The following are general guidelines that should be applied to all Epicenter Strategy Training Courses, whether internally and externally facilitated.
- The Implementing Officer responsible for the training should set a budget in advance of the training and submit a budget request through the appropriate channels for approval
- Based on the number of days the training will take place and number of participants, estimate the cost of providing; food for lunch each day if within the community, lunch allowance if training is taking place outside the community, allowances for facilitators (and drivers if appropriate), stationary required, printing, travel and accommodation for facilitators, communication (airtime) and any relevant other costs.
- The budget request should have an annex showing detailed training schedule and time table for the entire training
- An example of the budget request template used in Malawi is included in Annex A
- Most training takes place at the Epicenter in the community hall, if it has been built. If not yet constructed, the training will take place in a central community building, such as a church or school classroom, or under a large tree.
- The hall is open to use by anyone in the community, so should be booked in advance. The EPO is responsible for organizing / booking the venue.
- A small number of training sessions may occur outside the community, possibly at another Epicenter if part of a knowledge sharing visit.
- It may also be necessary to conduct a training away from the community if there is an event such as funeral happening. In which case they take place at a space to be hired/used in a nearby town/trading center.
- Most training sessions have participants sat in rows, but able to break into small groups in circles during group activities and discussions, thus flexible seating is required
- Training courses require the following materials; Notebooks and pens for participants to make notes; flipchart paper and markers for the facilitator to note responses, draw diagrams etc. and masking tape to stick flipchart paper or other visual aids (on paper) to the walls if held in a hall.
- Copies of the manual should also be brought for the facilitator and co-facilitator. Copies (in the local language) may also be provided for participants if appropriate.
- Facilitators should have their own copies of manuals they use, which can be annotated with facilitator notes or additional activities they use at various stages. It is also good practice to note down good questions from participants asked during sessions to ensure the same points can be covered next time the training is delivered.
- Certain courses may require additional specific materials. These are listed under each specific training below.
- In many cases, the training manual or course content is written in English.
- Teaching material must be translated into the vernacular of the participants and facilitators must ensure they are prepared to explain concepts in terms that participants will understand.
- Facilitators should prepare ‘operational definitions’ of some concepts alongside the theoretical definitions to ensure participants have understood
- This must be done in advance as detailed preparation and careful thought is required in order to tailor the translation of the content to the needs of the audience.
- An external consultant may be required to assist with translation.
- Ensure all teaching aids are prepared in advance and refresh yourself with the manual content.
- Print copies of the manual to give to animators when conducting Animator Trainings.
- Plan a rough timetable for the different activities to be covered in the training. Leave some room for flexibility to allow for faster/slower groups.
- For training involving animators, SSs will inform DLOs or EPOs of the planned training with at least four days advanced notice.
- The EPOs will then in turn inform the chairperson of the thematic area committee, who is then responsible for notifying the other animators for that thematic area with three days advanced notice.
- Local traditional leaders should also be notified (by EPOs) when a training will take place.
- When inviting animators for the first time, the DLO / EPO write letters to the animators, inviting them to the training, or may approach the local traditional leader and request that they announce the training and mobilize the animators.
- For training sessions involving the wider community (VBWs), the DLO or EPO write a letter to the local traditional leader, who calls the people of the village together for the training to take place.
- Animators who do not attend more than two training sessions they are invited to in their thematic area should be replaced by another person from the same village.
- At the start of every training, participants should discuss and agree the daily timetable in terms of when and how often they will take breaks, what time lunch will be and what time the day’s session must conclude by.
- The timetable should take into account he distances that participants have to travel to reach the training venue. The day’s session should end in good time for all participants to be able to walk home before dark.
- Facilitators must arrive in good time each day, at least 10 minutes before participants are due to arrive
Lunch & Refreshments
- Lunch is provided at all training sessions by the implementing organization, though not at informal sessions. This is cooked by members of the community with food provided for the training budget. The cooks provide their labor voluntarily.
- Implementing Officers present should ensure food provided for lunch is prepared in a hygienic way, that all utensils are clean, and everyone washes their hands thoroughly before eating.
- The budget will also provide for refreshments for participants at break times, such as bottle of soda or water.
- The idea size for a formal training group is 20-30 participants.
- Training sessions should not have more than 40 participants. Courses should be split into two if more than 40 participants require training.
- As well as being limited by venue capacity, having too many participants can make it difficult for sessions to be participatory and are likely to resemble a lecture, which is not an effective method of teaching adults.
- There will be typically be two facilitators present in each training, at least one of which will be a member of staff from the implementing organization (a SS, EPO or DLO).
- Training sessions should not have less than around 10 participants, otherwise the time, effort and money involved in preparing and delivering the training may not be being well spent.
Behavioral Standards and Climate Setting
- Behavior standards should be set by the participants themselves.
- At the start of every training, the participants should discuss and agree the behavioral standards they expect of each other, such as not speaking over each other, not taking phone calls in session, etc.
