Fifteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom fatigue had many of us practically catatonic in front of our screens. So how was the Society for International Development – Washington Chapter (SID-W) able to reverse this trend and put on a virtual conference that actually proved to be more engaging, more interactive, and more inclusive than any prior SID-W event?

SID-W joined forces with our team at TechChange to co-design their annual event on the TechChange platform. We leveraged a new community-led model that transformed the conference experience into one that no longer relies exclusively on organizer-led sessions or speakers.

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Compared to a traditional DC-based event, the online nature of the SID-W Virtual Annual Conference resulted in 1300+ participants from over 60 countries drawing from development practitioners, implementing partners, local staff, NGO partners, and more, with over 50% being first-time attendees. 

Leveraging over a decade of experience facilitating courses, workshops, and events, the TechChange team utilized strategies from our educator toolkit to deliver a memorable virtual experience for – and with – the participants. 

Here are a few highlights:

Innovation Showcase 3D World 

Showcasing innovation was critical to the SID-W team – both in terms of the way the conference took place but also in the content to be shared. So to display the Innovation Award finalists’ pitches in a way that was true to form, SID-W asked TechChange’s 3D artist and developer team to build an Innovation Showcase 3D World using Mozilla Hubs. The virtual space hosted pitches from the four finalists on large virtual television screens inside a 3D recreation of the magnificent National Portrait Gallery Atrium. In addition, using 3D avatars, innovation finalists conversed with conference attendees and potential investors inside the unique space. Participants then voted for the “Best of Show,” which was announced at the closing ceremony.

Click to Join the Innovation Showcase 3D World
Click to join the Innovation Showcase 3D World

Not your average exhibition hall

The Exhibition Hall interface was significantly enhanced compared to last October’s debut SID-W virtual conference, generating leads for both sponsors in business development and recruitment and job-seeking participants. In addition to the platform-embedded Exhibition Hall resource library, SID-W wanted to liven things up by enabling real-time video networking between sponsors and participants. 

Sponsors each had a table within the Social hour Exhibit Hall

Through an integration with Social hour, TechChange created over 40 virtual tables across four virtual rooms. Instead of leaving the rooms indefinitely open and hoping participants would find their way there, SID-W intentionally designed the agenda such that it would funnel participants into the interactive space for one hour each day. This dedicated space, designed to spark lively conversations and targeted outreach, attracted over 200 participants online simultaneously. Sponsor Tetra Tech commented that “[i]t was the closest ‘in-person’ experience we’ve had at an event yet!”

Crowd-sourced roundtable discussions

A few months before the conference, SID-W sent out a call for community members to submit topics for the Roundtable Discussions. After receiving over 70 topics, SID-W members, staff, and the Annual Conference Committee selected the top 20, including: “Decolonizing Aid: Gender Equality & Social Inclusion,” “Dignity in Development,” and “Using Blended Finance at Scale to Achieve the SDGs.” During Day 2 of the conference, over 260 participants joined their peers at virtual tables on Social hour for intimate, facilitated discussions. Multiple participants noted the Roundtable Discussions session as the highlight of their SID-W virtual conference experience.

“I got the most out of the roundtable I attended.”

SID-W Conference Attendee

Organic networking sessions

The Open Networking sessions, also leveraging TechChange’s Social hour integration, provided a medium for lively conversations that were less structured than the scheduled events. This free-form format led to the organic formation of the “Amis Francophones” Table, sparked by one of the attendees who hoped to connect with other Francophiles. French speaking SID-W members from around the globe were able to meet and exchange – a feat that could not have been accomplished had the conference been held in person.

“The best online networking platform I’ve seen to date – really felt like wandering around a room and chatting with people.”

SID-W Conference Attendee

Ideas Library & Open Discussion Forums

The Ideas Library provided an opportunity for conference participants to interact with the hosts of Lightning Talks. Open Discussion & Networking forums allowed speakers and participants alike to spark new conversations on timely topics. For example, conference speaker Wayan Vota started a thread asking “[w]hat is the largest COVID-19 change in your work?” which garnered over 30 responses. Others exchanged knowledge on topics like data management and DEI. SID-W Program Associates also utilized the Ideas Library to share summaries of plenaries, panels, and Learning Labs in real time, creating a forum for attendees to continue the critical conversations.

Gamification: SID-W Points 

Knowing attendees would likely be motivated to engage more by gamifying the conference experience, SID-W opted to turn on the points feature on the TechChange platform. To receive “SID-W Points,” attendees used different features throughout the platform, such as creating a profile for networking purposes, attending sessions, engaging in session chats to introduce themselves to fellow participants, and commenting on each other’s work. The winner earned an impressive 475 points!

