In my report to the 22nd Global General Conference (GC) in Lima, Peru two years ago, I outlined four pillars which would sustain a healthy IFWEA. These are:

  • A common purpose
  • A common strategy;
  • Investing in our affiliates by improving their resource provision to their members and beneficiaries;
  • Investment by our affiliates in improving IFWEA’s resource capacity.

I elaborated on the motives for choosing these pillars in the 2016 General Secretary’s report. As we are approaching the mid-point between our four year GC, the IFWEA Secretariat Staff and Executive Committee (EC) performed an overview of the progress made against our objectives as set out in the 2016 – 2019 strategic plan, a summary of which is provided below.

The IFWEA 2015 – 2019 Strategic Plan, aims to Build Our Global Knowledge Community. The four key Objectives of this Strategic Plan are intended to construct the above four pillars, viz.:

OBJECTIVE 1: Strengthen IFWEA organisationally and increase networking and collaboration of member organisations.

OBJECTIVE 2: Improve the educational and research capacity and services of our affiliates on the main challenges faced by the labour movement in order to assist them in their role of strengthening democratic worker organisations in their countries and regions.

OBJECTIVE 3: Build a knowledge community within the global labour movement which enables worker organisations to face the challenges of flexibility and to improve capacity to represent, organise and advance the conditions of workers in precarious forms of work.

OBJECTIVE 4: Identify, agree and practice a common set of values and ethics which informs IFWEA pedagogy and delivery of workers education.

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE ONE:  Strengthen IFWEA organisationally and increase networking and collaboration of member organisations:

Reflections on achievement against indicators


1.1 Greater sharing of knowledge, co-operation and resources across 25 countries and 50 ngo’s.

1.2 Revised and expanded Youth Globalisation Awareness Programme (YGAP) which leads to improved solidarity education/actions/partnerships between 150 young leaders and educators in 30 labour organisations.

1.3 A participative and democratic education intervention that promotes women’s leadership in worker and membership based organisations involving 200 grassroots women leaders.

  • There has been increased emphasis placed on engaging in face to face meetings with potential new affiliates this year, and also on connecting with existing affiliates to improve their participation in IFWEA.
  • IFWEA’s sharing of knowledge and resources is enabled through our social media platforms viz. the website, which was revised in 2017, as was the Online Labour Academy (OLA) and our video conferencing facility.  Secretariat staff will improve education and utilisation of OLA and Blue Jeans video conferencing for 2018, to expand utilisation of these platforms for greater sharing and collaboration.
  • YGAP has reached 63 participants thus far, i.e. 42% of its target for the four year term of the strategic plan.  In 2018 and 2019 the Secretariat will begin monitoring the shifts in their knowledge/understanding and improved solidarity education/actions/partnership between beneficiaries of the programme activities.

Lessons learnt in 2017 review:

  • Targeting a selected group of organisations to collaborate within the operational year works well to draw new and current members into being more active in IFWEA.  This is done by identifying some of the specific needs of organizations, and matching this to what IFWEA can offer, or the platform that it can provide.  Visiting potential and existing affiliates,  and participation of young educators in YGAP with consistent communication is crucial in this regard.
  • IFWEA is becoming better at branding itself and more people are getting to know about IFWEA and understanding and identifying with our purpose. We should progress to encouraging affiliates to brand themselves and have a worker education identity that increases their profile and services,  highlighting the value added to their trade union partners.
  • The IFWEA Secretariat plays an important and valued role in building a collaborative consciousness and global knowledge community.  This is the bigger vision, and works if communication is regular and constant.  IFWEA is working internationally in a very difficult time in the labour movement – many of our affiliates face financial and resource constraints, which impacts on the mission and reach of worker education organizations.  The IFWEA Secretariat needs to engage our affiliates in the reflection and evaluation of the courses they deliver, to deepen their knowledge and praxis on how to become more effective at supporting their beneficiaries.

Key outputs proposed for 2018 for Objective 1:

