More on Certificates.

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A while ago I questioned the value of certifications issued by the Mosaic committee. In the Regional Training Forum (RTF) that was held recently here in Hamburg, participants of the TTT (Train-the-trainer)-workshop also were given certifications.

The point I made about the Mosaic certificates, not being of any value for job applications, is still valid for these ones. However, the TTT-certificates come with another condition: They are only valid for 3 years.

I can see the rationale behind this - CISV's educational content and principles have always been dynamic, and we wouldn't want trainers in the NAs to prepare leaders with yesterday's concepts. Also, who remembers, what was done at a workshop three years ago?

If I understand it right, the Leadership Training Committee aims to have ALL trainers in all NAs cerified before too long. Now, things are getting ridiculous: We are a volunteer organisation, where "incentives" like certificates with an "expiration date" just don't work. A trip to a TTT-workshop is costly, and time-consuming. We're looking for volunteers to donate their time to do trainings - this just can't be the right path. If we tell trainers, they can't train anymore, because their certificate has expired, they'll say: So what? I'll be gone. The half-life of a volunteer in CISV, I would guess, is about 5 years. So let's say somebody want to contribute to CISV, has been a leader and staff and becomes a member of a leadership team. Then it will probably take another year before he or she takes part in a Workshop. Than after 3 more years, being at his peak of experience as a trainer, it's probably exactly the moment, when that person is looking for reasons to end his commitment and end up thinking "Soooooo sad, my certification has expired..."

I think CISV must present a positive incentive: The TTT-workshop must be top qualitiy, a delight to participate, an eye-opener. Something to recommend to people who have recently joined the gorup of trainers. Something NAs are willing to invest in, to get qualified trainers for their leaders. Also, it should be a social event of some sort. A bit like an AIM, a place to meet other CISVers from other countries, and have a good time while being trained. That's why a TTT embedded in the RTF makes a lot of sense. Finally it should be guaranteed that participation at a TTT-workshop comes at no financial costs for the participants. 

As for the certificates, I think they can merely be used as a quality control tool: How many NAs train leaders with at least one "certified trainer"? Every NA should aim to have at least one of them, and this should be monitored.

I should add that I do think that expiry dates do make sense for Mosaic Trainers and Seminar Camp staff. Both are "rewarded" with a paid trip to another country, so I believe there should be motivation to get their skills updated every now and then. But also here, the system is flawed, if we run out of volunteers.

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What truth leaves your mouth! Yes, I agree that trainings of trainers should be free of charge or very minimal. The chapter or NA should invest in having their trainers trained and the training should be so good that it is worthwhile the time investment of the volunteers to participate.

I think we should not treat our volunteers as emplyees, but see what they give as what it is: a gift of their time, energy and passion. That's worth a lot!


I'm with you on this one too, Nick.

And besides that "quality-control-through-certificates" come with the basic assumption that everyone that goes to a training actually DO LEARN everything planned and becomes automatically a good trainer. Which is obviously not true, for various reasons.

So, having a system that is founded on that assumption is risky. But well, I think they are working by approximation, there.

I also agree with you, Nick.

But first, I want to comment on this issue within a bigger sphere. I see a clear willingness in CISV to become more professional, strategic, have money, be grass-rooted, have a cool image, be current and in touch with technology and innovation, while keeping the volunteering, the friendships and all the energisers no business company or Fortune 500 has.

However, if any of that is to prosper, we need to be humble enough to see that we cannot facilitate these processes if we do not have the proper competencies or we do not stop and consult with a fellow CISVer who is an expert in the field. That or decide that every new “quality-ensuring”, “professionalising” pursuit in CISV will probably be a great idea with no effective application. But I disgress...

When it comes to certificates, I find it peculiar that while they used to be marketed as “this is going to make you a hot, great trainer, everyone who is anyone will need one to train”, I would dare to say every participant from a TTT, good or bad, has a certificate at the end of the training. Then, this is not a certification to ensure quality of training/trainer, this is a certification that you were seen in Hamburg, Germany, at a TTT training, from the beginning to the end. Nothing else. With this I am not saying that participants of a TTT may expect not to get a certificate if they are not “good”; just that the system has been marketed as something that is not.

As Marcos said, I believe the new leadership structure of ILTC is making progress on improving TTT structure, leadership, certification and long-term goals (plus I can attest that the new Chair receives this blog via RSS), and it would not be surprising to see them go after great feedback on all TTT issues.

Nick, I'm part of ILTC and have been pondering the certification issue quite a lot these days. It's great to hear your opinion on this and I'm glad there's an open space to discuss this.

This is a great blog!

There is thorough analysis going on, now that we have already gone through two rounds of TTTs. I consider it to be necessary to examine what we have learned and use it as a way to evolve and adjust what we have now. This includes re-considering many things, including certification.

I understand how logistically it seems very hard to have everybody that trains in CISV certified, and I'm sure this was not as clear before TTTs started. So things will definitely have to be adjusted.

I do think that certification is not a guarantee that he/she who has it is a really good trainer by itself, just like a lawyer's degree does not make a person a good lawyer. However, it can be considered one more credential-- a guarantee that the person was at least exposed to a standarized training. Same for the lawyer. Look at everything the person has done, not just the degree, to consider him for a job.