- A group leader may be elected from participants to be responsible maintaining behavioral standards. Groups may also want to elect a time-keeper, someone in charge of welfare etc.
- At the same time, it should be reiterated that participants will not receive handouts for attending the training sessions, though they will be provided with lunch. Attendees must be fully committed to the training itself, not only attending in the hope of receiving a reward.
- It is a good idea to run one to two ice breaker activities at this point to get the group talking freely and ready to discuss the topics to be covered.
- Facilitators must have excellent knowledge of the subject matter in theory and in practice.
- They must have a clear understanding of the terms used in English and how they to communicate these in the vernacular using terms and examples that participants will understand in their contexts.
- Facilitators must have the ability to assess participants understanding and adjust their teaching speed and methods accordingly.
- They must have good group management skills, be a good listener, confident public speaker and be familiar with adult teaching and learning methodologies.
Teaching Ethos and Methodology:
- Epicenter training courses involve teaching adults and should be participatory in nature.
- At the start of each training, participants should discuss and take note of their learning expectations from the training.
- The content should be delivered in an interactive manner, with question and answer sessions that establish what the group already know about the topic, with follow up questions to dig deeper and encourage peer learning. The Training Manuals themselves contain instructions on the appropriate teaching methodology to use for each topic.
- All responses and opinions should be respected by the facilitator, whose role is to provide expert knowledge to help guide the group if some answers are factually incorrect.
- Facilitators should also make use of group discussions followed by presentation and feedback, activities, group songs, diagrams/graphics and drama.
- Long monologues from the facilitator should be avoided.
- When Animators are being trained with messaged to take back to their communities, practical sessions should be part of the training. Animators should practice preparing and delivering VBWs on the material they are learning in a nearby village as part of their formal training. Their peers and the facilitator can then provide them with feedback and guidance for when they come to deliver VBW in their own communities. This typically happens on the last day of an Animator Training Course.
Review of Course Material
- Course material may need to be reviewed an updated at times. This may be due to new knowledge or theories on a subject, new policy or focus from the Government and other development partners, changing external environments, social attitudes and tastes.
- Facilitators should be experts in their subject matter and aware of these changes.
- The course material they use should be reviewed and updated on a needs-basis, dictated by changes in the environment, rather than according to a set schedule.
- At the end of each training, participants should be asked to compare what they have learned to the expectations they set at the beginning of the training.
- As an instant feedback mechanism, at the end the training all participants are encouraged to share what their take-home point has been for the session, what they will do differently as a result and whether their expectations for the session have been met.
- Some training courses may develop a formal written questionnaire to capture this information.
- Even if this is used, it will be beneficial to receive this feedback verbally, so that any issues raised can be discussed immediately.
- DLOs and EPOs also monitor the actions of the participants that result from the training, which indicates whether or not the training has had the desired effect on behavior.
- The M&E committee check that Animators are implementing what they have learned. The committee have monthly coordination meetings where animators from different thematic areas present what they have done and upcoming objectives
- In the event that a training has not been successful, the facilitator should organize a refresher training for the topics that were not well understood. Participants should be consulted as to why the actions from the training are not being successful implemented
- An attendance register should be kept each day of participants
- A training registration form should be completed for each training (an example from Malawi is included in Annex B).
- At end of each Animators training, participants should prepare an action plan for the next six months, as well as a monthly workplan of how the lessons learned during the training will be communicated in their communities (through VBWs).
- The EPO work with the Animators on their action plans, assisting them to achieve it and monitoring progress
- EPOs can also arrange for an external expert to attend the VBWs with the animators to back-stop their message and provide coaching and mentoring
- An example from Malawi is included in Annex C.
Managing External Facilitators
- External facilitators should be sourced on a needs basis. Implementing staff, in partnership with the communities of the Epicenter, should identify the training needs of the community and source the appropriate facilitator based on this need.
- Where local Government staff will be facilitating the training, it is important inform them of the planned program of the training course in good time.
- External facilitators should be asked to provide a timetable and the training manual or content material they intend to use with the Epicenter community ahead of time, to be checked by the SS, DLO or EPO. This is to ensure that the topics to be covered are relevant to the needs of the community as identified and to allow implementing officers to check that the actual content delivered is in line with the tuition material.
- The relevant SS should ensure they have met in person with the external facilitator before the training takes place to communicate to them the philosophy behind the Epicenter Strategy and to agree on expectations and objectives.
- All training courses run by Government staff (or external consultants) will be attended by either the SS, DLO or EPO
- It is recommended that the SS responsible read the course content or training manual in advance. This may help them guide the external facilitators on what areas to focus on. It also assists in checking the quality and accuracy of the messaged being delivered.
- The Implementing Officer in attendance should also be mindful of the nature of the facilitators methods and ensure they are actively engaging the participants.
- If possible, the facilitator should supply Animators with copies of the training manual they use so they have a reference for the VBWs in the following weeks and months.
- Any instances of external facilitators not showing up for agreed training session should be reported and followed up with their superiors and the fee withheld.