  • Regular Meetings of Governing Bodies, viz. GC & EC:  An EC meeting is proposed for the 19 – 20 November 2018.  This will include a review of individual portfolios for recruitment.  Planning for the 23rd GC in 2019 will also begin in 2018, which will take place in Cape Town South Africa.
  • Regular meetings, communication and liaison between affiliates partnering in activities and programmes: The EC identified potential affiliates, which EC members and the General Secretary will communicate with during the upcoming year.
  • Target selected organisations to increase number of affiliates and improve extent and quality of affiliate contributions: The General Secretary, President Sue Schurman and Vice President Helen Pettersson will visit Worker Education Associations (WEA’s) in Australia and New Zealand to establish who are active in workers’ education, and whether they are interested in building international links. The Programme Manager Saliem Patel will target Latin American affiliates for field visits.
  • Maintenance and development of online communication channels, Online e-bulletin, IFWEA social media; IFWEA website and OLA platformThe Secretariat will set targets for expanded utilisation of the communication channels.  The e-bulletin will continue to be delivered quarterly. Communications between and with affiliates will be improved through having a password protected affiliates page on the IFWEA website  containing financial reports, EC minutes etc.  An affiliate page will be also created on OLA to provide education on membership rights and responsibilities in preparation for the 23rd GC.  Affiliates will also be featured in e-bulletins, on the website and Facebook. The reporting of communication and social media statistics (website visitors, Facebook engagement, e-bulletin opens etc) will be reviewed twice per annum.
  • Research capacity and resource provision to IFWEA AffiliatesIn the second half of 2018, the Secretariat will solicit affiliates who would like action-research support. Affiliates will identify their organisational representative and a student will be assigned to develop their research agenda.  This interaction and research agenda will be facilitated and reviewed by the Secretariat.  The Blue Jeans video conferencing facility will be used for on-going meetings between the students, affiliate representatives and the IFWEA programme manager.
  • The Youth Globalisation Awareness Programme (YGAP): YGAP will continue to improve international perspectives, and online and participatory educative capacity of young educators in affiliates and their beneficiary organisations. The activities will highlight solidarity and improved global communication between participants after the YGAP course. The Secretariat will identify the category 4 affiliates eligible for subsidies, to send a delegate to to the course in 2018 by May next year.

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE TWO: [1] Improve the educational and research capacity and services of our affiliates on the main challenges faced by the labour movement, in order to assist them in their role of strengthening democratic worker organisations in their countries and regions:

What was done?

Foundation Skills for Social Change (FSSC) Certificate Programme:

  • Established the Foundations Skills for Social Change Certificate Programme.  Courses are on OLA are Participatory Learning Methods, Women’s Leadership, Gender Equity, and Using Drama for Workers’ Education.
  • All courses target grassroots leaders, and focus on activating membership and improving capacity to raise their voices on equality and rights.
  • Promotion of  FSSC programme in Zimbabwe, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Established study circles to improve online education skills and roll out courses.
  • Support and assistance to affiliates in designing and rolling out courses online including LRS, Class Nepal, SEWA, LEF, HKCTU, FSPMI and Patsime Trust.
  • Courses were piloted in India, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa and Zimbabwe, with courses in Hong Kong, Indonesia and Bolivia still progressing.

Study Circles for Social Change (SCSC) Programme:

  • Conducted Study Circle Facilitator Training involving 20 community and union facilitators. In Cape Town eleven study circles were established – you can view the study circle plans and lessons on OLA www.ifweaonline.org
  • The Youth Political Education Study Circle – “Cape Town Be Heard” – was established.  Participants prepared for and hosted five community flash groups as well as participating  in the South African Youth Parliament. The project concluded with a joint programme with the “Limerick Be Heard” Irish participants in Cape Town during YGAP.

Research capacity for Affiliates:

  • The GS developed a proposal with Engage at University of Limerick in Ireland to establish a Community Research Master of Arts (MA) for about 10 MA students to provide education research capacity to 4 affiliates in 2018.


  • Affiliates are interested in FSSC certificate programme and with some technical and financial support are able to access and run courses.
  • There is interest from affiliates in the SCSC programme and with some training, mentoring and financial support can develop study circle programmes in their organisations.
  • The Youth Political Education project provided insight into youth interests and voices, and how to involve youth through popular education to counter populism, articulated by youth participation in YGAP from various countries.
  • The Cape Town SCSC Programme participants need organisational development skills to be able to plan and work independently, as programme manager needs to expand the programme globally.

Learnings to take forward for 2018 plan:

  • Continue support to affiliates to increase study circle experience towards establishing study circle programmes.
  • Involve affiliates in the Youth Political Education “Be Heard” project for youth political participation.
  • Bring in support for Cape Town study circle facilitators’ organisational development skills education.
  • Programme Manager to focus on providing affiliates with support to run the FSSC programme courses, improving the quality thereof  and access to courses, access to the while gradually increasing the number of courses available.

Way Forward: 2018 Outputs for Objective 2

  • Create accessible open access courses in the FSSC certificate programme as it is currently closed and only accessible to the affiliates who designed them.
  • Finalise the following courses for 2018: Global Economy in the 21st Century; Collective Bargaining; Research Skills and Tools.
  • Increase participation of affiliates and support study circles to initiate “Be Heard” project on youth political participation.
  • Additional education support for SCSC to design and implement Organisational Development Skills course as a local programme.
  • Increase the number of courses in the FSSC programme for greater access to trade union grassroots leaders – Organisational Development Skills; Economic Indicators and Trends for Global Union Sectors; Social Protection for Informal Economy Workers.
  • Update and improve OLA for increased access and use, including instructive courses for students, teachers / tutors, and course managers.
  • Continue support of SEWA, Class Nepal, HKCTU, FSPMI, and Patsime on the  FSSC and SCSC programmes.
  • Promotion of the FSSC Certificate Programme among affiliates and within the labour movement.