The SID-W annual conference was second to none in engaging its membership to create a two-day community-led conference experience – one that enlivened even its most embattled Zoom-fatigued members.

Watch SID-W’s Annual Conference Opening Plenary

This blog is written by Thomas Liu

Sign up is open for the next Social Intrapreneurship for Innovation in Health and Wellness Course happening Nov. 6th – Dec. 15th, 2017! Apply soon, spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis!

Social Intrapreneurship for Innovation in Health and Wellness is an online professional development course made possible through the Making More Health (MMH) partnership between Ashoka and Boehringer Ingelheim. The course is hosted by platform partner TechChange, for the fourth year in a row! 275 participants attended the course this past spring from 50 different countries.

Making More Health identifies, supports and scales innovative, entrepreneurial solutions to global health challenges in order to make more health happen for individuals, families and their communities.

Social intrapreneurship is when employees are empowered to adopt the innovative mindset of an entrepreneur within their organizations in order to foster a culture of productive engagement, both with their coworkers and clients. Sonja, who attended the spring course from the Netherlands, said “Looking at my project, not from the social entrepreneur view but the social intrapreneur one, is pretty exciting for future collaborations. That is why I really enjoyed this course, it gave me a lot of insight and great ideas on how to be a good partner for businesses in the near future.”

This course covers essential skills needed to effectively push new frontiers within an organization, such as pitching ideas to your team, leveraging shared value, and navigating institutional hurdles that may come up. By the end of the course, 26% of participants said they had already initiated an intrapreneurial action.

In the fall iteration of the course, the Ashoka team is continuing to bring in engaging and dynamic cross-sector guest experts, adding fresh content and insights into how to develop your intrapreneurship skills, and improving group collaboration.

Featured guest experts this past spring included Smita Satiani, a social innovation strategist at X (formerly known as Google [X]) who previously worked as Deputy Director of the White House’s Presidential Innovation Fellows Program, and Simon Manyara, an International Management Fellow at Boehringer Ingelheim, who uses social enterprise models to improve healthcare access within marginalized communities. We can’t wait to see who will be speaking in the course this fall!

To learn more about this course, contact Amy at Apply for the course here.

We are excited to announce the creation of a new Anti-Corruption Compliance training designed for company leadership, compliance officers, and all staff in emerging markets around the world! Created for our partners at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), this 40-minute course runs through the basics of how to design and implement a compliance program, teaching users about the many forms that bribery can take, how to avoid conflicts of interest, and how to boost accountability within a mid-sized company, among many other topics.

This course presents the perfect use case for online teaching: the audience is global, so the most streamlined and cost-effective way to disseminate this training is online. The course is also targeted at new compliance personnel in leadership roles, so the content is concise and streamlined to achieve the greatest impact.

It is also fun to take! We have all sat through boring compliance trainings, but this colorful course features a lively avatar named Isabel to guide you through course content, offers up carrots (as opposed to sticks) to reveal ways to incentivise compliance, provides red flags to assign to companies that exhibit risky behavior, and lets you click on a clipboard to reveal additional tips for a successful compliance training.


This course is a strong example of how to teach essential soft skills to business leaders in many different cultural contexts, as opposed to, say, a technical training that teaches someone how to use a particular software. While both are important, many have the perception that it is impossible to teach soft skills online, and this is one of our many courses that seeks to prove that you can not only use online learning to disseminate knowledge, we can also use it to try to change behavior.

This is also the first time TechChange has implemented a “freemium” model on our platform: users can take the course for free, but if they would like to receive a certificate of completion, they must pay a small fee. This certification can add to the legitimacy of a company trying to prove to potential investors in risky markets that they are committed to taking all possible steps to combat corruption in their industry. At the same time, it makes the content accessible to all who may need it or are interested in compliance!

red flag

We look forward to creating more trainings that teach these critical skills to promote social good! Click here to check out the course yourself! Click here to read CIPE’s blog post about the course!





From high-tech firms in Silicon Valley to established charities in Geneva, global businesses and nonprofits are struggling to build internal technical skills required to reach organizational goals. But instead of hiring or contracting specialists or turning to external professional development, global organizations are turning to online learning for help.

For example, Airbnb has been struggling to find and hire enough data scientists to meet market demand, and discovered that existing online programs like Coursera and Udacity weren’t sufficiently tailored to their internal data and tools. In response, Airbnb created their own Data University with courses of three levels of instruction not only for engineers, but also non-technical employees who want to take on larger roles as project managers. According to TechCrunch, since launching the program in Q3 2016, Airbnb has seen the weekly active users of its internal rise from 30 to 45 percent with a total of 500 employees taking at least one class. 

