Learning – Who to target to achieve the best impact

We often speak about learning: different modalities, platforms, learning theories, enabling factors, cultural influences and many other aspects. Normally, we have in mind learners in a very general sense. But do we also have a good sense of who to focus on? Do we wish to make an impact by targeting as many people as possible or by devoting more time to a selected target audience? The first might result in spreading our efforts over a number of participants and achieving a wider audience, but at the potential cost of a smaller impact on an individual basis, as bigger groups mean less customization and more limited discussion. On the other hand, by focusing on smaller groups, we can tailor our events to the needs and expectations of individuals, but at the stake of not having the right group mix for the discussed topics.

We at the CEF are strong believers in the importance of interactive knowledge-sharing sessions. By incorporating this approach in our learning events, we witness greater satisfaction of participants and they acknowledge a bigger impact when they get the opportunity to share and learn from each other.

For example, at the Deepening Money Markets workshop in February this year, we had a chance of using the opportunity that smaller groups provide and we went really in depth with the topics. After preparation in two groups – central banks and treasuries – a discussion followed in a small circle of participants and experts. It resulted in an intimate debate where everybody felt comfortable to discuss the issues, share views and openly ask questions. The experts offered very concrete solutions that resembled technical assistance interventions, as participants could take and share the ideas with their colleagues and superiors in their home institutions. It was a truly great experience to see people being so impressed about our approach and that they were willing to close the day only when we assured them that the discussion in this form would continue on the next day as well.

Smaller groups with the right “participant mix” have a great potential to develop into a true in-depth knowledge-sharing interaction

We may ask whether this kind of interventions, given their success, should become the norm. Is focusing on smaller and more engaged audience, who could make a difference in their home institutions, the way to go? Should we strive to “identify, develop, and engage change agents” who have the potential to multiply our efforts?

While this has proven to be a successful practice, it is applied in combination with a more standard workshop approach for a more open audience. Naturally, there is some kind of compromise between the two approaches. Additionally, focusing on a limited number of participants might be unconventional for the region[1], or the system that we have created might be preventing us to fully grasp the idea.

School systems generally focus on the average pupil, striving to get everyone on board at the same pace, while losing the potential to challenge and activate those who are already eager to study and wish to learn more. Similar tendencies can be seen also at a number of institutions where the development of staff is oriented to bringing the majority to a certain level by incentivizing employees to join learning activities. As a result, those employees who are engaged in different learning activities on their own initiative, might be left out of focus, since “they are already working on their development”.

This is a great contrast to the Western approach, where the culture is more open to reward individual success and contribution, and focuses on those who are more motivated, as they have a greater potential to benefit from learning engagements. It is believed that enabling such employees, with incremental effort invested in their motivation, could potentially create greater value for the organization. This type of system is believed to be more motivational for everyone in the organization, in contrast to the one where employees are rewarded equally for varying efforts and contributions.

Therefore, it is worth keeping that in mind when we work closely with our beneficiary institutions in helping them enable their talents in the scope of learning and developing institutional capacities. After all, it is our responsibility to identify and share the best practices in supporting capacity development of our constituency.


[1] By Hofstede, masculinity or femininity as a cultural dimension defines how a certain culture appreciates (individual) achievements and competitiveness or cooperation and modesty on the other hand. Read more on South East Europe: http://knowledgehub.cef-see.org/?p=892


About Matija Čarman

Matija is interested in economic developments, specifically macroeconomics and the financial sector, and therefore pays substantial attention to capturing institutional needs in order to develop a relevant learning program.

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