From Opportunity to Challenge: Virtual Collaboration on the African Continent

21 Oct 2021
Aspyee Admin
Good Practice
From Opportunity to Challenge: Virtual Collaboration on the African Continent
Average: 5 (1 vote)

The “Gender Makes Business Sense (GmBS)” is a Capacity Development Support programme for public and private entrepreneurship and vocational training providers in the agricultural sector. Included in GmBS is an agribusiness development training programme for agripreneurs which is being rolled out by the Agricultural Technical Vocational Education and Training for Women (ATVET4W) project led by the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) and supported by GIZ in six countries. Training is conducted through face-to-face workshops but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, workshops could not be arranged; an innovative and digital solution was needed.

Our Approach

The solution was to host the workshop on the virtual platform, Microsoft teams. The first step in testing the agribusiness development training programme was to host ‘dry run’ workshops with partners and facilitators, prior to and in preparation for the training with agripreneurs in the respective partner countries. The aim was to secure ownership and participation of the selected pilot site partners and to confirm how learning material needs to be adapted to country contexts and which specific agripreneur profiles need to be considered.

A key challenge was to enable participants to access the online training intervention. The ATVET4W country teams came up with the idea of providing the partners with airtime/data to take part in the meeting online. It was deemed appropriate for the project to at least upgrade the partners’ data bundles while online for the training.  For ATVET4W in Ghana for example, an estimate of a minimum of 943MB (MTN) at GHC 10.00 (approx. 1.75 USD) per hour. For the 3.5-hour and 5-day meeting, GHC 40.00 (approx. 7 USD) per participant were estimated per day.  The approach was to buy the data card and send the data bundle to the partners’ mobile numbers and keep the data card for internal control purpose.

A new way to form a community of peer learning was established with participants from public and private sectors engaging and making contributions from their perspectives during the online sessions. Overall 26 selected participants from Ghana’s public and private sectors engaged in the online workshop. The costs for holding the digital workshop amounted to GHC 5,200 (approx. 890 USD) as opposed to GHC 70,000 (approx. 12,000 USD) for a physical meeting. This approach was repeated with 30 Kenyan partners.

Active participation was encouraged using both the microphone and the chat functions. As participants felt more comfortable with the online functionalities and as the equal value of mic and chat contributions were brought into the discussions by the trainers, participation was enhanced.  The facilitators were very engaging, asked incisive questions, brought their experience and real-life examples into the learning and contributed to a rich peer-learning space. The unstructured work sessions which took place after the sessions in small groups, provided an opportunity for trainers to get a better understanding of each person and their reality and for all facilitators to share more deeply. The learning materials provided to facilitators were the ‘Participants Guides’ and ‘Facilitators Guides’ as well as the slide set used for the online training.  The learning materials were sent to participants prior to delivering the online sessions.

Enhancements made to the online material, drawing on the dry run experience included:

More emphasis on the role of facilitators in relation to the online content, so for example, learning outcomes for facilitators were added;

  • Use of more visuals and a short clip;
  • Inclusion of additional activities, including use of proverbs and sayings and more quizzes;
  • Use of additional examples;
  • Introduction of a “Toolbox”, visually clustering gender, facilitation, business and gender-transformative business tools and frameworks; and
  • More opportunities for sharing of country realities and cases by facilitators.

As the trainers worked on enhancing slides for the following day’s session, the post-training reflection sessions with the broader GmBS support team were helpful.

Key Results

A formal ‘Course Evaluation Form’ was administered upon completion of the online dry run and the key outcomes are summarised below:

  • The training was a positive and valuable learning experience for facilitators with this being the first online training experience for many;
  • The duration of 6 days was satisfactory to 80% of the facilitators, with 7% indicating it was too long and 13% indicating that it was too short;
  • The area of facilitation during the dry run, which requires the most improvement is explaining specialist terms used by the trainers.
  • Competencies acquired in addition to course’s explicit learning outcomes were:
    • Online training – MS Team usage;
    • Facilitation and co-facilitation;
    • Experiential learning methodology;
    • Listening;
    • Time-keeping;
    • Using practical examples
  • A total of 88 % of the Kenyan facilitators indicated that they already got concrete ideas of how to apply what they have learnt.

Lessons Learnt (Success Factors & Challenges)

Success factors and challenges

• A suitable MS Teams platform be used which offers break-out facilities, recording etc;

• Separate personnel to co-host and provide hands-on technical support be in place;

• In the case of connectivity challenges, a WhatsApp group for exchanging information and troubleshooting was created.

Moving Forward

• A blended learning approach of self-study, peer learning and online sessions to be considered.

• The most common future support requirements are: o Hands-on practical session playing the games and puzzles;

o Access to dry run facilitators/ resource persons should further be required

o Being part of the team of facilitators who can share experience and support each other including with peer review;

o Refresher course before the live-runs; and financial support for logistical arrangements.