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Participants from online FSToT workshop in native dress

Technology – fear no more during the time of COVID: A reflection on MPI’s online Facilitation Skills Training of Trainers

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Cybertechnologies were among the first to deliver to the world the fearful news about what many of us dubbed as “the worst disaster” ever recorded in the history of humankind when the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that COVID-19 should be classified as a pandemic at the onset of 2020. For more than one year after the reported outbreak, different technologies delivered news of death tolls and infection statistics and how nations and communities had responded differently, and to some extent, uniquely to the pandemic. Countless times we opened our mobile tech gadgets to go online and find few feature stories on the positive and alternative practices and what leaders learned who successfully reduced or abated the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was in the middle of this pandemic that the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute Foundation, Inc. (MPI) attempted to make the most out of these technologies and invited peacebuilders from conflict areas to participate in an online Facilitation Skills Training of Trainers (FSToT) during the first quarter of 2021. The purpose of the FSToT was to better equip local mediators and peacebuilders from across the globe. The course provided the participants with a holistic and complete overview of online training facilitation and how to design it. It included what a peace training is about, what are the SMART objectives, what is it for, who is it for, what is the approach to use, what is in the toolbox, what knowledge and skills are needed, who is the trainer, what are the required resources, and what are the important considerations.

The trainers/facilitators, moderators, and supporters who handled MPI’s FSToT course were all well-versed in the topics covered. They exhibited expertise in navigation and application of online technology and gadgets as tools in facilitating a session. Another factor worth noting about the FSToT was MPI’s capacity to identify existing and free online and offline technologies and gadgets that could be combined and that complemented each other.  

Lastly, MPI made the course practical, and more importantly, it responded to the needs of local mediators, who have been transitioning their peace-based interventions from personal to online sessions due to unavailability and inaccessibility of transportation as well as the restrictions in mobility set by their governments. Theoretical learning through lectures was augmented with actual applications/operations of learning facilitation tools. The trainers also shared and taught how to share responsibilities with the participants, which helped in the familiarity with the interface and mastery of the functions and features of these online tools. 

At the end of the FSToT course, all participants demonstrated a significant improvement in online training facilitation as shown in the results of the final training design and facilitation project. As one of the trainers groomed by MPI’s FSToT course, I feel more empowered and able to implement responsibility-sharing by transferring the online facilitation knowledge and skills as well as the spirit of empowerment to wo/men of the local community mediators' network in the Philippines and beyond. With all this, I continue to hope for a world that will move toward sustainable peace.

Josephine “Jo” Rodelas is involved in protecting the remaining natural resources in the Philippines by helping key stakeholders resolve conflicts through Empowering Dispute Resolutions and Management Processes as the Training and Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist at the Mediator's Network for Sustainable Peace (Mednet), Inc.

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