About ComSkills Ukraine

International Communication Skills Digital DiplomacyAbout ComSkills Ukraine – why was Comskills created?  In February 2019 and October 2019. the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) external training company Caroline Black & Associates, who design and deliver the International Communication Skills (ICS) and Digital Diplomacy (DD) training courses for the FCO, came to Kyiv to offer these courses to Ukrainian MFA diplomats.

The training had been arranged and organised by Matt Sinclair from the British Embassy in Kyiv and Dr Sergiy Korsunsky, the Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine.  The training received extremely positive feedback at all levels, ranging from Deputy Minister, Ambassadors, Directors of Departments – through to Third Secretaries.

Here’s an example of how the in-person training assisted delegates.

@KaterynaZelenko  Kateryna is the official Ukrainian MFA Spokesperson and is responsible for communicating key MFA messages to journalists and stakeholders worldwide. Her challenge is to grow influence and engagement with journalists who may be residing in locations such as Paris, Tel Aviv, Brussels, Washington, and London.

To assist Kateryna with this process, we started by optimising her Twitter profile.

International Communication Skills Digital Diplomacy ICS

Optimising her Twitter profile included:

  • Choosing hi-res and strong imagery for her banner picture
  • A professional, reliable but empathetic profile picture
  • Ukrainian flag emoji added to profile
  • Mother emoji to humanise her
  • Links to MFA website in the profile
  • Creation of a Periscope channel to allow live video broadcasts directly into her Twitter account

The Periscope app was added on Kateryna’s mobile device and connected to her Twitter account. The settings for Periscope are configured so when Kateryna does a live Periscope; her followers receive real-time notification of the broadcast.

Before using Periscope, Kateryna started identifying and following more relevant journalists, stakeholders, and related influencers – many of these will follow her back. By using this approach, when Kateryna starts to use Periscope, more journalists will be notified to watch her live message.

Evaluation report and feedback on the training

The evaluation and feedback report following the training highlighted repeated themes, with some specific comments, including:

  • Unanimous requests to bring the International Communication Skills course back to Kyiv in FY 2019/20
  • We should increase capacity on Digital Diplomacy, which is a greenfield site for MFA staff and ever more relevant in this digital age
  • We should explore scalable training options (modules/online/videos), meaning that training can cascade to the network of people who can’t be physically present in Kyiv for in-person training

Matt Sinclair and Caroline Black & Associates discussed the feedback. They explored how a potential combination of in-person training and access to an online e-learning version of the International Communication Skills and Digital Diplomacy training courses could be delivered. A technical feasibility study confirmed that a video e-learning service would enhance the cost-effectiveness, scalability, and impact of the training. For example, Twitter training for Kateryna could be a video e-learning lesson. Ukrainian diplomats worldwide could learn best-practice digital diplomacy techniques.

Digital Diplomacy video e-learning

In response to the evaluation report and the technical feasibility study, Caroline Black & Associates created a prototype version of an e-learning service to test and evaluate its capability to deliver against a list of key requirements, including:

  • Rapidly upskilling MFA diplomats, policymakers & communications staff in strategic communication and digital diplomacy
  • Giving participants the tools and skills they need to deliver proactive, high-quality communications – internal & external
  • Basing all content on recognised best practice, as defined by the international Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the UK’s Government Communication Service (GCS), the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC)
  • Aligning with the strategic aims of President Zelensky – who wants increased investment in human talent
  • Allowing 24/7 accessibility – e-learning can be made accessible to all Ukrainian diplomats globally and on any device. (This enables participants to learn a subject at their own pace at home, in the office or while travelling. Also, unlike classroom training, e-learning ensures fast learners can complete their training sooner and slower learners, particularly those with a fear of tech, can learn at their own pace with reduced intimidation. This is a particular benefit to the MFA as it has a mix of millennials and baby boomers in the workforce)
  • Improve productivity – with e-learning. It is possible to train diplomats from all operational regions and save the time used for travelling to attend classroom-based training. ComSkills Ukraine offers over 40 x 20-minute  e-learning videos focused on learning practical skills, improving competence and increasing productivity
  • Reducing costs – The MFA incurs high costs and operational disruption through conventional learning methods. Video e-learning enables an end to these costs and disruptions
  • Can the e-learning service be low-cost, easy to update and agile – can it use open-source software, free or low-cost tools, scalable cloud services, can it be fast and secure

About ComSkills Ukraine – What about the course content?

