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

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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Tips to Help Organize Workbooks and Written Documents for People Living with Dementia


by Elaine Wiersma, Kathy Hickman and Jeanette Romkema

In an education event juggling work books, lots of paper, and other written documents is a challenge for any learner (and teacher!). When the learners are people living with dementia trying to find the right piece of paper or spot on a page can interfere with learning, cause undue stress and impact safety. Here are a few tips to keep things organized and help people living with dementia (and other learners) in finding what they need in their workbooks and written documents.


  1. Colour code sections of the workbook. Each week should be printed on a different colour of paper.


  1. Use colour within the workbook to help direct people. For example, “follow along with the paragraph in the green box.”


  1. Ensure that dividers are used in-between weeks or sessions. 


  1. Use symbols or pictures for specific places on a page so people can easily be directed there (e.g., a mouth for discussion questions, a book for reading, a question mark for brainstorming, etc.). Include a legend in the beginning of the workbook to explain all symbols used.


  1. Number the pages for easy reference in large font size.


  1. Number specific activities or tasks. For example, “Follow along with the paragraph at 2.1”.


  1. Print on one side of the page only to minimize confusion. Put holes on both sides of the paper if people want to put pages facing each other in their binders. 


  1. Make sure everyone is on the correct page at the beginning of the session. This will assist people to move forward together. 


  1. Offer to assist people if they require it. 


  1. Minimize the amount of “extra” papers and handouts. Try to keep everything within the workbook where it’s being worked on.


  1. Ensure the printing is large enough for people to read. Font size 11 is usually too small – font size 14 is often a better choice.


  1. If people are uncomfortable with writing down ideas for brainstorming, ensure that the facilitators take the flip charts away, type it up for people, and give it back to them the following week (with a 3-hole punch). When it is given back to participants, facilitators can assist people to put these notes into their binders or folders in the proper place. 


  1. Minimize how much information and how many words you have on any given page. Keep it simple, clear and easy to follow.


  1. Use a binder so pages are easy to turn and stay organized. If you only have a few pages, ensure all pages are stapled together – one staple in the top left-hand corner is fine.


Elaine Wiersma is an Associate Professor, Centre for Education and Research on Aging & Health at Lakehead University ewiersma@lakeheadu.ca;

Kathy Hickman is Knowledge Mobilization Lead at Alzheimer Knowledge Exchange and Education Manager at Alzheimer Society of Ontario khickman@alzheimeront.org;

Jeanette Romkema is Senior Consultant, Partner and President of Global Learning Partners jeanette@globallearningpartners.com.

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Flawless Consulting: Create the Conditions to Do Good Work


It was in my inbox on a Monday morning. A request to facilitate a two day conference.  (I was curious.)

It was in a cool part of the world. (I was intrigued.)

It was for a great cause. (I was excited.)

It was in two weeks' time.  (Yikes! but, I could shuffle some things and be available.)

As I reviewed the agenda they had attached, I knew our Dialogue Education process for design and facilitation would be very helpful. (I was SOLD!)

Before my exposure to Peter Block’s Flawless Consulting that would have been all it took to say yes. I love it when my expertise is solicited and I make my living by saying yes to projects. If you are a consultant, internal or external, you probably know this feeling. We choose this kind of work because we want to be helpful.

But a request for help, and the knowledge and desire to be helpful, are not enough to ensure that the help is…well...helpful. That takes another set of skills, the ones Block calls “flawless consulting” skills. Simply put, these are the skills and processes the consultant uses to create the conditions, not just to do work, but to do good work. These are the skills that help you ensure that your expertise is used to its full effect.

I have had a lot of good work. But I have also had my share of not-so-good work. By not-so-good, I don’t mean hard projects (I like them!), or complicated projects (aren’t they all?). I mean projects that didn’t deliver the results I promised. It is easy to blame the client for that.  But when I analyze the not-so-good ones, I can see that the conditions for success were not there from the very beginning, in part because I didn’t ask for them. 

To consult flawlessly, we need to get a good understanding of how the client wants to work with us AND we need to tell the client, authentically, how we want to work with her. This is not just about fees and timelines. It’s about the working relationship.  How will we share control? How much of your time and attention do I want? How honestly can we talk with each other about how it’s going? 

When we teach Flawless Consulting, participants clarify their list of “wants,” focusing on the working relationship. Then they practice saying “I want…” out loud. Consultants struggle to do it. We are very used to asking our clients what they want from us, but we can be pretty vague when it comes to telling our clients how we want to work with them, even when we know those things have implications for the results we achieve.

We don’t have to get everything we want. But we should be able to pinpoint the ones that are going to have the greatest impact on the success of the project, ask for them, and talk honestly with our clients about them. After all, they want good work too.

