The Boys & Girls Clubs of America trains staff and volunteers at 4,300 local clubs reaching more than four million young people. Director of Learning Design Yvette Francis explains how learning advances the organization's mission and impacts lives.
Whether you influence learning at a non-profit or for-profit organization, these takeaways from Yvette Francis will help.
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Learn more about how you can get involved with The Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
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Announcer 1: [00:00:00] This is Powered by Learning, a podcast designed for learning leaders to hear the latest approaches to creating learning experiences that engage learners and achieve improved performance for individuals and organizations.
Announcer 2: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.
Susan Cort: Hello and welcome to Powered By Learning. I'm your host, Susan Court, and today I'm joined by d'Vinci CEO Luke Kempski and our guest, Yvette Francis, Director of Learning Design at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The Boys and Girls Clubs of America is a national organization of local chapters that provide voluntary afterschool programs for young people. [00:01:00] We're going to talk with Yvette about the challenges and opportunities of learning in the nonprofit world. Great to see you again, Yvette.
Luke Kempski: So glad you could join us.
Yvette Francis: Thank you. I'm excited to be here with you all today.
Susan: Oh, great. Why don't you start out by telling our listeners a little bit about your background?
Yvette: Absolutely. I always start off by telling people I grew up in learning and development. My entire career has spanned in L&D. I've had almost every role there is. Even if it wasn't in my title, I've done it because I was a generalist for 10 years. But I sat in on a customer service class a long time ago and saw a-- to this day still friend of mine, facilitating a class and fell in love with learning and development and knew that I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.
I started out as a learning administrator, which was solely responsible for an LMS and new employee on-boarding. I worked my way up from there [00:02:00] and have been an instructional designer, a facilitator, a learning consultant, and now I am the Director of Learning at Boys and Girls Clubs of America, where my title is Learning Design, but it's still broadly-- my scope is still Learning and Development.
Luke: Yes, it's an integration of all the things that you've had in your background prior, so it's kind of a perfect fit. If you could talk about the mission of the Boys and Girls Clubs and how the work that you're doing in learning and design can help advance that mission?
Yvette: Absolutely. I started out in corporate and then went to higher education and now in the nonprofit sector. I would say that the mission at Boys and Girls Clubs of America is what initially attracted me. Our mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Doesn't that give you the warm and fuzzy? [00:03:00] I love it.
Yvette: When I was looking for a new opportunity, I was like, "Oh wow, nonprofit sector, never worked there before, never have been in that space. What would that be like?" I think what really drew me in, besides of course, that it was a role that I felt like I could do really well, was what the mission is and what's behind it, and the fact that it says in the mission, "Especially those young people that need us most." And so that's how we ground all of our learning. Everything is grounded in the mission.
Luke: Excellent. Boys and Girls Clubs is a pretty significant organization. What, 4,300 local clubs serving over 4 million young people? Wow. Can you talk a little about how you reach all those local clubs and getting them to see the value in investing their time in training?
Yvette: It's a work in progress. Is the short answer. The long answer, so my tenure at Boys and Girls Clubs has been short, [00:04:00] it's been four months here. But it's been quite a journey thus far. I share that to say that there are so many possibilities and things to come, but in my time thus far, I would say that what we're trying to do, just like any organization I've worked in the past, is foster relationships.
Start with relationships, understanding that every single club is different, and really positioning ourselves as a support for the clubs and service to the clubs, wanting to provide service excellence as often as we can, and really understanding the dynamics of the club and how we can provide support for them. Again, because we always go back to our mission, we all want the same things.
Even when it seems-- we could in some ways be seen like Big Brother, Big Sister kind of thing, which we're not right, but I heard in my short time here that that's the belief for some. And so, just kind of dispelling that. [00:05:00] That's not the truth, we're here to support, we're all here for the mission and we want to see you succeed. That's really what we're trying to do. Build relationships, visit clubs, understand how the clubs are run, get out there and go to regional conferences, national conference when possible.
Again, fostering more relationships, speaking with CEOs, our DODs, just really being visible, having that visibility. I don't think that that is any different than I have done in any other organization. I think here, we just speak that common language of that mission at the end of the day, what's best for our youth?
Luke: No doubt those connections are so important and building those relationships. I know that when it comes to connecting with those local clubs, are they required or mandated to take the training or is it all voluntary or some mixture of both?
Yvette: The short answer and then the long answer. It's complicated. The most important [00:06:00] thing for us always grounded in our mission is the safety of our youth. With that being said, there are requirements, but in order to make clubs be held responsible to them, it takes them time to plan. My understanding is that we are planning towards 2024, around that timeframe where there'll be some kind of like responsibility held, I don't want to say mandate, but there'll be some level of accountability around certain requirements.
But to this day, I think we're working together, understanding that they're just lots of nuances to having tons of young people gathered in one place, and also recognizing the importance of education around safety and inclusion and trauma-informed, and all those different practices that we have. And so I believe that that's what the organization largely is working towards.
