"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella


Improve Your Writing – Beware Little Timidities


The following post is adapted from one of the lessons in IMPROVE YOUR WRITING:  Ten Essential Tools for Streamlining Your Sentences, a self-paced online course facilitated by writer, teacher and former GLP Director Joan Dempsey. Joan employed the 8-Steps of Design in the creation of this course.

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

~ William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition

We all write.

Reports. E-mails. White papers. Grants. Letters. Blog posts. Articles. Briefs. Stories. Novels. Biographies. Histories. Memoirs …

When we write, we sometimes feel uncertain. One way we cope is to add qualifiers to our sentences.

Like this:

I have a bit of a tendency for adding rather unnecessary qualifiers to my sentences.

Wait. Let me revise:

I have a tendency for adding unnecessary qualifiers to my sentences.

What’s a qualifier?

  • rather
  • very
  • a little
  • pretty
  • sort of
  • somehow
  • somewhat
  • kind of
  • quite
  • too
  • in a sense
  • type of
  • really
  • basically
  • for all intents and purposes
  • definitely
  • actually
  • generally
  • specific
  • particular

“These,” write Strunk & White in The Elements of Style, “are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words.”

Prune out the qualifiers to strengthen your prose!

Follow the advice of William Zinsser in On Writing Well:

Don’t say you were a bit confused and sort of tired and a little depressed and somewhat annoyed. Be confused. Be tired. Be depressed. Be annoyed. Don’t hedge your prose with little timidities. Good writing is lean and confident.

Think deeply about the meaning of words.

Don’t write "very first time" or "very last time." It’s either the first time, or it isn’t. It’s either the last time, or it isn’t. Don’t write that the retreat was rather boring or very bland. Words like boring and bland nicely convey their own meaning.

According to Zinsser, by adding qualifiers you “dilute your style and your persuasiveness.”

"The larger point,” he continues, “is one of authority. Every little qualifier whittles away some fraction of the reader’s trust. Readers want a writer who believes in himself and in what he is saying. Don’t diminish that belief. Don’t be kind of bold. Be bold.”

Now it’s your turn.

Don't forget that only by practicing will you grow adept at recognizing when you use unnecessary qualifiers in your own work. To get the most out of what you've just read, try this:

Write 1-2 sentences with too many modifiers in each. Use the list above if you wish, or discover your own modifiers. Post your sentences in the comments section below.


Joan Dempsey is a Certified Dialogue Education Practitioner, teacher and author.  You can join Joan at IMPROVE YOUR WRITING:  Ten Essential Tools for Streamlining Your Sentences, a self-paced online course, available immediately upon registration. Want to learn more?  Check out this video.


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Tips for Effective Time Management


Managing time is a challenge for even the most seasoned facilitators. Here are a few tips to help you ensure you facilitate the planned learning design in the designated time:

  1. Start on time. When learners don’t arrive on time, it can be challenging to know when to start. It’s okay to wait a few minutes, but in general work to start on time. This will also show respect to those who are there.
  2. Use two time pieces. Having a clock on the wall is critical and having a watch or other timing device with/near you at all times, helps you for 100% awareness of the minutes and hours. Time has a way of passing by quickly unless you monitor it constantly.
  3. State how much time each task is when you give it. When learners know how much time they have, it will not be a surprise when you call them back to the large group after engaging in a learning task. If timing is short, stating it can also help energize learners.
  4. If you are working with a co-facilitator, ask him/her to be your timekeeper. It is sometimes a challenge to monitor time when there are other things demanding your attention i.e. questions from learners. Relying on your co-facilitators in this way can be easy and helpful.
  5. Mark the time breakdown in your workshop design. Making notes to yourself about timing, materials and things to mention while facilitating can help you stay fully focused.
  6. Use learners. Sometimes asking a learner to let you know when a certain amount of time has passed, can be helpful. In some cases this request can help a learner focus and feel validated.
  7. Be flexible. Sometimes a learning task will take more or less time than you expect – don’t be afraid to adjust your workshop accordingly. You are responsible to ensure learners are meaningfully engaged and have enough time to work with and personalize the new content. Although a well-though out learning design needs to be followed and trusted, as you learn more about the people in the room and their needs, changes may need to be made.
  8. Check outside factors that may impact your planned time and timing. Although you may have the learning event perfectly planned out, life has a funny way of throwing curve balls. Check with those in the building and in the group for things like: lunch bells, outside meetings, others using the room, or events in the area. The fewer surprises the better.
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Volunteers: Key Helpers in the Ebola Response


Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a health emergency, many groups and individuals have volunteered to assist in the response, highlighting the importance of volunteers in combating the response.  In Liberia the volunteers, both national and international, are a critical component of efforts to stop the outbreak from spreading further.  In Liberia many communities have volunteers that are doing contact tracing, sharing information on Ebola prevention, keeping the community informed about the status in their communities and linking communities to assistance.

Realizing the fatality rate associated with this disease and the number of infections and deaths among health workers, it is essential that we continue to advocate for and support programs to build the capacity of these volunteers. It is important for us to help these volunteers to keep safe.  In keeping these volunteers safe as they serve it is important to include the following four interventions:

  1. Provide volunteers with proper training. They need correct information on Ebola, what it is (and isn’t), how it is spread, and how to prevent it.  Training must be interactive giving volunteers the opportunity to ask and answer questions, as well as, practice all actions that are essential in preventing Ebola.  More importantly it is essential that volunteers have time in the training to learn how to prevent themselves from getting infected. They need to learn through practice and feedback sharing – learning is truly in the doing! Too often information is not learned because adult learning principles were ignored. This crisis is too important for learning not to happen with volunteers!
  2. Provide volunteers with supplies.  They need proper materials during awareness-raising sessions to deepen the learning for everyone. Learning should not become a guessing game! Some of these materials include: chlorine, Clorox, and buckets. 
  3. Provide volunteers with psychosocial support.  The situation of massive loss of lives and the suddenness of it often causes psychosocial issues. These need to be taken seriously and acted upon instantly.
  4. Encourage volunteers to practice good self-care. This will include tips such as:
  • Be healthy: stay fit, eat well, and limit alcohol, drugs and tobacco intake.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if they feel sick.  Do not self-medicate.
  • Share insights and stories with other volunteers as often as possible. Talk about what you are experiencing.
  • Take time for themselves: sing, dance, exercise, meditate, have fun with friends and laugh. Taking a break from this work is critical for sustainability and personal health.


[Image from Internatinal Business Times]


Marion Subah is a Senior Technical Advisor at Jhpiego and a Certified Dialogue Education Teacher.  You can read more about Marion and her work here.   

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From Collection to Connection : Dialogue Education for Deep Knowledge Sharing


As the UN’s leading agency for financial Inclusion, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) launched the YouthStart program in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation to help spur innovation and delivery of financial services for youth in Africa and mainstream them into inclusive financial sectors. YouthStart works with 10 financial service providers (FSPs) across eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in developing, piloting and rolling out youth-focused financial products, especially savings, and non-financial services (NFS) such as financial literacy or reproductive health education.

Each year, YouthStart gathers its partnering FSPs for an annual training on various youth focused services. As this is the final year for the YouthStart Pilot Programme, we wanted to bring our partners together in Kigali, Rwanda to not only learn about their experiences for the past four and half years, but to also share their knowledge and best practices which has helped them achieve greater results in serving youth.

When we started searching for a co-facilitator for this workshop, we wanted to make sure that they would understand the objectives of the workshop and serve as a bridge which would facilitate the discussions between FSPs and UNCDF. We also wanted to ensure that the facilitator would be able to quickly understand the work conducted by each of the stakeholders and provide an objective yet critical insight on how the knowledge and experience generated from partner FSPs could help inform YouthStart as it looks to expand in the future. Global Learning Partners not only provided that bridge, but they were integral in helping us design one of the best workshops for our partners to date.