So, as I thought about this cool opportunity, I clarified two key wants—the things that would turn this opportunity for work into an opportunity to do good work:

  1. I wanted to be able to make some changes to the agenda — they were looking for facilitation, but I could see that working on the design would get them better results.  This would use my expertise to full advantage.
  2. And, given the short time line, I wanted the time and attention of the event “owners” the following week, in order to align with their purpose for this event. And use their expertise—what they know about the group and the situation—to full advantage.

We had a great conversation.  The client saw that those things would, indeed, create the conditions to do good work. She also knew that she would not be able to offer them in this case. Too many deciders and not enough time. She thanked me, said we would definitely work together sometime soon, and they would probably facilitate this one internally.

So, I won’t be doing that two-day conference in a cool part of the world this time. This might seem like I lost an opportunity to do work. And I guess I did. But our conversation was also a step towards doing more good work together. We have already begun to create those conditions.

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10 Tips for Groups Where Language May Be a Challenge


by Kathy Hickman, Jeanette Romkema and Elaine Wiersma

From time to time we work with a group where language is a challenge (e.g. dementia, low-literacy, different languages of origin). It is important to understand learners’ language abilities (expression and comprehension) when planning for an education event. During the learning needs and resources assessment (LNRA) process, find out what you can about learners’ comfort and abilities related to reading and writing. Then carefully and intentionally design your event. Here are a few things to keep in mind when language may be a challenge.

  1. Use visuals. Where possible use visual aids to teach the new content or to make a point i.e. video clip, role play, pictures, cartoons, etc. When you need/ want to share words visually, support them with a visual representation as well. In general, limit written text.


  1. Offer choice. Adult learners will choose wisely according to their needs and comfort level. For this reason, when you offer choice about how to do an activity (drawing or writing) or receive information (follow along in the brochure or with the drawings), adults will engage in a way that is most helpful for them. Be sure to create safety (“it’s okay to do it different”) and give reminders about the options for a task. Remember that too much choice can also be overwhelming for learners living with dementia.


  1. Use props. Whether as a metaphor or a concrete example of what you are explaining to a group, demo objects can be helpful in learning or understanding a complex or new concept or skill. The key is to find props that communicate clearly and simply. You can also SHOW rather than, or perhaps as well as, TELL to explain a new concept or skill.


  1. Engage learners by DOING. The best way to learn something is to do something with new content to test, challenge and/or practice it. If you ensure that this activity does not involve much writing OR that there are options for how to do the task, learners will be successful regardless of language abilities.


  1. Use language that is familiar to the group. As a general rule of thumb, everyday language is more easily understood compared to academic or professional language.  Listen to the words used by learners when you speak with them as part of your assessment process and during the course. Check with others within the community or others who are familiar with this group about what language is most appropriate and is most likely to be understood. Make sure that this language is reflected in your design and facilitation. This will not only aid the learning but also shows respect for the learners.


  1. Reading aloud. By asking for volunteers to read instructions aloud and at times reading aloud yourself, ALL learners will have the chance to know what is expected of them. This increases safety for learners that have difficulty reading because they know they will not have to read in order to participate in the group.


  1. Be clear and simple. You may think that this goes without saying, but all too often professionals get caught up in jargon or the complexities of their field. Teach as if you are having a casual conversation – keep it down to earth.


  1. Use stories. Story is a powerful thing for all human beings. When written text is a challenge to read or understand, oral text is often helpful. Stories are personal and often come from or touch the heart – this is why they are so powerful.


  1. Use role play. It is a form of storytelling, but can also help learners experience how it must feel to be in a particular role. Get learners to act out a role they are not normally in to gain empathy and new insights into another person’s reality. It is critical that this is done with safety (e.g. in small groups or pairs, with those who would like to volunteer or use a demonstration role play with facilitators).


  1. Ask learners to retell or summarize. We sometimes assume a nodding head means understanding. This is not always true. You can help learning and assist in the personalizing of new concepts when you ask learners to retell or summarize their understanding of what has been presented or explained. This can be done with a partner or small group, with a question attached to discuss together. Frame this so that learner safety is ensured (e.g. no wrong answers, affirm, and respectfully clarify as needed).


Kathy Hickman is Knowledge Mobilization Lead at Alzheimer Knowledge Exchange and Education Manager at Alzheimer Society of Ontario khickman@alzheimeront.org;

Jeanette Romkema is Senior Consultant, Partner and President of Global Learning Partners jeanette@globallearningpartners.com;

Elaine Wiersma is an Associate Professor, Centre for Education and Research on Aging & Health at Lakehead University ewiersma@lakeheadu.ca.


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