Luke: No doubt. That sounds good. I would imagine with all those clubs and like you mentioned, safety issues, [00:07:00] there must be so much need for training. How are you sorting through all the need and prioritizing and figuring out where to put your attention first?
Yvette: Absolutely. It's the million dollar question, for a learning and development professional, how do you prioritize and how do you find, identify what's going to have the most impact for your audience? I think what we're trying to do is balance between, and I say me and my team members, what we're trying to do is balance between what the organization identifies as priorities, what we know as practitioners, as important and impactful, and with the club staff, and I guess feel what they need as well. I think it's a combination of all three of those things, always guided and what the organization identifies as our priorities.
We have a Bright Futures plan, so there's lots of [00:08:00] strategy work, of course that's been done. We have-- our goals cascade down naturally, and all that is great. But then also, we know, at least I know as a practitioner, that there are certain things about learning and development that are ever-changing, that are emerging. I'm very interested in virtual reality and how we can leverage that. Just really understanding-- a lot of people use the buzzword micro-learning, but what does that really mean and how can we really make it impactful, will people actually do it? Because they're certainly not doing these two hour, four hour trainings.
So how do we meet somewhere in the middle? I think all those things. The L&D practitioner kind of lends-- then of course, we can have from an organizational standpoint, what we think as priorities from our most senior leaders in the organization. It's grounded in a lot of different things. Certainly very thought out, but then also what's the reality at the clubs? I think what's wonderful is that our most senior leaders in the organization are in touch with that. [00:09:00] They're concerned with that.
I think that there's a nice bridge between what the organization says is our priority and what's happening in the field, but there's always opportunities to learn and bridge that gap further. We love to be seen as the people that bridge the gap, through learning, through celebrating learning, having learning happen for our staff first, then allows it to trickle down to our members, our club members. Because that's what we want to do, at least today, but again, it's ever-changing. So you have to be present with the current trends and what's happening and what's affecting our youth, what's happening in the world. It's just so many factors, but it's all really good data.
Luke: Yes. I can imagine that you would have a combination of existing learning available for the clubs and then also new things that you want to pursue. How are you handling the existing programs that are in place to make sure that they stay relevant and to be able to assess the value of them [00:10:00] in addition to thinking about what's going to be developed next?
Yvette: We're doing an overhaul of all of the trainings that we have out there on our learning management system and this organization that we're partnering with is really taking a deep dive from their lens, so obviously we have to come in behind them, but it's a great first step. They look at all of our content, they are categorizing the content based on relevancy. Is it outdated? Is it properly timed? All the things you think about as an instructional designer, they're doing that, taking a first pass at it and then we come behind them so it's in progress right now.
It's a really great question because we're going to not only overhaul our learning management system so it has a better look and feel when our customers come in to use the learning management system, it's going to be much more intuitive, so that's going to be a great thing. They come in, they naturally know how to progress. It's going to be categorized in a way that makes sense [00:11:00] to them so they can find learning and not have to go on a long journey filled with-- ultimately give up but that's just one part of the pie.
The other piece of it is that we need to be able to have what they're looking for to be quality so we're taking our time in doing that. Of course, we have legacy programs, legacy content that will likely stay, but there'll be some attention given to it, and so we're sorting through all of that now, which is a really fun project. That's kind of like what's already there. As far as what's to come, I think it's really just thinking about what do our youth need, what do they need? What do the club members need? What is happening in the world? What's pressing issues that are they're facing, and how can we be proactive about that? Really thinking about how we can proactively have resources to anticipate what might be coming.
Luke: Yes. It sounds really getting your arms around a lot of different, both existing and new, both ideas for content and then also existing content and solutions [00:12:00] and looking at what's new. Are there any ways that you're looking at piloting new approaches? You mentioned micro learning and VR, are there any-- thinking about in terms of ways to pilot that so that can be part of your future as well?
Yvette: Oh, man. I have all kinds of schemes and platform ideas that I'm playing around with. We're piloting when necessary, of course, just probably far more traditional approaches instructor-led learning and things of that sort. I think as we continue to work as an organization to figure out how to navigate the ongoing pandemic, I think that we will look to 2023 for new possibilities.
In 2023, I'm already name dropping little things that I want to do, poking around and inquiring about what other departments are interested in so we can see where there could be partnerships [00:13:00], collaborations, and synergies. I imagine opportunities to do things like test outvirtual reality, micro-learning. We say we have them and we've done-- I've seen a little bit of that, but I'd love to see what that could look like, full speed and the reason why is because our clubs are so busy. They're so busy.
They're usually after school, Unless it's the summertime and I have children, so when you have kids around, it's hard, to really be thoughtful, to take a step back and sit in front of a training. I think micro-learning is the secret sauce for the way in which we get work done. The way in which we run our clubs, our operation, but I think the challenge is that you have to have really skilled instructional designers that understand how to leverage the little bit of time that you have.
I'm not saying that I have it figured out, but I'm up for the task. I think that working on that and identifying how to make a micro-learning [00:14:00]meaningful and still tied to objectives, all the things we know we have to do, make it engaging, it is quite a challenge.
