Margarita Griffith is Learning Officer for the America Zone Office of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Panama. When she was given the task to promote the Humanitarian Diplomacy online diploma course (offered by the IFRC in cooperation with DiploFoundation) among the 35 National Societies of the American continent, she decided to enrol herself in order to better understand what it was all about. She felt that having attended the course herself, she would be more capable to motivate others to enrol. In addition, as someone new to the Red Cross Red Crescent (RCRC) Movement, she realised that attending the course would give her general insight into one of the core businesses of the Red Cross: humanitarian diplomacy.
Shortly after the end of the course, we asked Margarita to share her experiences and impressions.
What is your overall impression, now that you have completed the course?
The course was simply wonderful because it enabled me to really understand this complex concept of humanitarian diplomacy as it is conceptualised by the Red Cross. Also, it challenged me to focus not only on the Red Cross but also on other organisations and what they are doing in terms of humanitarian diplomacy.
Both professionally and personally, I now have a broader understanding of the humanitarian world, the fundamental laws and principles, and the different actors who are part of it. This has expanded my thinking about possible partnerships and alliances in order to strengthen my work in the Federation, and the different aspects and steps I need to consider in order to make such partnerships happen.
One of the highlights of the course was learning about the practical skills of persuasion and negotiation that every humanitarian worker should acquire, the different elements that need to be considered when doing humanitarian diplomacy, and all the ethical issues that one can face when doing humanitarian diplomacy in our modern world.
How interactive was the course? Did this interaction help you to learn?
The course interaction surpassed my expectations. Actually, after being four months in constant communication with my classmates and professors, I feel like something is missing in my daily life now that the course is over. It was wonderful to be able to log into the online platform and always being able to read some new comment, discussion, or material from which I could learn. I felt as if I was attending a face-to-face course because of the constant interaction and dynamics; but at the same time I had the flexibility to complete the assignments at my own pace.
Compared to other online courses I have taken, this course was more interactive. Also, the support and the immediate responses I got from everyone were extremely reassuring and kept me motivated throughout the whole course.
Was this method of online learning convenient for you? How easy was it to combine learning with working and other responsibilities?
The course was more demanding that I initially thought that it was going to be, but I think that it really pushed me to learn and get the best out of myself. Unlike in other online courses, in this one I actually had to study and work on my assignments. I think this was great because it was challenging and now that it is over I feel satisfied that I was able to complete it.
For me, the online group work was the best experience. I got to work in a project with people living in Africa and Europe. We would Skype each other at different times and work on writing and editing the same document. This experience made me realise how the Internet allows people to work together on the same project, even though we are physically located in different parts of the world.
What was the most valuable or useful aspect of this course for you?
The most valuable aspect of this course is that I was able to learn about these concepts of humanitarian diplomacy, persuasion, negotiation, and others from the perspective of the RCRC Movement. I was also able to learn from practical case studies of real situations that have occurred inside the Movement, as well as in other humanitarian organisations. The interaction with highly experienced professors was also extremely valuable, as well as the interaction with other classmates with vast experience in the field.
Do you think this course is relevant for humanitarian workers in the Americas?
I think this course is relevant for all humanitarian workers in the world. Of course, the discussion can be enriched if more people from the Americas will join the course. I had the privilege of participating in the same virtual classroom as my Zone Director and I was really grateful because he brought to the discussions many case studies and real event situations that have occurred in the American context, for the rest of the class to analyse.
What are the challenges in attending this course? What do you recommend to applicants to consider, before applying?
One of the challenges was time. I think that everyone who enrols in this course should consider that the course demands commitment. The other challenge that I faced was language. My native language is Spanish, and even though I have an advanced level in English, I did require help from friends at some times with proofreading my assignments before handling them over to the professors. What I found amazing is that some of my own classmates offered to help me proofreading. I think this shows how well our group bonded and the friendship that we developed. We all tried to help each other to succeed.