S. government contracts with USAID and the State Department, and we wanted to grow that part of our portfolio. To do so, we knew that we needed to increase our knowledge and skills in contract management and compliance. We have done a lot of self-learning within KonTerra, but we thought that we’re at a point where some outside training would be useful.

Due to the pandemic, we didn't feel comfortable bringing people together for in-person training at that point in time. And so, we said, let's just adapt like we have been for the last two and a half years, and let's jump in with virtual training and see how this goes.

Lynne Cripe, CEO, KonTerra Group

We knew Humentum had expertise in USAID contract management, so it was natural to look to them for help.

Back in November, KonTerra also entered into a consultancy project with Humentum related to USAID requirements. Tell us more about this.

As a result of the USAID Contract Management for NGOS: an introduction In-house Training that we undertook back in July, we thought it would be helpful to do a more in-depth review of our current policies, procedures, and systems, so that we could have some very clear prioritized recommendations about areas for further attention and development. We’re in the final stages of the assessment right now. We have a small working group that is spearheading that work, and we’re really looking forward to receiving Humentum’s recommendations.

Speaking of the USAID Contract Management for NGOs Training, how did you feel about online training?

To be honest, we were a little hesitant – with a topic like this, was the training really going to be able to work virtually?
It’s one thing when you go to another location for an entire week – you can shut down your email, you sense you’re really away from the office for the training. But with online training, it can be a challenge. Will people be able to set aside the time for that? I’m pleased that our team was able to do so.

One of the things that helped was how engaging the training is. Our facilitator (Shannon Meehan), took this potentially challenging topic and made it very accessible, by inviting all of our questions, not only about the specificities of the FAR or the AIDAR, but also by creating the space for us to say, “We’ve encountered this particular issue or concern in one of our contracts, what would your advice or recommendations be around that?”.

From the content to the professionalism and skillfulness of the trainer, the training was relevant to our needs, engaging, and thought-provoking. We felt with Shannon, our facilitator, that we could always ask any sort of question and found her to be encouraging. This can feel like an inaccessible, opaque topic which only a small number of people can have comfort and skill around – but she really believed in us.

Lynne Cripe, CEO, KonTerra Group

I also think it helped that we had a critical mass of people at KonTerra taking the training at the same time. There were 10 or 11 of us from different parts of the organization all engaged in the training and there was a sense that we were all in it together. We blocked time off on our calendars, and we were quite vigilant about protecting the time that we needed to be able to engage in the training and not be distracted by the emails coming in or other things that might be on our to-do lists.

What would you say were the outcomes and benefits of this In-house Training? Was It what you had hoped for and expected?

I’m not sure that we necessarily came in with many explicit expectations, but we left the week with a lot more information. In terms of deepening our knowledge base, it was successful. I think we also walked away with some very clear action items on the things that we would like to pay attention to going forward, and of course, it led us to the action step of the consultancy – saying we really want to take a closer look at our policies, procedures, and systems within the company as a whole to ensure that we have the strongest foundation possible for future USAID and U.S. Government contracts.

We selected to do In-house Training for this particular training because there are differences between private sector companies and NGOs, and we felt the training would be most useful for us if all the participants were from private sector companies.

Lastly, what would you say to peers and organizations that are facing a similar situation and might be hesitant about taking online courses?

Jump in with both feet! Get some colleagues and do it together. We found it helpful to do lots of communication ahead of time to explain why we were doing this and to block time off people’s calendars to reinforce the messages that were coming directly from Humentum about the pre-work and the expectations during our week together.

We invited a sister organization to join in the training – we essentially divided the seats in half. It allowed us to deepen our relationship with that organization, and we learned a lot about each other.

Lynne Cripe, CEO, KonTerra Group

Since there were just two organizations represented, I think that also contributed to a sense of safety within the training where we could say, “it seems like maybe we could have done some things differently or better in the past”, and not be too fearful about raising that within the context of the course.

I know that some of us from Konterra were actually able to be in the same room while we were doing the training and that helped too. If there is a way for some participants to be in the same physical location, that can be a nice opportunity to support each other. Once the session is done, having the chance to say, “I was thinking about this particular issue or had a question about this. How did you understand it? How did you hear it?”, really enhanced our learning experience.

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