February 14, 2023 - Management


How the C.I.M. Program Helped Me In International Development Work

International Development Work is Both Demanding and Rewarding

This insight developed early in my career even before I worked with five different UN agencies in countries from South America to Asia and from the Middle East to Africa. My first assignment after university was as a CUSO volunteer teacher in Nigeria, followed a few years later as a Field Coordinator with the same organization in Ghana. Both used management skills learned through orientation programs and iteratively at field level as I managed classes of teenage students, the Chemistry lab and later the selection, placement, and monitoring of some 80 volunteers in Ghana. All this was before I took the C.I.M. program! People do learn management and administration through different means, but courses in the C.I.M. program served me well in later assignments and are still very relevant today as far as UN agencies are concerned. Let me illustrate with the example of UNESCO for whom I worked as team leader on a technical and vocational education project in Malawi that finished in 2020.

Team Leader with UNESCO

Management and staff of UNESCO developed a competency framework[i] released in 2016 that encouraged better performance through enhanced planning and communication.

“The competency framework consolidates into one tool the values and competencies considered essential by staff for UNESCO’s success. It provides a set of standards by which these can be evaluated. It provides an inventory of expected behaviors, skills and knowledge that if adhered to should lead to excellence. Each competency is composed of a set of related knowledge, skills and abilities that reinforce one another and when combined result in essential behavior expected of staff in UNESCO.” (UNESCO communication, Feb 2016[ii])

[With other school staff members as a CUSO volunteer in Nigeria (circa 1971) ]

The competency framework was in place when our Skills and Technical Education Programme (STEP)[iii] began in Malawi that same year. The framework had three main elements – core competencies relevant for all staff, management competencies for managers, and four core values that permeate the entire framework.

Figure 1: Key elements of UNESCO’s competency framework

Core Values

Commitment to the Organization • Integrity • Respect for Diversity • Professionalism

Core Competencies

Accountability • Communication • Teamwork • Innovation • Results focus • Planning and organizing • Knowledge sharing and continuous improvement

Management Competencies

Driving and managing change • Strategic thinking • Making quality decisions • Building partnerships • Leading and empowering others • Managing performance

Competencies and Values

Individuals who completed their C.I.M. program will no doubt recognise many if not all of these competencies and values. Which ones jump off the page for you – respect for diversity, teamwork, leading and empowering others? Can you tick them all off and say “met” or “competent”?

Working as team leader in Malawi, all the elements in Figure 1 were important, but perhaps the two that particularly stand out are communication and building partnerships.

[Collaborating on MS Teams in Malawi with colleagues in Blantyre, Malawi, and Germany (2021) ]

Part of our assignment was to encourage more young persons to consider vocational and technical careers. To reach young people, STEP contracted two Malawian artists to become “youth ambassadors”. Together they created a series of videos including an award-winning music video[iv] promoting women in non-traditional jobs. The song made it to number one on the Malawian hit parade and the video was downloaded thousands of times.

Our immediate government partner was the Ministry of Labour. The ministry could and did support programming at government technical colleges but could not do the same with training centers run by non-government organizations (NGOs). STEP was able to build partnerships with a variety of these entities supporting disadvantaged groups including street kids, prison inmates, orphans, and those with disabilities. This ability to help provided tremendous satisfaction to me as manager and team leader.

UNESCO introduced a performance management system at the same time as the competency framework and all STEP team members used it in annual performance planning and review. As team leader, I was comfortable working in the UNESCO environment in good part because of the management training received in my C.I.M. program many years earlier. I could check off all the boxes.

Thanks, Canadian Institute of Management, for a job well done!

[i] https://en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/competency_framework_e.pdf

[ii] https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/unesco-launches-new-competency-framework

[iii] https://www.stepmalawi.com/

[iv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAJyFtQ8Kq0

About the Author: Arthur E. Shears, C.I.M., is an international development consultant based in Canada, operating his own consulting firm after recent project leadership positions with the International Labour Organization in Bangladesh, and UNESCO in Malawi. His interests vary. Apart from technical and vocational education and training, he has expertise in distance education, learning materials development, management development as well as TVET instructor training. He has published numerous professional articles and recently released a memoir reflecting his work and experiences in sixteen different countries. The memoir entitled, “Overseas Adventures – From Afghanistan to Zambia and Points In Between” is available in paperback or eBook versions through his business website or from Amazon. www.northstarskillsfordevelopment.ca



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