CSM-STAND launches Spark, a learning space supporting democracy, human rights and governance

October 11, 2022
Credit: Aga Khan Foundation

With more than 126 learning resources in 10 languages, the USAID-funded Civil Society and Media Strengthened Together and Advancing in New Directions (CSM-STAND) programs are proud to launch Spark, a space for practice, action, research and knowledge. Spark is an online learning space for civil society, media and others supporting the promotion of democracy, human rights and governance (DRG).

Learning resources available through Spark are developed by and for civil society and media institutions, networks and coalitions. Civil society and media organizations visiting Spark will find engaging adult-learner focused content related to accountability and anticorruption, advocacy and policy reform, civic engagement, combating information pollution, inclusive development, institutional strengthening, media and journalistic development, and monitoring and evaluation.

“Designing Spark with and for global civil society and media leaders is at the heart of our process of ensuring local organizations have free access to high-quality learning content,” says Rachel DuBois, CSM-STAND’s Digital Learning Advisor. “Spark is the product of 19 organizations and dozens of individuals collaborating in an iterative process to find solutions to real challenges faced by CSOs and media in accessing and sharing learning resources globally.”

To date, nine organizations have contributed their resources, including the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), Arab Network for Civic Education, Fundación Gabo, International Center for Non-Profit Law, IREX, Pact, Samir Kassir Foundation, Sonke Gender Justice and West Africa Civil Society Institute. Spark will continue to grow its offerings of video and blended learning courses, publications, informational videos, podcasts and recorded webinars, as well as continuing to diversify its offerings in a variety of languages. Currently learning resources can be found on Spark in Albanian, Arabic, Bahasa, English, French, Georgian, Macedonian, Portuguese, Russian, Somali and Spanish.

"Spark is built on the premise that local actors have a wealth of capacity to share with others facing similar development challenges," says Milica Panic, Pact’s Chief of Party for CSM-STAND in the Africa and MENA Region. "The beauty of Spark is that it connects local actors across geographies and languages for knowledge exchange."

Spark is funded by USAID under the CSM-STAND programs and built upon a learning management system (LMS) gifted to the programs by AKF. All resources on Spark are accessible and free of charge, including a growing library of more than 80 publications, 40 video and blended courses, 8 informational videos, and webinars.

The model for Spark’s engaging user-friendly interface is rooted in AKF’s experience of collaboratively designing adult learning solutions with civil society actors in Mozambique where a human-centered design process led to AKF’s first iterations of video and blended learning curriculum as well as a custom-built LMS. Later, through a collaborative, learning and adapting (CLA) approach AKF adjusted its process to designing and disseminating technology-based learning solutions in other locations including Egypt, India, Kenya, the Kyrgyz Republic and Portugal and used learner feedback to re-design an LMS used globally by the Foundation, The Learning Hub.

The CSM-STAND team built on AKF’s experience and data to build Spark. More than 13 organizations across the globe provided input into Spark’s aesthetics and functionality, ensuring the choices remained cost-efficient while meeting the needs of its target users – local civil society and media facing a lack of affordable and engaging learning opportunities.

CSM-STAND is two five-year Leader with Associate awards aimed at fostering independent civic forces; enhancing civic engagement; and building vibrant, resilient and self-reliant civil society and media sectors that cultivate more pluralistic, democratic societies. CSM-STAND is managed by Pact, who co-leads a diverse consortium of 19 global, regional and technical partners with IREX, who will be engaged in continuing to grow resources available through Spark.