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Rule of Law Training Moves Online

14 September 2020

The Matra Rule of Law Training Programme is designed to strengthen institutional capacity in the field of rule of law within government organisations in Albania, Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine. To this end, seven training programmes are offered per year, each introducing the participants to best practices in a wide range of rule of law themes.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent travel bans, the training has moved fully online. Read on in this interview with Programme Officer Marco Lambooij about the challenges and opportunities faced by the ROLT team in successfully adapting to the new, fully online environment.

Please also note applications are currently open for the following training:

  • Decentralisation and Citizen Participation
    Click here to apply (deadline September 20, 23:59)
NHC Executive Director Pepijn Gerrits recording content for an online training module

Interviewer: Could you tell us a bit about the Decentralization and Citizen Participation training coming up in November?

Marco: The training on the topic of Decentralization and Citizen Participation offers a unique look into the relationship between the Dutch government and its citizens. We delve into the complexities of this type of cooperation, and show examples of what neighborhoods and municipalities do to improve living conditions or solve societal problems. We hope to inspire civil servants to bring decision-making processes closer to the citizens, thus improving transparent and inclusive governance. You are nowhere without the right tools, so we also offer a training in Change Management and request the participants to work on an Action Plan they can implement within their own institutions. Finally, after successfully completing this course, the participants become MaTra RoLT Alumni and are invited to join an international conference in 2021 to present the progress of their Action Plans.

Decentralization and Citizen Participation offers a unique look into the relationship between the Dutch government and its citizens. We delve into the complexities of this type of cooperation, and show examples of what neighborhoods and municipalities do to improve living conditions or solve societal problems.

Interviewer: (How) Does the online version differ to what was offered in previous years?

Marco: It definitely differs from previous years – hopefully in a good way! We have developed the training to be very accessible for civil servants with a busy schedule. We upload content at the beginning of the week, allowing participants time to work through it and submit their assignments by the end of the week. As a participant, you can now watch the content at home, at work, or whenever it suits you. This new style of training also allows us to give more attention to each individual participant. The trainers, experts and programme staff have the time to follow your progress, give individual feedback and respond to questions. Obviously we cannot welcome participants to the Hague this year, but they will all be invited to the Alumni Days in 2021 where we hope to meet and have a chance to network  in person.

This new style of training also allows us to give more attention to each individual participant.

Interviewer: What are the challenges concerning online trainings?

Marco: One of the elements I like most about the MaTra Rule of Law Training programme is meeting all the participants in person. I have met so many inspiring and ambitious civil servants over the years – it’s why I love my job. One of the challenges is making this meaningful connection online, but I hope we have incorporated as many tools as possible in the training for the participants to be able to foster new relationships in a digital environment.

Of course the time and energy we spent on moving an entire training programme online was quite challenging! But I think the team did a great job improving the programme so it now fits the modern 2020 standards.

I have met so many inspiring and ambitious civil servants over the years – it’s why I love my job.

Interviewer: Are the challenges of an online training very different from your usual challenges?

Marco: Luckily the participants are usually very good at networking with each other! For me that is never a big concern. But indeed the preparations for an online training are very different from am in person training. For example, we do not have to buy airlines tickets, or arrange for international travel insurances. Visas are not an issue now either, since everyone joins online. But for online training it is important that we video record lectures, and for that our experts have to write a script and stand in front of a camera. This comes with its own set of challenges! It can be very intimidating, and takes some getting used to as there is no audience! And there are logistical challenges you normally don’t have to think about. Did you know that the lamps we use for video recording are quite warm? And that you cannot wear something with stripes or busy patterns because that distorts the video? This was news to us as well, but luckily our production team is very patient and helpful, and with their assistance we have created high quality content. And I am very grateful that we have been able to enlist the support of interesting and patient speakers that want to join us on this journey.

…our production team is very patient and helpful, and with their assistance we have created high quality content.

Interviewer: Can you highlight a particularly innovative and exciting aspect of online training?

Marco: Aside from the a new learning platform, we have chosen to switch to a problem-based learning approach. In doing so, the participants will be able to use their own experience to solve problems presented by the speakers. By getting individual feedback, or feedback from peers, your learning experience as a participant is more personal. Instead of sitting in a room listening to a speaker, you will be asked to apply your new knowledge actively in assignments.

Aside from the a new learning platform, we have chosen to switch to a problem-based learning approach. In doing so, the participants will be able to use their own experience to solve problems presented by the speakers.

Interviewer: What’s next for ROLT online? 

I can definitely see how we might use more online elements in future trainings. We are finding out that it is a great way to learn and exchange knowledge and skills. In the future we might allow participants access to an online learning platform, before they travel to the Netherlands for example. We are also building our own capacity for future online trainings, with an eye to continually improve the (production) value of our content. Many things remain uncertain for the future, but right now we feel that we are providing the participants with a practical, high-quality, COVID-19 proof training.

I can definitely see how we might use more online elements in future trainings.

Marco Lambooij from NHC coordinating one of the recording days

The Matra Rule of Law Training Programme is designed and delivered by the Netherlands Helsinki Committee, Leiden Law School, and The Hague Academy for Local Governance. It is financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, for a period of four years (2017- 2020).  For questions relating to the Matra Rule of Law Training Programme or application process please email: Matrarolt (AT) nhc (DOT) nl.