Matt Brown Bio PhotoWelcome to ISPI’s Organizational Spotlight! This column focuses on our members–some you may know, some you may not. Each month, we will explore what brought them to ISPI, how they use the principles of human performance technology (HPT), and their insights into the value of membership. This month our interview is with Matt Brown, of World Learning.

World Learning’s mission is to enhance the capacity and commitment of individuals, institutions, and communities to create a more peaceful and just world. With initiatives and offices in more than 70 countries, the organization provides education, exchange, and development programs that unlock the potential of people to address critical global issues.

Does World Learning work locally? Nationally? Internationally? Globally? How does your organization approach human performance technology in each of these landscapes? Is it different? How so?

Most of our current performance work is in the international development environment, in Central and Eastern Europe, East Africa, the Bahamas, and Latin America, with funding from donors such as USAID. We are particularly proud that we approach performance and capacity improvement with the same human touch and commitment that distinguish our work with students, community development, and the rest of our global platform of programs.

How do you use social media in your work? As a resource? As a solution?

We recently helped a national journalism association start up a Facebook page and optimize its use for membership growth and communication with members. In another example, we created a YouTube video for a client ministry to share success stories from the ministry’s performance improvement work; the video has generated a lot of buzz and is helping citizens see the ministry as open, client-oriented, and forward thinking. And, of course, we use LinkedIn, various blogs, and other social media for recruitment and professional discussions.

What is your favorite CPT or HPT story?

Even in the post-communist bureaucracies of Central and Eastern Europe, we’ve seen the relevance of the kinds of partnership, collaboration, and patience that ISPI promotes. In one case not long ago, a minister came to an initial meeting certain that his institution needed “X” and expecting a quick fix. We began with some very practical steps that the minister appreciated, and continued to build the relationship through small projects until, a year later, he requested a much more comprehensive performance improvement initiative aimed at a reorganization of the entire ministry.

What excites you about ISPI’s work?

I’ve been enjoying the energy within the ISPI community around getting more “performance thinking” into the international development context. A real focus on sustainably efficient and effective systems is essential to developing local capacity of the type that World Learning believes in and that international donors and aid recipient countries are after.

What types of learning or performance improvement opportunities does World Learning offer its employees? Its clients?

Most recently, we’ve been helping more experienced personnel work toward ISPI CPT certification, and we’ve been training a core group to use one of our proprietary organizational assessment tools. These efforts represent exciting opportunities for staff and will strengthen our work across the board.

How has World Learning’s approach(es) to performance improvement changed over time?

In many ways, World Learning has been engaged in performance improvement for nearly 80 years, in the form of results-oriented training and capacity development. However, the term “performance improvement” itself is a more recent addition to our lexicon. Incorporating ISPI-style performance thinking into our work has enhanced our efforts to focus partners and clients on (a) changes that increase the impact and quality of their work, and (b) internal systems that allow them to manage their own performance in the long term.

What has your organization learned from the recent economic slowdown?

Thankfully, our portfolio of performance work has remained stable as much of it is government funded. In a broader organizational sense, World Learning has responded to the economic slowdown byseeking new partnerships; finding opportunities for cross-pollination in programs; and investing in staff, web-based tools, and sharpened processes. We are confident that these efforts will yield strong returns.

What interesting things does World Learning do to manage and develop its human capital?

There’s always something new happening in our portfolio, and World Learning capitalizes on this by encouraging staff to take on new responsibilities and new roles, whether in project implementation, business development, or project management.

How does human performance technology add value to World Learning? How do you measure its worth and value?

Performance technology and our relationship with ISPI and its members have helped us enrich our definition of good international development and broaden our range of partners and clients. The organizations we work with are stronger and our clients continue to give us their business–these are some pretty good metrics.