The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA)
WESSA relies on Flex to train a new generation of environmental stewards to find locally relevant solutions to global challenges
The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, WESSA, is one of the country's oldest and largest independent non-profit environmental organisations. It has been instrumental in ecological, conservation and education efforts in South Africa for over 90 years. Ultimately the organisation’s core focus is to implement high-impact projects that promote participation in caring for Earth's biodiversity, that lead to social and environmental justice.
WESSA is an integral part of the international environmental community too. The organisation is the appointed operator in South Africa for five FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) programmes and is a founding member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as well as the Centre for Environmental Rights. Then, as a UNESCO partner, it also supports education for sustainable development across the Southern African region.
WESSA understands the importance of environmental education and continually shifts its focus to align with global trends. Today, WESSA aims to increase public participation through citizen action in caring for the Earth. The organisation achieves these goals through education by training and advocacy aimed at private individuals, corporates, and all spheres of government.
As an accredited training provider with the ETDPSETA, LGSETA and CATHSSETA, and Services SETA, WESSA's courses emphasise developing hands-on, practical skills, along with creatively engaging with complex environmental issues.
Project Challenge Outline
One of the significant challenges in the NGO space in South Africa is that all NGOs and non-profits struggle to find external funding, and finding opportunities to generate profit is an ongoing challenge. For WESSA, the training division is one key area where it can generate profits that help sustain the rest of the organisation. In fact, WESSA would like to see all its courses available online and sold globally.
WESSA first explored the idea of a Learner Management System (LMS) nearly a decade ago but found the solutions prohibitively expensive, and the project never took off the ground. So, it continued to manually manage the workflow for its Quality and Learner Management Systems, but this was time-consuming and inefficient, and a better solution needed to be found.
"Because we work in the environmental and conservation sector, we have to acknowledge that a lot of the issues that we are trying to address are human-centred, so our solutions need to be human-centred," says Kerry Mclean, Project Manager at WESSA. Mclean is part of the professional body of WESSA, the project implementation side of the business, and oversees some training services, coastal programmes and environmental education projects.
Mclean says the onboarding with Flex has been fantastic, from the interaction with the company to the communication and support they received afterwards. "Initially, we did not know what we were looking for, and the guidance from Flex helped our team understand what we needed to deliver on our mandate."
The team at WESSA is planning on rolling out a large number of accredited qualifications that will reach far more people than they ever could before. This new digital platform is also helping the organisation understand the importance of streamlining and digitisation and that it must centralise its efforts to be more efficient.
According to Daniel Viljoen, Director, Flex, "Compared to any other video conferencing capable platforms, Flex does not just facilitate the content by way of a video call. There is an entire administrative backend that allows training providers to, for example, consolidate courseware, submit assignments and so on, to make the training management easier and more efficient."
It is these tools that Mclean and the team at WESSA have found most valuable. Providing training courses, and all the administration that goes along with it, is not manageable with email and traditional video calling platforms.
The team at Flex always tries to put themselves in their customer’s shoes to understand their needs before proposing a solution that would best fit the organisation. Viljoen says that for his customers, its not just a piece of software that they offer customers. “We have the type of relationship with WESSA where we have become an extension of their team’s capabilities, we offer our subject matter experts to help WESSA bring the best out of the platform to ensure they deliver the best possible training. Moreover, Viljoen says that Flex grows with its customers, “We need to evolve with our customers to ensure that they can cater for additional functionality as they grow into those needs.” Because Flex controls its own development environment it can control the features and requirements of the platform to suit the customer’s needs. This makes Flex the most powerful tool on the market today.
"Working with a South African-made platform, Flex has made a big difference for us as an NGO. Unlike any other LMS solution available online, the local support offered by Flex and the day-to-day interaction they had is what ultimately sealed the deal. "The availability of the support teams at all hours of the day was a key differentiator for WESSA."
- [Kerry Mclean, Senior Project Manager, WESSA]