This leads me to a couple of questions:

- Should certification in fact be necessary for at least somebody? National Leadership Training Coordinators? International Trainers?

- Should certification be for 3 years, or more (or less)? What if re-certification does not require you to attend a TTT again? Maybe it can be done online or in another creative way.

There is definitely one thing I feel is quite important: If people will attend TTTs for a certificate, rather than for the learning experience and for the sharing of ideas, it makes no sense at all. TTTs should be advertized as workshops where you will develop competencies for being a better trainer, not as a thing you attend to be the "oh-so-cool" trainer Nano mentioned before.

Thanks for sharing these thoughts! I in fact recieve this blog via RSS and I'm very happy to be getting something out of it!

Thanks for all the great comments - I'm glad the certification concept within TTT is dynamic! I totally agree with the notion that receiving a certificate simply confirms you were physically present. And I especially like the "electronic renewal" concept Moni suggests.

Hear, hear!

I sense a general development where a) we have problems keeping volunteers, especially in administrative posts and b) we increase the administrative load on the organisation.

This leads to a few questions; do we have a sensible return on investment on our "quality initiatives"? Do we actually have a real quality problem, or are we trying to fix something that isn't really broken? Would it be better to focus on simplifying the organsiation, reducing overhead (maybe by use of technology), putting our volunteers where they belong (and where they enjoy themselves): Participating at or organising a CISV Programme.


PS: Is it just me or are CISVers in general pretty useless doing admin things? I mean, where would it be possible for people to spend 5 weeks straight staffing a village, but being incapable of sending in the DPAF within a month of the end of the activity? CISV's solution: add even more paperwork to the equation... PDPDF will be a great success.

@LLL: I like your ROI (return-of-investment) view on training - however, it's going to hard to measure the "return". In fact the PDPEF is, what I believe, maybe the first serious attempt to quantify quality. So, if you want to take the TTT-initiative seriously, you'll have to try and figure out if it yields any results.

In the hospital I work at, we have a similar issue: How do you measure good health care? A "certification process" mostly valued "structural quality", like how well is the documentation done, do we have electronic guidelines, even whether we *have* an official person responsible for hygene (not whether he does anything).

So this "structural" quality in CISV would be to ask, whether...
- all staff are trained
- the training was done by a certified trainer
- the kids were all trained
- an evaluation day was performed
and so on. Is that enough to measure "educational quality"?

The other thing you are mentioning is also quite valid, the amount of "overhead". The always apparent problem of being a relatively small organisation operating worldwide, we have to wonder, whether our costly international structures (IO, AIM, now also RTFs) may be too big. Looking at those three structures, I do welcome a shift from administration to training.

Hi Nick.

I don't mind a shift from Administration to Training, but what I sense is that you have an increase in Administration to support the increase in Training.

Measuring quality is hard. Measuring anything in CISV is even harder. My personal opinion is that any of our attempts to measure the (hopefully positive) outcome of our activities has been a waste of effort with the 21-day-village process being the most disappointing.

What springs to mind is what we got taught at Uni regarding ISO 900x certifications; it doesn't prove that you deliver to a high quality, only that you deliver to a consistent quality. It could easily be that you are delivering consistent sh*t. IT delivery standards like CMMI are very similar, focusing on consistency of process and documentation rather than quality -- even if people then use it as a "proof of quality" afterwards...


I find this a very interesting discussion and I would like to bring in another aspect-
Quality assurance instruments in an organisation like CISV (like the PDPEF Lars was talking about) not only increase the administrative load- on the other hand, they also kind of "force" (I have no better word to use here) volunteers to work more goal-oriented. I've been thinking a lot about if it serves the quality of our work if people, who actually don't really know what they are doing, or what they want to reach with what they are doing have leadership postitions in CISV and I didn't come to a conclusion... So, maybe quality control instruments are an answer to this question because they assure that leaders (in general) in our organisation have to plan their educational processes with a certain standard- and programmes become qualitatively compareable.
And there's the administrative price you have to pay for it- which is, in our case really low in my opinion.

As the PDPEF is such an instrument of quality control, I don't see certificates being a quality assurance neither a quality control since, as discussed above, they are given out to anyone attending a training.

I agree with Babsi that the PDPEFs are a pragmatix solution in trying to find a standardized quality tool, get volunteers to focus on educational goals and create the least amount of bureaucracy.

However, I do think the certification process is a first step in the right direction of standardizing out training procedures. As mentioned earlier, quality control is a problem everywhere - how do you know, somebody with a medical degree is "fit" to be a doctor. You don't! Still no reason to give up the medical graduation process altogether. In CISV, again, it has to be a pragmatic process of minimizing effort to gain the best results. And this depends on so many things, we can't control: What kind of people are attracted to volunteer positions in CISV? What kind of knowledge do they bring when being trained? How well do people apply training content? How long to our volunteers stay active in the organization. So, I'll be happy to repeat myself: We need to offer top-quality training in a fun-environment, so that it becomes an honor receive a "certified" training, and not a punishment.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick published on May 11, 2009 8:32 AM.

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