Empathy : The key to training your field leaders

Data collection is at the heart of the decision making business known as leadership. For a non-profit, monitoring and evaluation is a sacred ritual in order to renew its funding tap aka the grant. This post is primer in training your field leaders covering the bottle necks in designing and executing a field leadership program. I will first tap on the softer leadership challenges towards training the field crew, who are your eyes and ears on the ground.

There is a human connection to the data collection story; the local field workers who are cultural insiders and familiar with the culture of the region. Some of them might not be very well educated being merely literate at times and had not used a touch phones or a tablet before. Tech phobia can be very real as they feel that they might spoil the device (the psychological tyranny of using a pricey device, which is not very pricey). One more perspective is their inability to read the language interface in English although the questionnaire instrument might be in English. Understanding the device and empowering the field staff in accepting the tablet and the questionnaire is a fundamental challenge.

A real question asked by a Field Leader in the heat of the field:

“How do I save the data input file?”

Such a simple activity may seem simple to a digital native of an urbane Gen Y; but a barely literate but empathy rich Field Leader in rural Vidarbha is a challenge.

The soft power answer to training your Field Teams?  In my personal experience in training field leaders who are so crucial in the entire primary data initiative, good old empathy and confidence from the city bred university educated program managers towards their field leaders is so critical.

There are other critical issues while organizing a field training program apart from the softer issues such as logistical hassles in getting the projector working in the midst of a power cut. Taking note of having backup power such as solar chargers for laptops if the training is under open sky is critical.

Significant force multipliers in a training program:

  • Cater for Food. Food is an amazing connector
  • Have a fun break out session. Play Govinda songs to cheer up the milieu!
  • Have a training per-diem for the participants. Hard Cash Helps.
  • Make the training hands on. Do not preach. Do not.
  • The trainer should be a friend. The human connect matters.
  • Take the training environment as comfortable and at home for the training participant’s even if it means on spending a couple of thousand rupees more. Conquer the mind; the training will seep in better.
  • Most importantly, meet training objectives while having fun!

I hope this primer helps while your non-profit sets out on your next boot camp in the journey towards social change!


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