Similar advances are happening in international development, particularly regarding Information Communication and Technology for Development (ICT4D), where the benefits of technology are real and measurable in impact.  Catholic Relief Services (CRS)  approach to ICT4D-enabled projects has resulted in a 75% decrease in time needed to conduct emergency assessments, 53% fewer errors in data collection, and a more standardized process for monitoring and evaluation.

But scaling ICT4D solutions requires technical training as well as the availability of tools, which is why TechChange partnered with CRS to design and create an internal course on “Integrating ICT4D Into Projects.” The goal was to better prepare staff to use ICT4D to scale ICT4D usage in programs to improve accountability and responsiveness. This included simulations, case studies and interactions. According to Dr. Kathryn Clifton, an ICT4D Knowledge Management & Communication Specialist at CRS:

“Programs employ staff with varying levels of familiarity with technology.  For some, involvement in our programs may be the first time they have used a smart phone on a repetitive basis.  There is a mindset that needs to accompany the use of technology so that staff understand why it is important and why we are using it.  The mindset needs to go beyond having a neat gadget. An introductory training is important to generate clarity in messaging, purpose, and familiarity with technology so that programs can generate a sustained momentum and level playing field around the use of technology. Without it programs can get off to a wobbly start leaving many wanting to go back to paper.”

Screenshot from CRS "Integrating ICT4D Into Projects" Course

Screenshot from CRS “Integrating ICT4D Into Projects” Course

By offering this course online, we’re also hoping to not only provide a scalable model for pushing information and training to a global CRS staff, but also to help provide data about how staff and partners learn best online across a global organization.

After all, when introducing Data University in a Medium Post, Jeff Feng stated: “Data [is] the voice of our users at scale. Thus, data science plays the role of an interpreter — we use data and statistics to understand our users and translate it to a voice that people or machines can understand.”

In partnership with the World Resources Institute, TechChange has built a seven-module online course for the Compact of Mayors, a global coalition of mayors and city leaders committed to sustainable local climate action. By providing a standard, public method of reporting emissions and efforts, the Compact aims to capture and accelerate impact. To announce the course, TechChange produced an animation that was presented at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

A frame from the TechChange animation shown at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

The animation shown in Paris was a compilation of scenes from seven other animations, each developed to capture the key takeaways from one of the seven modules. Designed for a broad audience of mayors, city sustainability officers, and environmental policy advisors from all over the globe, each animation provides a quick overview of a module for learners seeking a basic understanding of the Compact of Mayors.

Diving deeper with interactive content

For those interested in a more in-depth understanding, TechChange developed interactive exercises, infographics, maps, graphs, and resources for each of the seven modules. Coupled with videos, avatars, backgrounds, and narration, these ten to thirty minute “deep dive” modules walk the learner through what the Compact is, how a city can become Compact-compliant, and why a city would benefit from becoming Compact-compliant.

A screenshot from Module 1: Introduction to the Compact of Mayors.

In total, the course takes 3 hours to complete, or longer if the learner chooses to explore the numerous resources provided throughout. In order to retain learner engagement with course material, TechChange employed three main instructional design strategies: epic learning goals, flexible learning paths, and frequent opportunities to apply material through practice exercises with instant feedback.

1. Epic learning goals

In order to visually reflect the course’s epic goal of empowering city leaders to make a difference in the climate trajectory of their city, TechChange designed each module to take place in a specific part of a virtual city. As the learner progresses through the course, the city becomes visibly improved; each module’s location becoming more vibrant while trees, flowers, and wildlife begin to appear. The visibly improving virtual city, displayed at the beginning and end of each module, provides a subtle reminder to learners that their efforts to complete each module reflect a much larger local effort to improve real cities on a global scale.

2. Flexible learning paths

Providing nonlinear learning paths allows learners to structure their own learning experience. For example, to learn more about the role of cities in combatting climate change, the course invites the learner to click parts of a city scene. Every time the learner completes a section, the learner is invited to pick the next section that piques their interest.

A screenshot from Module 1: Introduction to the Compact of Mayors.

3. Real-time feedback

In addition to emphasizing the epic nature of the learning goals and empowering learners to customize their learning paths, the course aims to capture learner attention by providing ample opportunities for learners to apply material through practice exercises with real-time feedback. In a knowledge assessment included in Module 5, the learner receives a certain number of points based on how many attempts it takes them to get the correct answer and how many options the question contained. A scoring meter provides a visualization of the learner’s cumulative score. Coupled with some simple sound effects, it’s a basic but effective mechanism that results in the learner’s effort directly impacting their visual and auditory experience, and hopefully motivating them to try again or keep going.