Luke: I know too that a lot of organizations are challenged with trying to figure out how to evaluate the training that they have out there and some of the new ideas they have. Do you have thoughts on how you'd like to handle evaluation going forward at the Boys and Girls Clubs?
Yvette: Evaluations, measuring training learning is such a tricky topic. We all want to do it, we all want to say we've done it well, but we all know how challenging it can be to really show a correlation between learning and outcomes, learning transfer, and then getting to behavior change, which is observable and identifying who's the right person to observe that and priming them to be able to-- it's just a lot [00:15:00].
I would love to get to a place where we have a culture of learning. A culture of learning in our national organization that then spreads out to our clubs across the world where our CEOs, our DODs, all leaders in the field, understand that there's value in lifelong learning. If we can start there, then we can get to the particulars about what we're going to evaluate and what level we should evaluate it.
Luke: The vision that you're seeing in terms of the direction and where you'd like to be in a few years is really very much tied to evaluation and saying, "Hey, this is what the organization is looking for, this is the mission, and here's the kind of training that can help us get there and here's how we're going to measure it." So definitely really exciting.
Susan: You're already seeing, Yvette, a connection I bet, between the successful clubs that are engaged with your learning already, wouldn't you say?
Yvette: Absolutely, [00:16:00] and so we have a very cool way of delivering learning. We have a whole initiative for trainers, and then we have on my side, the content side, I'm focused on the content side. But in those conversations between those two departments, the delivery and the design development department, we talk a lot about the superstar clubs. All clubs are superstars because they're after that mission, but the clubs that have done things as it relates to learning and training and just really trying to set themselves apart in that space, they have a reputation because they get it, they understand the value, one, in first investing in their own learning.
Then the leaders at the clubs reinforce that and so that means that anyone that is brought into the clubs on staff would then have that same kind of value system. So, absolutely. I think that learning is contagious, in my mind [00:17:00] , when it's done the right way. There are so many conditions that have to be in place for people to fully engage and so it's super nuanced, but the point is that if you have the right people in the right seats. I'd like to think that me and my team we're the right people in the right seats, that we understand the value of learning and we understand how it can be directly tied to a mission or values or vision, whatever we're talking about. Then I think that the possibilities are completely endless.
Luke: Excellent. Is there anything else you would like to share before we wrap it up?
Yvette: Well, if you're looking for an opportunity, I would encourage you to visit Boys and Girls Clubs of America's website. It's an excellent organization. I've been here for four months. The organization sells itself, I don't have to sell it. But I love it here and would love [00:18:00] to partner with and work with the best L&D professionals out there or if there's any role you're interested in. Outside of that, I just am honored to be a part of this podcast and be a part of the L&D community. Again, my entire career has been in it, so it all feels full circle and it's been such a blast talking with you all today.
Luke: We certainly wish you the best of success at that.
Susan: Yes, thank you.
Yvette: Thank you. Thank you, all.
Susan: Thank you. I love how you're focused on your learners with the youth and your mission in mind always, so continued good luck to you and your team.
Yvette: Thank you.
Susan: Well, Luke,you can tell that Yvette is really ready to make some changes and evolve their training efforts.
Luke: While a nonprofit, Yvette is really-- has a lot of the same opportunities and challenges that a large franchise based enterprise like a McDonald's would have. And I don't know if you remember, we interviewed someone from Great Clips and they had those hair cuttery places all over the place, same kind of thing where, when it comes to distributing learning, there are a lot of challenges.
I know with the Boys and Girls clubs, there's 4,300 local clubs [00:19:00] and they operate pretty independently spread across the country, and what makes them different than a business though is their mission. Their mission is to help millions of young people reach their potential, and Yvette has really made that her guiding light in making decisions about learning topics and content and learning formats and distribution and evaluation.
She's driven to provide the leaders, the employees, the volunteers, and the young people at the local clubs with learning that will help young people reach their potential so it'll be fun to talk to her in the future and hear more about the progress that she's making.
Susan: Absolutely. I think she's going to make learning so exciting for all their clubs that she's going to really encourage even greater buy-in. They're so focused on their mission and I love how they tie that mission to learning. Have you seen that kind of commitment to mission with other nonprofit clients that d'Vinci works with?
Luke: Yes, no. We work with a number of really mission driven non-profits and developing their learning materials and learning experiences for different targeted populations that they have. I know SCORE is a client we've worked with for years [00:20:00] and of course, SCORE is retired executives who mentor and coach small business owners who are just starting out in different communities all across the country.
We get to see this chain of impact, where the learning experiences we develop bring additional knowledge and skills to the volunteer mentors who of course share that and become better coaches to the small business owners that they're mentoring. Of course, that's really beneficial to the communities, that those small business owners employ people and support community organizations and it kind of has that same chain of impact that they have at the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Susan: It's always great to see the work that we do making an impact on organizations. Thanks, Luke, and many thanks to Yvette Francis from the Boys and Girls Club of America for joining us today. If you have any questions about what we talked about, please reach out to us through our social channels, on our website, dvinci.com, or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Announcer 2: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. [00:21:00] For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.