40 hours to become a trainer - MSF Training of Trainers (ToT) in Abidjan

Posted on May 20th
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One can master a skill, but transfer or explain it to somebody else is not always easy. To ensure that its personnel his providing the best knowledge transfer, the MSF France and MSF Switzerland learning units jointly organize, twice a year, a “training of trainers” (ToT).

Before, they used to do these trainings at their headquarters, in Paris or Geneva, but recently they decided to decentralize them, to facilitate the participation of all its staff scattered around the world. I had the chance to attend one in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from May 12 to 19.

For me, who never went on a mission with MSF, this experience was like a little taste of it. During one week, we were hosted on the 6th floor of the MSF building in the neighborhood of Marcory, while the classes were taking place on the 4th. Our schedule was intense. Indeed, we only had 40 hours to become trainers!

Did you know that it can take up to 6 times the length of a course for a good trainer to prepare his session? That means, it took Natalie Barsacq and Muriel Durand, our two trainers, about 240 hours to coordinate our ToT! Yes, the work of a trainer goes way behind the beginning and end of a training session. If you look at the “Training Cycle” steps below, you can easily understand why.

We went over all these steps with Muriel and Natalie, practicing many “training techniques” to best fit the so called “Kolb’s experiential learning theory (ELT).“ A four-stage learning cycle that includes experience, perception, cognition and behavior.

From techniques called Snowball, Philip 6-6, Ambassadors or Three Times Round, to more classic ones like Case Studies, Role Plays, Simulations or PPT Presentations, Muriel and Natalie made sure we had the opportunity to practice and understand them all.

Their ToT was punctuated with “energizers.” No matter how fun and engaging the class was, the attention was sometimes decreasing. A good trainer needs to feel when he is losing its audience and when the time has come to run a quick activity to boost the energy level up. My favorite one was the Christmas Tree. We had five minutes to decorate one teammate with everything we could find in the classroom. The result was quite funny.

But the most important part of the ToT was our final simulation. Divided into groups of five, we had to work on a training guide and present it to the class. With my group, we worked on a module for MSF supervisors on “How to identify and manage a case of misconduct or abuse.” Our session included a Brainstorm activity, an Interactive Presentation followed by a Case Study activity in subgroups.

This part of the training was crucial for us to really grasp what it takes to be a trainer. It indeed requires a lot of preparation and practice, but we all succeed and went back home with our diplomas in hand!

That does not make me an MSF Symphony training officer yet. But it indeed gives me more insights to help my teammates from the Symphony training team to build their training materials and who knows, maybe to support them during their future on-site trainings.

Curious? See my album with all the photos of the ToT here.

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