Before You Plan Your Training, Answer These 3 Questions

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After your training is over how often do people apply what they learn?

Be honest. 

I’m not talking about what you say to the board, your boss or a funder.

The question isn’t if people liked your training (of course they did–you’re great!).

The real test comes six months or a year later.

Did the people you train transform in the way you hoped?

Are they now more strategic?

…collaborative?

…anti-racist?

…powerful?

If yes, how do you know? What changes did you observe? What action did they take?

Did that action lead to any change in the organization? In culture? In policy?

More often than not, the answer is, “…maybe?”

The Problem With Most Movement Trainings

In a decade and a half leading trainings and talking to movement trainers, I’ve noticed a pattern: Trainers are proud of the content of their training, but disappointed with people’s long-term commitment to what they learn.

“They just don’t get it.”

…sound familiar?

That’s because too many trainers spend their time on what people should know and little time on how people should act.

Your training needs to guide people to take action that will achieve measurable results.

“Hold on, measurable? Not everything can be measured!”

Of course not, but would you organize a hiking trip and send people off into the woods in separate directions with no destination in mind?

How would they know what to pack?

Where would they set up camp?

A training isn’t a solo hiking trip, it’s for groups.

Providing a path, a destination, and the right supplies for the trip is not only necessary, it’s your job as an organizer and as a trainer.

Before you plan your training, gather with a few people on your team and answer these critical questions to help turn learning into action.

1. What is the measurable goal we want to achieve?

The people coming to your training yearn for change and the organization sponsoring the training does as well. Write the goal in a way that communicates both.

Maybe increasing the number of dues-paying members will lead to better contracts and better quality of life.

Or changing state health care policy to include family leave benefits would allow people to take care of loved ones without losing their job.

Sometimes this goal is already set, other times it will take more meetings to find out.

Ask members, leaders, staff and Directors of the groups involved, “What would ideally change as a result of this project?”

Then make sure your goal meets the SMART criteria of a campaign framework. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Activating, Realistic and Time-bound.

For example, instead of, “Grow our organization to be a powerful force in the state” write, “Increase the number of dues paying members by 200% by the time our 2021 contract expires.”

2. Who must take action in order to achieve this goal?

Be specific: If you are envisioning a training for staff, for example, which teams or departments will need to act?

If you are coordinating a training program for members or volunteers, what are these leaders like?

Where do they live?

Are they impacted by the issue or are they people who see themselves as allies?

What language do they speak and what is their comfort with technology?

What is their race, gender identity, class, and level of formal education?

Make a list of relevant details. In order to come up with the right content and the right methodology, you need to know who your learners are.

3. What specific actions should they take to achieve this goal?

To answer this question, you need to get in touch with the learners.

There are a variety of methods you can use:

  • Plan a meeting or focus group
  • Schedule one-to-one interviews
  • Conduct a survey
  • Get involved to better understand what their day-to-day is like

This will help you and your team understand what needs to be included and what doesn’t.

Even at the end of a two-week training you will find there are important topics you did not cover (I’m speaking from experience here).

To help people act, you need to understand what is getting in the way of taking action.

Have they been given clear enough instructions?

Do they have the tools to do it?

Is the issue specific to one person or is it general to the whole team?

For the actions that can be addressed through training create a list of “Action Priorities” that will guide your design.

They should also be specific, instead of “Members of our coalition should think like organizers”, it should be “members of our coalition use listen, validate, respond framework when door-knocking for Yes on 3.”

Plan your training with clear goals and action priorities

Your answers to these questions provide a map that will help learners arrive at a meaningful destination.

Once you’ve answered them you can move on to other details like timeframe, location, and logistics. You can also begin brainstorming effective activities using the SEA method.

Consider these three questions next time you plan your training, email us and let us know how it goes!

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Riahl O’Malley and Indira Garmendia, co-founders