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By: Kathleen Hay, Travel & Tourism Academy Programme Manager

Having been involved in managing NGO based training programmes within the wildlife and tourism sectors for many years, I’ve recently had the opportunity to reflect on some of the key principles that guide Programme Management success.

NGO based training programmes generally originate as a response to a training need or skills gap that is linked to the pursuit of a larger goal. Using the wildlife conservation programmes as an example, the skills of the teams tasked with the protection and management of protected areas have a direct correlation to the success of the conservation effort.

An exciting learning environment emerges when individuals are pursuing training for these larger goals as opposed to self-development only.

The following five principles of effective programme management have relevance to a broader context but are discussed with reference to the conservation and tourism training sectors in which I have worked.

1. Demand before design

Many conventional training programmes have pre-designed curricula with broad application, and due to the administration required, it becomes difficult to re-design content or methodology as a response to a constantly changing environment. NGO’s have the unique opportunity to shape a programme to a specific training need. This allows for innovative thinking and a much higher chance of successfully achieving the project goals. At GWF our Career-Training Academy teams are constantly talking to potential employers of our graduates. In so doing we identify skills gaps and job opportunities and adjust our programmes accordingly.

2. Stay relevant

This follows from the first principle of responding to the skills gaps and industry demands. The conservation and tourism sectors are constantly evolving. These two sectors have changed dramatically in the past 20 years and training programmes need to adapt accordingly. For example, we are now seeing an increase in responsible travel and a bigger consideration of people and planet within the tourism industry. Building relationships and having the support of industry partners is crucial in keeping a finger on the pulse.

3. Maximise context

It is well known that learning content is retained best when people are able to apply it to contexts they are familiar with and can relate to. NGO programmes are fortunate in this regard as the training is most often designed around context. The additional task of taking very broad universal content and trying to align it to a specific context is removed by having the benefit of training for a specific location, target group and purpose.

4. Create opportunities for learner-driven learning

There is a change that happens in the learning environment when people are driven and passionate about the possibilities of learning. The shift from being told to learn to wanting to learn results in a rich and diverse learning environment. People move from being instructed to sharing and learning from one another. Our students are often given discussion questions or tasks that encourage them to apply their own perspective and to use the unique tourism context of our local area. These exchanges create new ideas and pathways of learning, not to mention the essential life skill of collaboration.

5. Re-think, review and revise

Every programme should be seen as one step on a long journey of learning. It is important to constantly evaluate this journey and when necessary to re-think or revise the route. Feedback on the effectiveness of the programmes must be given the opportunity to shape the content. Having robust methodologies in delivering the programme is essential for credibility and consistency but these methodologies must allow for movement and change.

About the Author

Kathleen Hay has been the Travel and Tourism Programme Manager at GWF since 2019. She has been involved in implementing a revised Hospitality programme that is creating employment opportunities for our students in our local safari tourism industry such as the new Kruger Shalati project. Kathleen has been involved in the conservation and tourism industry in various roles. She has a particular passion for implementing skills development programmes and programme management within communities living in and around Africa’s conservation areas.

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