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE THREE: Build a knowledge community within the global labour movement which enables worker organisations to face the challenges of flexibility and to improve capacity to represent, organise and advance the conditions of workers in precarious forms of work.

What was done?

  • The new website was launched and  modernised to be more reflective of IFWEA’s programme work.
  • A resource page for affiliates to share and access education resources was established.
  • Access to OLA was increased with courses for unions and study circle leaders; trade union company networks use it for education. Affiliates have access to manage their OLA  pages to create and run courses for unions.
  • Engagement was done with ITF Africa, UNI Africa and IDWF about developing education programmes using the OLA.


  • The website looks modern and reflects IFWEA programmes and content will be further improved in 2018.
  • Population of the resource page with educational resources will continue,  and be structured to annotate resources so that they can be found easily.

Way Forward: 2018 Outputs for Objective 3:

  • Improved content for website page, especially the programme pages.
  • Reconstruct resource page, and update with materials from affiliates on identified themes.
  • Engagement with  global unions and other international networks within the labour movement on the use of OLA, particularly IDWF, ITF, StreetNet and UNI.
  • Promoting IFWEA programmes during visits to affiliates in Asia (Sri Lanka, Cambodia) and Latin America (Colombia), to include other labour organisations from those countries.
  • Identify selected events to promote IFWEA programmes in the labour movement,  for e.g. the  IDWF 2018 congress.

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE 4:  Identify, agree and practice a common set of values and ethics which informs IFWEA pedagogy and delivery of workers education:

Reflections on achievement against indicators


  • Worker organisation and collective identity is strengthened through improved awareness of global solidarity values, inclusive and participative practices, goal setting and organisational analysis in 40 ngo and 40 trade unions or co-operatives over 4 yrs  across 15 countries. Grassroots tutors form an education association in Africa for the development of study circles and lifelong learning.
  • The forming of an education association for Africa has not been met and will not be pursued in the remaining two years of this programme cycle. Outputs related to the development of a study circle association have been removed as a result of a review that there was not sufficient readiness to start an association.  The focus should rather be on developing the organisational development skills of study circles in 2018.

Lesson learnt in 2017 review:

  • The local study circles need further organisational development before they can take on the task of forming a larger, parent WEA.

Key outputs proposed for 2018 for Objective 4:

  • One e-bulletin issue per annum highlights solidarity education and activities and features individual champions of worker education from different countries.
  • The ethics of solidarity support actions should be integrated into all IFWEA YGAP and FSSC OLA courses.
  • Education and publicity around purpose and aim of IFWEA should be integrated into all IFWEA programme activities.


  • Secretariat staff for the year can be viewed on the website www.ifwea.org/about-us/secretariat-staff
  • The profiles and biographies of the EC can also be viewed on the website. The EC membership is an important contribution by the most active of IFWEA affiliates to IFWEA’s governance, stability and sustainability.
  • The EC met on 6 – 7 November 2017 in Cape Town, and discussed and adopted the 2017 review and financial report, and endorsed the 2018 operational plan and budget. They also reviewed the risk analysi s and found that the Secretariat was managing risk effectively. Individual portfolios for EC members were assessed and refreshed for 2018.


IFWEA could not function without the resource commitment of its affiliates and donors. Special mention and thanks are due to our donors the Olof Palme International Center (OPIC) for providing IFWEA with a core support grant for the years 2016 – 2019.  Extra thanks are due to the OPIC for supporting the Secretariat through assigning intern Tajma Sisic to assist for four months during the year. The ABF Sweden and TSL Finland provided essential and very welcome co-ordination support on YGAP.

Support for the Secretariat comes in many forms and continuous contributions.

To all the IFWEA organisations who paid their affiliation fees; put forward their leaders to participate on the Executive Committee; contributed to the Secretariat directly through solidarity fee contributions; through strategic advice and dialogue; through fundraising for our project work; through information dissemination; through project activities of the Online Labour Academy, the Foundation Skills for Social Change programme; the South African Study Circles for Social Change Project and our flagship Youth Globalisation Awareness Programme, I thank you.

With your highly valued contributions as our resource, we make our Global Knowledge Community a reality. On behalf of the Executive Committee and the staff of the Secretariat, I wish you well over the year-end festivities and look forward to renewed activity in 2018.

In solidarity,

Sahra Ryklief, General Secretary, 8 December 2017.

[1] Objectives 2 & 3 compiled by Programme Manager Saliem Patel.

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