The UK FCO has been running its International Communication Skills (ICS) course for many years. Delivered in-house, by a team of external experts from Caroline Black & Associates, the training is five days long and covers a wide range of communication disciplines, including:

  • Strategic communication – using OASIS
  • Research and audience insight
  • Monitoring and measuring campaign effectiveness
  • Creating content – writing well, SEO, photos, memes, video
  • Working with journalists and media training
  • Creative and compelling campaigns
  • Internal communications
  • Branding and marketing

Digital Diplomacy International Communication SkillsThe course is accredited by the CIPR and Chartered Institute of Marketing. The course is mandatory for all HMG staff working in communications roles overseas (this includes UK civil servants, FCO, and other departments, plus local staff, press officers, etc.). The course is widely regarded as the FCO’s flagship course, ‘best-in-class’ for its type, within the government. It is carefully tailored to those delivering communications in an international context, focusing on the challenges and opportunities faced in that demanding context.

The UK Foreign Office has also been running its Digital Diplomacy course for many years. This two-day course runs immediately after the ICS course by digital external experts from Caroline Black & Associates.

The course covers best-practice use of social media and digital tools to achieve diplomatic excellence and enhance communications. In recent independent surveys on Digital Diplomacy, the FCO was ranked either 1st or 2nd compared to 234 other MFA’s.

digital diplomacy review FCO 1st
Both the International Communication Skills and Digital Diplomacy courses achieve very high delegate evaluation scores.

The e-learning service for MFA Ukraine takes subjects covered on both the ICS and Digital Diplomacy courses. It has transformed them into a library of over 40 x 20-minute videos that will rapidly upskill Ukrainian diplomats in best-practice strategic communication and digital diplomacy skills.

The technical element of the service uses cloud computing, open-source software, and agile development methods. The videos were created using screen-capture software (popular among video gamers) to record the expert trainers transforming animated PowerPoints and other content from the ICS and Digital Diplomacy training courses into MP4 video files.

The video e-learning service uses agile development methodologies and open-source software to achieve a low-cost, very easy-to-use, fast and fully mobile-responsive user experience.

The technical design and delivery of the project are managed by Andy Black and Mark Millmore, who are approved G-Cloud 12 suppliers of cloud computing services to the UK Government. They deliver low-cost, agile, and award-winning cloud services that are transforming local government. – including video e-learning services.

About ComSkills Ukraine. A Ukrainian version of the service with website text in Ukrainian and the videos with subtitles is currently in development and will be available soon.

Creating video e-learning training is innovative and forward-thinking. The leading Tech analyst Dion Hinchcliffe recently said:

comskills ukraine diplomat using video elearning
Video e-learning allows new skills to be quickly applied for work

Video has also become a major player in enabling what is known as ‘microlearning ‘, often via short clips that can be created and shared in learning communities, and then discussed. Consuming these videos on mobile devices on demand when needed is another notable trend. The early numbers from social learning make interesting reading. Initial studies have shown that there’s as much as a 75:1 return-on-investment (ROI) ratio for the approach compared to traditional web-based education. As a result of such insights, this year fully 73 per cent of organisations are planning on increasing their investments in social learning.”

The single most valuable asset an MFA has is its diplomats. New forms of digital learning are making it possible for diplomats to stay relevant, build skills, and achieve diplomatic excellence.

By turning the highly regarded FCO ICS and Digital Diplomacy courses into an in-person and video e-learning training experience, the UK Government is helping Ukrainian diplomats improve and enhance their strategic communication capabilities. ComSkills Ukraine is a highly scalable cloud service that can be easily rolled out across multiple Ukrainian government departments, including defence, energy, and security.