The particular methodology used by GLP was fundamental to the success of the workshop: they used a participatory approach with both UNCDF and partner FSPs which allowed for an open, honest, and collaborative platform during the three-day workshop.  From the very first day of their assignment, Christine Little and Peter Noteboom displayed a level of professionalism and comfort with their tasks at hand. The duo operated diligently to understand the four years of work which had been accomplished by UNCDF and its partners; a task which would appear daunting to some. Yet the ease presented by these two was in fact a reflection of GLPs style: a synergy of partners focused on open learning in a trustworthy environment where the knowledge shared by each individual contributes to the collectives’ knowledge gained. By reinforcing this open platform for dialogue, our partners were able to share successes and challenges and learn from each other on how to leverage and mitigate both respectively.

Suffice it to say, the planning of the workshop was, in our opinion, planned extremely well. Yet, with the rapid onset of travel restrictions put in place due to the Ebola outbreak, we had never imagined the Dakar team would miss the workshop in Kigali. Thanks in part to modern technology we were able to participate in the workshop via teleconference. However, the contributing factor which made us feel integrated into the sessions was GLPs continued support in assimilating us into the sessions by constantly checking in on us and reminding participants to seek our input during team break-out sessions.

By the end of the workshop, we and our partners had gained deep insights and strategies to help us each as move forward in our plans to increase youths’ access to finance. We also realized that we have gained a valued partner for UNCDF as we are always in search of collaborators who share similar visions for shared learnings. As we look towards expanding our program, GLP will always be a reference and reminder for us on how dialogue can lead to gaining fascinating insights from our own experiences.

Want to learn more about the impact of this knowledge sharing event?  Check out these videos to hear participants share their lessons learned and takeaways (in English and French).  


Maria Perdomo is the YouthStart Programme Manager with United Nations Capital Development Fund.  To stay up to date about the incredible work and impact of YouthStart, we invite you to sign up for their newsletter here.  You can contact Maria directly at maria.perdomo@uncdf.org

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Using Dialogue Education in One-to-One Situations


By Karen Ridout and Michael Culliton

In preparing for a one-to-one situation, we have found the principles and practices of Dialogue Education to be sound and reliable. Based on experience, here are our suggestions.

  1. Use the structure of the 8 Steps of Design to prepare for both the overall one-to-one plan and each session.
  2. Sketch out the first seven steps: Who, Why, Content, Achievement-based Objectives, So that, When, Where and How.
  3. In a one-to-one event, consider two kinds of content:
    1. External content: skills, knowledge and attitudes that are drawn from research and the study of best practices.
    2. Internal content: the skills, knowledge, attitudes, experiences and perspectives that the person coming to the session brings.
  4. Build a catalog of useful learning tasks—Step 8—for external content. Remember to consider all three domains: cognitive, affective and psychomotor.
  5. Design thoughtful open questions that will elicit internal content.
  6. Decide if you will be explicit about the structure. The question to ask yourself: Will sharing the Design Steps (the structure) help or hinder the work we need to do together in the one-to-one session?

    If it will help, share the design. If it will create confusion or get in the way, don’t share your design; just use it as a guide for your work with the person.
  7. Be prepared to improvise. Preparing a design for a one-to-one session is like writing a musical score. During the session, you may draw on this score. With the internal content, you’ll also need to be able to improvise, like a jazz musician. However, as we improvise, we thoughtfully draw on the Four A’s, creating opportunities for sound learning and change through meaningful and skillful use of learning tasks (Anchor, Add, Apply and Away).

What has worked for you in one-to-one situations?

[Here is the “cheat sheet” that GLP Senior Partner Karen Ridout uses for planning and facilitating her one-to-one coaching sessions.]


You can join GLP Partners Michael and Karen in Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Raleigh, North Carolina or San Diego--just a few of our at upcoming 2015 workshops!

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