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Facilitating a #YALILearns Session? Here’s Advice from Someone Who Has Hosted 13
August 24, 2016

Charles Lipenga (Courtesy of Charles Lipenga)
(Courtesy of Charles Lipenga)

Whether people have heard about YALI Network Online Courses from a friend or colleague or happened to stumble upon them online, many are not only taking advantage of these free resources, but also becoming motivated to organize #YALILearns sessions and share the course materials with others.

After taking the courses himself, Charles Lipenga from Malawi became so enthusiastic about sharing what he learned, he has (so far) facilitated 13 #YALILearns sessions. Lipenga is also a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow (MWF) and chairman of the award-winning Maestros Leadership Company, which has provided scholarships to more than 1,000 needy secondary school students in his country. When we caught up with him, we asked him what drives his efforts and for advice for those looking to facilitate #YALILearns sessions themselves.

“It’s the process of gaining knowledge,” he said, and “the satisfaction of sharing that knowledge. It’s priceless for me to see that.”

Taking the courses “changed my life, and I thought, ‘What if someone else can get this knowledge?’”

Lipenga started by figuring out what kind of audience would be most suitable for the #YALILearns session he wanted to facilitate.

“For me the first thing is to have a target group. For example, do I want to target young people in primary school, or college or high school? Or maybe I want to target people who are working in the corporate world. When you have a target, you have an idea of an approach,” he said.

Lipenga’s #YALILearns sessions soon became popular enough that he decided to break the classes into chapters consisting of 10 people and one leader/facilitator. The leaders had been in his first class and were now ready to take on the facilitator role.

“It’s growing the potential of leading and teaching other people. So the people who are now training other people, they are not professional teachers, leaders or managers, but they are gaining those skills,” he said. “At the same time, it helps just building your reputation, and this is one way of building your reputation and giving back to the community.”


Finding a venue for your #YALILearns sessions can be a challenge, especially if you are trying to do it at the last minute. Lipenga advises choosing a location that would match with the target group or course. For example, a facilitator can ask to use college classrooms that college-age groups are already frequenting, or involve clubs and societies that have an interest in the topic at hand, whether the course is promoting youth employment or protecting the environment.

“We can use the courses to say we can offer proper training,” he says.

Lipenga managed to use the American Corners space at his local U.S. Embassy, which not only helped with space, but also offered his #YALILearns sessions a certain legitimacy when he sent out his invitations over social media. “If we can get them involved … it will carry so much weight … to have them say this is endorsed by us,” he said.

But “do not limit yourself to physical space,” he said. “We are in the world of technology, and there is no need for you to pay for a space. You might be surprised at how many companies or restaurants might be willing to say, ‘You can come on this day, no problem!’”

It also helps to create incentives to attract students. “For example, you can say ‘free drinks’ or something like that. Beyond that, you can talk about the power of networking. Use networking as part of the incentive,” he said.

One challenge Lipenga has shared with others who live in areas with low broadband is the availability of the internet. Not only do course materials need to be downloaded ahead of time, but taking the quizzes at the end of the course can take a long time, especially when there is only one computer shared between many students.


The good news in making this choice is you are not expected to be an expert on the subject you have chosen to share. It is best to think in terms of what would be most beneficial to your target group. But Lipenga shared some insights gained from his many experiences.

He found courses that dealt with “soft skills” such as civic leadership are easier than others. “People can relate to these skills,” he said, and the terminology is not brand new.

The Fundraising Concepts course was very successful with his groups. “We have a lot of young people who have NGOs or nonprofits, and they have trouble how to fundraise. They usually use the same model that calls for an event one day and then they call for everyone who wants to donate. But it’s not sustainable.”

Thanks to the course, he and his groups saw the need for people to learn more about running an organization. It was the perfect course for good causes that simply don’t know how to raise money, he said.

He also recommends Fundamentals of Starting and Running a Business because “most people have a business idea, but they don’t know how to begin.” And thanks to the Servant Leadership course, “I found people really excited about what true leadership could be,” he said.

Interested in learning more about #YALILearns? Learn how you can facilitate your own session on our #YALILearns page.