Technical assistance is a core component of international development and relief programs. Remote technical assistance (TA) is a way to keep a roster of experts and fresh ideas close at hand, without the need for travel.
Remote TA enables users to tap into more potential experts, faster, more efficiently, from anywhere in the world. It enables the delivery of assistance through a medium that permits rich collaboration and captures data that helps measure and improve effectiveness. Your organization can build and engage an expert network without ever leaving your home or office. In these rapidly changing times, remote TA is even more valuable than ever.
Here are five ways remote technical assistance can help your organization continue its missions during a pandemic.
1. Cost-efficient local expertise
Finding expertise in the regions you serve can be challenging and costly. Travel expenses, recruiting costs and long timelines can severely impact budgets.
Remote technical assistance eliminates the need for travel and enables you to continue your important aid work. Done right, remote TA can also save a lot on what are traditionally expensive consulting engagements, using an on-demand model.
2. Ability to Scale
Some projects, for example those supporting the development of a large number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), provide technical assistance to a wide range of firms spanning different sectors and stages of growth. Finding experts to cover the specific individual needs of a broad range of companies is challenging and time-consuming.
Remote TA provides the ability to tap into a vast pool of specialized complementary expertise for micro-targeting on a larger scale.
3. Enables remote learning modalities
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the need for remote learning modalities. The concept of remote TA is the answer to this sudden increase in need.
Since the objective of TA is to increase recipients’ knowledge and skills, research on the impact of virtual versus in-person instruction on learning outcomes is particularly relevant to assessing the effectiveness of remote TA. A meta-analysis of online learning studies found no evidence of negative effects of virtual education on learning, but rather equivalent quality and higher productivity. Done well, remote TA has an opportunity to expand access to knowledge without compromising quality.
It addresses many of the shortfalls previously mentioned and can become an important supplement to, and in a few cases, a substitute for, traditional TA. During a pandemic, it allows for missions and people to continue to receive the training and information they need.
4. Ability to measure the effectiveness
With traditional TA, measuring effectiveness is complicated by the variability of TA inputs. Metrics on the number of workshops, meetings, etc. do not capture the nuances of what advice, information, or training was given by whom; yet this level of detail is often required to link investments to outcomes.
With a remote TA model, from their local headquarters or even home offices, all meetings and intelligence are captured by the organization for their use on current and future projects. It’s easy to report on findings and connect the value of these learnings to project outcomes.
5. Strengthening local partnerships
In line with USAID Forward, remote experts can be used to strengthen relationships with local partners such as NGOs, government ministries, or service providers so that they can better serve their clients. Building the capacity of these entities enables them to benefit more end-users, thus contributing to scaling up impact.