How Nonprofits are scaling their impact in 2021

Non-Governmental Organizations serve communities in many ways, with one common mission: inspire hope and make a positive change in people’s lives.

Covid has made this mission, like many missions, both more urgent and more difficult than ever. In this unprecedented context, what can we learn from NGOs? How to replicate their unique ability to scale up multi-sided, complex humanitarian work precisely when conditions are the hardest?

Scaling up humanitarian work means seeking to provide impact to more beneficiaries. While the specifics of this impact will depend on the sector and on the region, some common traits remain: scaling means increasing the team and volume of operations, which means increased training and quality control needs ; sometimes in new target areas or activities.

As NGOs grow, they need to manage impact growth, maintain efficiency, and reduce operational risk while maintaining quality — these are no mere tasks to execute. It involves comprehensive planning, financing, and the introduction of tools and technologies to successfully scale a firm. An increase in the capacity for management and control is also required to aid the scaling process.

Let us look at a few very practical challenges you may face when seeking to scale up your humanitarian or CSR activities.

Students in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by Doug Linstedt on Unsplash

Scaling up operations

Training

Arguably the most critical factor for a firm operation’s success is its workforce’s capability to perform efficiently. NGOs undertake socially impactful work that affects people’s lives and their environment. Due to this, employees should be adequately trained to execute their duties in the best possible way: this includes comprehensive onboarding training, which can usually be done face-to-face, at the office ; but also continuous training, to maintain and update best practices, which can be done remotely.

A gap in training could have resounding effects on both the organisation’s ability to serve the community, and on its ability to track, measure and report its activities to key stakeholders.

Consistency control

Consistency in service delivery across all operational areas is vital during scaling: NGOs cannot afford the reputational risk of compromising on their operational excellence in any area of operation. For this reason, they put in place resilient and redundant processes to ensure consistency across regions and across programmes.

On training, whether to train staff or external beneficiaries, NGOs should strive for standardised and harmonised training curricula. They will ensure a reliable base of knowledge and know-how common of all trainees, with refreshers and tests ensuring long term knowledge retention or behavioural change.

Management

Running multiple offices and people in various countries can be challenging to manage, especially in a remote setting — and especially when employees are visiting and working with underprivileged communities, often remote and without reliable Internet connectivity. Safe and reliable communications is critical for humanitarian activities in particular: to manage operations at scale, to escalate needs and manage stocks, to put in place whistleblowing mechanisms, or more generally to allow for efficient reporting. Nonprofits are expert at regulating and managing frontline workforce ; but this effort must be permanent.

Reliable reporting is critical for nonprofits. Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Scaling up impact measurement

When scaling, it is crucial to consider both how to enable the workforce, and how to report to partners efficiently: indeed, a scale-up that does not include the means to measure itself, is a scale-up at risk of not being recognized. In essence, scaling up impact means doing two things at once: scaling up operations, and scaling up impact measurement.

Reporting

Reporting is key. While this is true for most industries, it is particularly critical and challenging for NGOs, which rely on it for their fundraising but have to adapt it to difficult and multi-sided environments.

Reporting is a tool to prove and justify an NGO’s approach to solving a specific problem ; it is also necessary to measure and evaluate the larger externalities of the firm’s action, commonly under greater scrutiny from donors and host governments alike.

Incomplete or methodologically disputed KPIs expose NGOs, more than any other entities, to loosing sponsorship or financing from critical stakeholders. Both this goes both ways: extensive reporting and data-driven decision-making is a major factor of success for NGOs when scaling-up, as it opens up better recognition and better funding for the growing activities.

As NGOs — and their funding— scale, reporting can be further improved with automated KPIs, standardised reports across programmes and actions, and improved transparency on both quantitative and qualitative data. Investing in reporting is key for a better understanding of one’s impact and actions, but also a strategic choice for future partners and sponsors prospection.

How Chalkboard Education help Nonprofits scaling

Chalkboard Education, with its unique mobile-based 2-way LMS for training and reporting in remote areas, is an asset for nonprofits and CSR programmes willing to scale their actions abroad or at home.

Digitisation, Consistency & Flexibility

Chalkboard Education can digitise your training materials for your firm, and provide a web application that allows your trainees to take training in their own time, wherever they are, from any device. This offers flexibility, but most importantly resilience, as your trainees (staff or external beneficiaries) are ensuring to access content in all situations and learn throughout the year.

On top of being operationally efficient and cost-savvy, distance training often means greater impact, through better measured knowledge retention, and longer-lasting training programmes.

Reporting

Thanks to asynchronous analytics, you can easily and reliably collect and export hundreds of KPIs, making actionable reports from our platform that allow highlight key information in your training modules. These data reports give a recap on the usage of your training material on our application, and the opportunity to measure what is working best and for whom.

Offline Access

Our application works without internet connectivity. This means that your employees and beneficiaries can access your training materials at any time, regardless of the internet infrastructure available for them. This is particularly critical for trainees in rural areas or often on the move.

Impact Measurement & Tracking

We provide firms with a dashboard for managing trainees and materials seamlessly. Based on built-in analytics, you can edit and improve your training content in live, display and export your trainees’ activity and scores, and even conduct surveys and questionnaires to further improve your impact measurement and reporting with qualitative data, direct from your beneficiaries. Export reports from the dashboard, or integrate with your existing internal dashboard!

Unlimited trainees in any country

Scaling up is frictionless with Chalkboard Education. Our application works worldwide, and firms can enlist as many people as they require. This make expanding your training and reporting to new regions and countries seamless, significantly reducing cost and simplifying implementation.

Kids observing a lesson in Indonesia. Photo by Yannis H on Unsplash

Our track record with NGOs

Chalkboard Education is proud to have assisted several Nonprofits in their scaling process. Below are a few examples of firms trusting our software for their distance training and impact measurement systems.

ADRA Canada

ADRA Canada and SickKids Hospital Toronto are rolling out the EMBRACE (Embracing Maternal, Child and New Born Health in Remote Areas through Revitalised Health and Community Engagement) project, aiming at reducing maternal and child mortality in the Nyabihu District, Rwanda.

Chalkboard Education digitised and engineered EMBRACE curricula, and published it on mobile to make it available to all nurses and HCPs in the targeted region, from anywhere they work from, without connection.

Opportunity Edufinance

As part of Opportunity Edufinance’s Teacher Mentor pilot in Ghana and Uganda, school leaders and teachers receive digital self-access training content via the Chalkboard Education application. Opportunity Edufinance is able to distribute their training content to their target beneficiaries, and to track and measure their impact through activity KPIs and Surveys embedded into our software.

International Cocoa Initiative

International Cocoa Initiative was looking for an innovative way to train its staff and partners on Child Safeguarding, amongst other topics, and ensure the long-term retention and application of essential notions.

Chalkboard Education instructional designers developed a new training curriculum based on their existing content, complete assessment of the current level of the staff, and additional research. It consists in a 1-year long training made of 6 modules, entirely redacted and illustrated by our team, and delivered in both English and French.

This training curriculum was then rolled out to I.C.I.’s staff through the Chalkboard Education application, and is currently being scale-up to external beneficiaries.

About Chalkboard Education

Chalkboard Education provides mobile-based distance training solutions tailored for NGOs. Lightweight, offline-first and complete with full analytics capabilities, Chalkboard Education is designed for rural and hard-to-reach community training. Currently used in 10+ countries in Africa and South America, Chalkboard Education is available worldwide.

Educational technology in Africa and emerging markets https://www.chalkboard.education/

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