A screenshot from the knowledge assessment included in Module 5: Setting GHG Reduction Targets.

Putting strategy to the test

In order to test the effectiveness of these strategies in the Compact of Mayors course, TechChange will be tracking and analyzing virtually every click a learner makes while taking this course. Do learners actually go through content in unique ways, or do most follow suggested learning paths? Do learners who failed several times during practice exercises persevere or is the feedback mechanism not enough to inspire completion? Being able to answer those types of questions will not only help TechChange improve this course over time but also inform how TechChange can most effectively design new courses in other topic areas in the future. To try the course yourself, register for an account at

Earlier this spring, TechChange partnered with the SCORE Association, also known as “Counselors to America’s Small Business”, along with their sponsor, the Deluxe Foundation. SCORE’s nationwide volunteer network provides small business development resources at no cost to entrepreneurs. Kathryn Kelly from their Field Operations team said this about their mission:

“Small business is the engine of our national economy through business formation, job creation and wealth building. In 2014, SCORE mentors helped start up over 56,000 businesses and create over 47,000 jobs. SCORE provides direct support to entrepreneurs and small businesses, which is critical to the development of vibrant communities throughout our country.”

The partnership entailed developing e-learning modules for SCORE’s Mentoring Skills Track, a vital training pathway for volunteers with advanced business experience to share their advice one-on-one with new entrepreneurs.

“The majority of our volunteers come to SCORE with high business acumens in such areas as finance, marketing or accounting. However, they do not necessarily have a background in mentoring,” Kelly said. “Our goal is to ensure volunteers have access to training on soft skills such as listening, facilitation, learning styles and peer learning.”

With these needs in mind, TechChange developed two scenario-based modules based on the first-person perspective of a new mentor learning from other more experienced SCORE mentors:


The user could test their learning while running through a branching conversation with their first client – a new business owner seeking advice for the first time.


Depending on the path selected, varied feedback would address the nuances of each possible response.


SCORE utilizes a variety of resources, including local workshops and in-person seminars to train its volunteers and meet their community’s learning and development objectives. However, online learning has become an increasingly important part of their blended toolkit. Kelly added this about SCORE’s training philosophy:

“Lifelong learning is one of SCORE’s key values. Our e-learning program helps our volunteers stay relevant to the latest business trends and tools to ensure they can provide our clients with the support they need when they need it.”

At TechChange, we agree with SCORE and echo their commitment as we strive to create the best possible interactive resources for today’s ever-changing professional development needs.

-by Michelle Marshall, TechChange

Is your organization looking to train your teams online? Besides online facilitated courses, we also also create custom offline computer training that can be used in settings where internet connectivity is a non-starter. See our different projects on our Enterprise page and feel free to reach out to us


Should you answer a text message while talking with your supervisor? How do you resolve workplace conflicts with your colleagues? A new online version of IYF’s Passport to Success® life skills curriculum is helping prepare young hospitality staff to answer these kinds of important on-the-job questions.

Educators and employers all over the world have relied on in-person PTS training to equip young people for the world of work. Now, more youth than ever will have the chance to learn, improve, and practice their life skills through Passport to Success for Hospitality Online, the first of its kind web-based, proprietary life skills instruction.

IYF developed this interactive animated course for Hilton Worldwide and their team members. Each of the course’s five modules, summarized in the introductory video below, highlights essential skills in a simulated, fictional hotel:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills: At the Hotel Aquatic, a luxury underwater hotel, learners practice listening, asking questions, and being assertive.
  • The hospitality mindset: This module reinforces having a positive attitude and respecting diversity and personal values at the Desert Oasis, a peaceful desert retreat.
  • Responsibility and ownership: Learners practice setting goals, respecting themselves and others, and managing their time at the first-class Alpine Lodge ski resort.
  • Problem solving and critical thinking: Skills taught in the simulated rainforest Treetop Ecoresort include stress management, conflict resolution, and being a team player.
  • Business etiquette and professionalism: Set at Skyline Suites, top business hotel, this module introduces workplace protocols, the keys to being a good employee, and teamwork.

IYF collaborated with Hilton Worldwide to ensure industry and brand relevance and TechChange, a technology for development company, to build colorful and fun activities to bring the online learning experience to life. IYF has a long history of adapting PTS to meet industry and local needs; now, with life skills online, we are increasing access to this proven program. Under water, in the desert, or in a rainforest, your passport is waiting.

To learn how your company or institution can use Passport to Success to achieve business and social goals, contact Karen Phillips.

Interested to see how TechChange can support your organization’s training? Check out our enterprise page!

(This post was originally published on International Youth Foundation’s blog)