Shortcomings of Training

Angela Khaminwa 

Program Officer for Outreach and Communication at The Coexistence Initiative

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

A: My experience with what I feel is a growing aversion to training occurred a few years ago. Maybe it was two years ago. I was in Uganda, and I had a series of meetings with peace practitioners in Uganda, and walked into the offices of one of them and started to talk about peace work in general in Uganda, and very soon into the meeting he started going off on trainings. And I wasn't particularly clear where his dismay was coming from. And he had actually just published a book, I believe, on moving beyond trainings -- which had a very catchy title that I can't remember now -- but anyway, he talks about what he saw as a kind of dependence on - I don't know if it's a dependence but almost a reflex action for peace organizations -- that that was the intervention, to carry out numerous trainings. So you had trainings on security, you had trainings on gender sensitivity, and while these trainings weren't in and of themselves "bad," the fact that the same people attended the trainings, more often than not - the trainings were duplicated left, right, and center - and trainings were incredibly expensive to put together and to organize, led him to believe that it was a culture that wasn't geared towards actually building towards the capacity of peacemakers but actually to generate funds for peace organizations. And over the past two years, I've spent quite a lot of my own thinking time considering this issue. I think that to some extent, building capacity is an important part of peace work; in fact, one might say it's one of the fundamental parts of peace work. However I think that it needs to be within a context that supports what's been taught at the training, but that also encourages some kind of innovation in terms of implementation. The issue of the usual suspects concerns me greatly. I often see the same faces at peace events that are kind of labeled as peace events and it makes me wonder to what extent are we, as peacemakers, as a peace community, growing? And I think we do need growth.

Q: So what would a more holistic training intervention look like?

A: I think a holistic intervention is one that is, first of all, responsive to the problem at hand; I'm not sure trainings always are the most responsive solution. I think it depends on the situation, frankly. And again, I think it's about changing your mindset. Building capacity is incredibly important and increasing awareness of issues is incredibly important. But there are a lot of other things in the toolbox that can be used. Dialogues can be used and I think just changing the mindset to ensure that there's more of that multi-tool thinking is critical.

Q: Rather than relying on someone training

A: Rather I'm not going to say rather than a reliance on training; rather than a blind reliance on training, which can lead to inappropriate usages. And I think that that kind of critical lens is necessary, so that we're not just going up and down putting together workshops on this, that, and the other, if we can't guarantee -- not even guarantee, but can't envision -- that they make substantial changes.