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This article is the expression of years of experience, difficult working days and the painful journey of a jointly produced work. The story of how the STOK Digital Learning Platform reached 5000 users, a collective experience...

We are 5 thousand people!

We were just about to sit down at the big meeting table to start the weekly team meeting in the STGM office when I heard the voice of our teammate checking something on the laptop: "We are 5000 people."

All heads turned to where the voice was coming from. I saw the second or two of struggling to make sense of some of the faces I briefly looked at. I wonder who were being talked about?

Our last three years loomed before my eyes. Our friend announced the news that the STOK Digital Learning Platform, which we launched on December 15, 2021 as part of the STOK Capacity Strengthening Program, has reached 5000 users. You may have noticed the emphasis on "we" in the sentence... In fact, behind that emphasis is more than three years of work, with a preparation process that began long before December 15, and the connections to the people with whom we have shared the fruits of that work. So let us take a look at the history of these years that have passed before our eyes.

A new path and a restructuring of experiences

As you know, since its creation in 2004, the STGM has been offering various support to civil society organizations to strengthen their capacities. Among these support measures, capacity building training has played an important role. These are trainings in which the relationships that the STGM has established over the years with other civil society organizations constantly complement the "curriculum", so to speak, and the content and titles are constantly redesigned according to current and urgent needs.

When the measures against the COVID-19 pandemic came into force in March 2020, new concepts and new practices entered our lives in a short space of time, together with civil society as a whole. Now we were all learning together how to use different online tools, discussing concepts such as synchronous, asynchronous and hybrid education and thinking about new methods of adult education. Face-to-face teaching was still essential for us, but it opened up a new avenue that we had not often explored before. The Civil Society Capacity Strengthening Center project, which began in February 2021, represents, among other components, the discovery of this untrodden path for STGM and the restructuring of trainings to strengthen capacity with this discovery.

Our starting point, as always, was: "What is needed in civil society and how can we help meet that need?" We began to think about ways to not only strengthen civil society organizations as agents of social change and make their voices heard, but also help build a community in which they could build relationships with each other and cross-fertilize. During this process, the STOK Capacity Strengthening Program was created: The STOK digital learning platform, which visitors can sign up for via e-mail and which currently consists of 5 different courses, including video content, reading passages and podcasts. A 3-day face-to-face training consisting of 4 different topics for each course, for which representatives of civil society organizations who have completed these contents can apply. It is an intensive, challenging yet empowering program enriched with rich digital content.

For the entire civic space, all together and in solidarity

So if you are wondering whether this journey was as quiet as it sounds... Of course not!

What is hidden in the lines above... A calendar that needs to be carefully planned to ensure the face-to-face training runs smoothly... Dozens of experts to work on both the digital content and the face-to-face training… The training content listed under each course on the digital platform is prepared one by one… Dozens of tips and hundreds of details to consider… A labour-intensive process that requires a high level of coordination and communication… In such situation, all STGM staff, our trainers and the civil society organisations we work with have rolled up their sleeves and the STOK Digital Learning Platform has emerged as a work of teamwork and solidarity.

We took inspiration from our friends who are experienced in the digital field, discovered new tools, but most importantly, we learned along the way before embarking on the road not yet travelled. After a day of working on accessible and practical infrastructure design, we began shooting with the experts in the studio. Some of our instructors experienced how different and how difficult it is to speak into the camera with a prompter rather than teaching face to face. Our videographer friend practised editing this endless content; the communications team spread our word, our teammates at STGM supported the content in their areas of expertise, and our teammates and volunteers carefully reviewed the content and helped us correct some errors we had missed. We worked hard and tried hard. At the end of sleepless nights, we sometimes got nervous. Then we hugged each other. We embarked on an exciting journey together, pushing the boundaries we are used to and trying new methods.

If you ask me, the most exciting part of this process is actually the feedback we receive on the digital content. It's the stories of those who persistently work through intensive and comprehensive content, sparing neither praise nor criticism. Those who seriously note down the points and questions they are stuck on are the ones who should definitely ask the expert they meet during the training. The ones who spark new ideas in our minds every time we return. Of course, we can not meet everyone face to face. Face-to-face training sessions inevitably have a limited number of participants. However, the STOK digital platform was created for the whole of civil society, all together and in solidarity. I think the common goal here is the most important element that promotes the "we" feeling I mentioned at the beginning of the article.

There are currently five different courses within the STOK Digital Platform. We will continue to work on keeping the digital content, which can sometimes quickly become "old", up to date and producing new content according to new needs. STOK is the product of a collective experience created over the years with the participation of all civil society actors. It was developed for “all of us” and will continue to exist and grow for “all of us”.

STGM Stüdyo

STGM Studio

We have good news for CSOs that want to produce video content. In our studio in our office, you can shoot your videos and get editing support.