Everyone aspiring to foster change envisions a better Indonesia, and civil society organizations (CSOs) serve as key instruments in realizing this vision, one of which is by providing checks and balances for the country. According to the SMERU database
, Indonesia currently hosts 1,648 CSOs across various sectors, all sharing a common goal: instigating change and establishing sustainable organizations. The attainment of these objectives hinges on effective communication, which is crucial for garnering support from the community and other institutions.
Donors and CSOs that realize the lack of effective communication skills in CSOs have spent years spending time and budget on capacity-building programs designed to address this gap. However, there are concerns about whether the conventional training approach received by these organizations yields significant progress. In numerous instances, CSOs struggle to apply the lessons learned through capacity building, evidenced in public outreach campaigns that frequently fall short despite the considerable time and energy invested by the CSOs.
There is also the distance challenge, as many CSOs are based outside Jakarta. COVID-19 has prompted a shift towards online training, and we now realize that this platform allows us to reach as many participants as possible. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of this model is questioned, given that most asynchronous and self-paced online-based courses typically only boast a 7-13% completion rate. But there is hope: recent research about hybrid learning in college campuses has demonstrated that the learning model could boost the completion rate from 53,3 to 80%.
This realization prompted Yayasan Bahana to initiate Suluh Penggugah —an audacious experiment to cultivate a proficient and inquisitive communication tribe within CSOs— in 2023. The initiative has shown promising results thus far.The will to upskill comes from within the individuals
Suluh Penggugah is designed to function like a dojo:
it is both a training ground and a community of practitioners and lifetime learners of social change communication.
As with any community, Suluh Penggugah thrives on a strong sense of belonging, a sentiment that would be jeopardized if it was perceived as a mere "task from the donor" by participants. In contrast to the conventional training approach, Suluh drove individuals (read: staff of CSOs) to voluntarily register for the program, choosing to be part of it rather than being mandated. This self-driven approach attracted individuals who were genuinely interested in the opportunity. We wanted to reinforce the idea that membership in the learning community is earned, not to be taken for granted.
Furthermore, in Suluh Penggugah we disclosed the tuition fees, but CSO staff who registered knew they were eligible to receive a full scholarship. This transparency regarding the cost of education aimed to underscore the value of the classes to the students.
Lastly, because a sense of belonging is crucial in this community of practitioners, we designed the program to be cohort-based. In cohort-based learning, a group of learners takes a series of courses together. They have the same schedule and must meet the same deadlines. The goal is to connect the learners and keep them motivated to complete the learning in a scheduled time and not lag.The three acts of learning: to meet, to learn, and to graduate to something bigger
Following the selection process, chosen participants who received the scholarship were invited to join two in-person introductory classes. This “onboarding” session was facilitated by both the Bahana Foundation and Roemah Inspirit (Roemi). Bahana and Roemi leveraged their distinct expertise: Roemi focused on fostering a bond among the participants and setting them to receptive mindsets for learning through various team-building activities. At the same time, Bahana taught classes to the groups on better brainstorming techniques and the fundamentals of messaging.
In the onboarding session, participants were organized into small groups, bringing together communication staff from different organizations, many of whom were previously unacquainted. This group-based learning approach compelled students to collaborate with individuals of diverse backgrounds, fostering the development of bonds among them.
Subsequently, participants engaged in a series of self-paced online classes. In this online phase, participants could choose one of these classes: Data Storytelling or Effective Presentation, with Story of Change as an optional class and "Writing 101" as a supplementary class. In three of these four classes, students could engage in online discussions with instructors, offering flexibility in both scheduling and promoting individual responsibility during study sessions.
Upon completing the online classes, participants were invited to participate in the in-person intermediate class—a gathering akin to a "reunion" for those initially meeting in the onboarding class three months earlier. Participants could choose one class between Campaign for Social Change or Brand Building for Non-Profit Organizations.
In the end, we threw a happy celebration for participants who completed the course. We wanted to end the learning journey on a high note and mark the beginning of real friendships.As with any journey, some faltered, but most pushed through to the end
Suluh Penggugah received high enthusiasm from the beginning. We initiated this program by extending invitations to 172 organizations that are the grantees of the Ford Foundation, along with an open invitation to the grantees of Luminate and other CSO staff. This process resulted in 101 registrants from the Ford Foundation grantees and 51 registrants outside. Ultimately, after the selection process, Suluh Penggugah enrolled 76 participants.
The bond established during the onboarding session persisted and could be beneficial during asynchronous classes. Students actively reached out to each other to discuss how to complete their assignments, exchange notes, and share lessons. This suggests that investing in that session to cultivate a sense of belonging gave a good return.
However, it was unsurprising to discover a gradual decline in participants' enthusiasm over time.