Teaching humanitarian leadership in France & West Africa with Sophie Perreard
19
JUL, 2019
Teaching & Learning
International Collaboration
Humanitarian Leadership
Francophone
Good Practice
By Sophie Perreard, Senior Lecturer in Humanitarian Studies and Course Director of the Francophone Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership, co-founder of the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership in the Faculty of Arts and Education and former Course Director of the Anglophone Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership.

As a pracademic with over 13 years of experience in the humanitarian sector and 7 years in academia, Sophie brings together academic rigor and skills, humanitarian and leadership expertise, and experience working cross culturally.

As I just returned from the second residential unit which took place on the outskirt of Paris, I reflected on the privilege I have to be part of the students’ transformative journey. It is so rewarding when you receive messages from students whose day to day work is to assist others and they tell you how:

It was more than a course, it was a real human experience”.

Through this course they have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills while working on their academic learning.  They embrace the challenge of combining academic studies and day-to -day work in the most difficult and stressful environments such as in Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, or Democratic Republic of Congo, where they have to respond to some of the most complex humanitarian crises.

 “Be yourself… more … with skill…” (Goffee R E; Jones G) and “Trust the process” are the two dictums of the 8-month francophone Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership delivered in partnership with Action Contre la Faim (ACF), one of the largest French humanitarian NGOs. This post-graduate course which started in 2017, is unique as it is taught entirely in French, delivered in partnership with aid industry organisations and funded (2 million USD) by The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for 4 iterations until 2021. Most importantly, all the students are aid workers mainly from West and Central Africa with at least five years’ experience in the sector and three in senior management or leadership positions.  The average age of the current cohort is 40 years old and for all of them it is the first time they have the opportunity to study in an Australian university, using an online platform like DeakinSync and an adult learning approach (andragogy) to teaching through the use of simulation exercises.

 

Above: Video from the GCHLF program in France.

The content of the GCHLF is innovative and engaging, bringing together the best of humanitarian practitioner experience and university academic rigor.

It is a fully scaffolded course, capitalizing on experience, feedback from students, graduates and partners and constantly integrating them in the course content. The GCHLF consists of four units, two cloud-based units and two intensive located learning of seven and eight days respectively: first one is in Paris, France and the second in Senegal, West Africa.

The initial discussions about designing this course came from requests from bilingual francophone students and NGOs who took part in, or engaged with, the GCHL (anglophone course) who highlighted the need to have this implemented specifically for West and Central Africa and other predominantly francophone regions.

As we are now in the second iteration, we can observe a more powerful impact on francophone students than the anglophone course, which requires further research that I will carry out in the coming months. I’ve adapted my T&L approaches used in the English courses to a francophone audience, contextualised in a humanitarian response to crises in West and Central Africa.

A key to its success is the course can be improved and for this I take on board all the feedback I receive from students, graduates, partners and other supporters of this adventure. The aim being to make the GCHLF the most engaging and impactful course as possible! Many graduates want to contribute to the course and offer to come on their holiday to join as faculty members during the residential units but also join as guest speakers online.

Above: Images from the GCHLF program in France

Some of the most powerful tools used in the course are coaching and mentoring, reflective journals, peer-to-peer feedback, simulation exercises both online and in residential field work.

One of the greatest strengths of this course for me has been developing meaningful and genuine partnerships across the university, as well as with organisations such as Action contre la Faim, Save the Children, World Vision and many others who have and continue to contribute so much to what it is today.

It is a transformative journey for all involved, not least myself.

As envisaged by this quote received following the residential unit in Paris.

“My sincere and true thank you. Even though I realize that I still have a lot to learn and that the path of the humanitarian leadership is a long one. Honestly, this course is more than a qualification, it’s a passion, an apprenticeship, a way to help one live more fully …”

Above: Images from the GCHLF program in France

Some of the most powerful tools used in the course are coaching and mentoring, reflective journals, peer-to-peer feedback, simulation exercises both online and in residential field work.

One of the greatest strengths of this course for me has been developing meaningful and genuine partnerships across the university, as well as with organisations such as Action contre la Faim, Save the Children, World Vision and many others who have and continue to contribute so much to what it is today.

It is a transformative journey for all involved, not least myself.

As envisaged by this quote received from a student following the residential unit in Paris.

“My sincere and true thank you. Even though I realize that I still have a lot to learn and that the path of the humanitarian leadership is a long one. Honestly, this course is more than a qualification, it’s a passion, an apprenticeship, a way to help one live more fully …”

A message from the editor: here at DTeach we encourage all to ask questions to our contributors – so feel free to leave a comment or question for us or Sophie below (only available to Deakin staff).

Some Useful Resources

For more on the Francophone project or the various humanitarian aid ventures here at deakin visit the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership.

Want new articles before they get published? Subscribe to our DTeach Newsletter.