Training APP

Goverance Content On Capacity APP Fills Up Idle Moments

By Christian Aagaard

Waterloo - To pass time in a waiting room or checkout line, Alison Boyd does what many people do these days. She uses her smartphone to sift through email and see what’s happening on social media.

Lately, she’s had one other welcome diversion — Capacity Canada’s board-governance training app built on the Axonify e-learning platform.

“You’ve looked through LinkedIn. You’ve looked through Twitter and Facebook — and nothing’s new,” Boyd said March 4 after the 2015-16 Manulife Board Governance Boot Camp graduated. “So what’s the next thing? You can go into the Axonify app.”

Boyd, who chairs the board at the Volunteer Action Centre for Kitchener and Waterloo, was among five people in Waterloo Region’s charitable not-for-profit sector who gave the app a try, did well — no, really well — and earned a gift card from Home Hardware.
The other high-scoring adopters of the app are Lyndsey Butcher of Planned Parenthood Waterloo Region; Alison Sims, KW Skating Club; Lisa Talbot, KidsAbility Foundation; and Maria de Boer, Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region.

“Putting Capacity Canada’s expertise in board governance on a training app means that knowledge can be shared more widely to strengthen the social-profit sector in Canada,” Cathy Brothers, Capacity’s chief executive officer, said in an interview.

With content designed by Marion Thomson Howell, one of Capacity’s executives-in-residence, the app was launched last November in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Capacity was running a governance boot camp in partnership with FuseSocial and the Suncor Energy Foundation.

Two weeks later, it introduced the app to the current boot camp class in Waterloo Region.

The app sits on an e-learning platform developed by Waterloo, Ont.-based Axonify, whose list of clients includes Walmart and Toys-R-Us. Capacity is Axonify’s first training-app partner from the charitable sector.

Axonify uses brain science to model training around short packets of questions that can be answered anywhere, anytime, through an app on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

In Capacity’s case, trainees might be asked what constitutes conflict of interest, or who has the responsibility for reviewing the performance of the executive director.
Questions repeat later in the training cycle to reinforce learning. And the process is gamified: trainees can track how their colleagues are doing and have a little friendly competition within the same module.

Boyd said she found the repetition valuable, even when she incorrectly answered questions on the second round that she got right on the first.

“It forces me to pay more attention; otherwise I get frustrated with myself,” she said.
Capacity held its first Manulife-sponsored governance boot camp for leaders of not-for-profits— board chairs and top administrators — in 2009.

The March session follows-up on the two-day session that begins the program in November. Participants return to talk about how they applied the lessons learned in November to the challenges their organizations face.

This year’s class worked with Capacity’s Lynn Randall and two other boot-camp faculty: Alex Brown and Vivian Zochowski, board members of Social Venture Partners Waterloo Region and Carizon, respectively.

The challenges the organizations face include a rebranding and name change, planning for the departure of a long-time administrator and getting board members more engaged in their meetings.

To keep board members in stride with tasks that need to get done, one organization “calendarizes” the workload.

These are not minor issues in an environment where non-profits face greater scrutiny from funders and the public, said Fred Galloway, the boot camp’s lead governance expert. The expectations placed on boards are growing, added.

Capacity returns to Alberta next month for the graduation of the first Fort McMurray boot camp cohort. In May, Capacity and Community Sector Council Newfoundland and Labrador host a governance boot camp in St. John’s.

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