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The Humanitarian Leadership Academy aids 190 countries with life-saving e-learning

The Humanitarian Leadership Academy’s (The Academy) mission is to enable people around the world to prepare for and respond to crises, acting quickly and effectively together to strengthen resilience and save lives.

Working within the humanitarian sector and in harmony with the technology, private and educational sector, the Academy helps train developing communities and individuals to become more resilient in the face of disasters and crises.


The Challenge: providing global access to life-saving skills and knowledge

The Humanitarian Leadership Academy’s core focus is to ensure communities are capable of dealing with disasters and responding to crises when they happen—meaning they don’t have to wait for expertise and aid from other countries to mitigate casualties and catalyze recovery.

The reason for this is simple: when a disaster strikes, more people die while waiting for help to arrive.

Unfortunately, small organizations and communities can’t always afford the vital training needed to promptly respond to a crisis, so the Academy’s challenge was to increase the reach of potentially life-saving training and make it accessible and relevant to as wide an audience as possible.

The Academy carries out its mission by ensuring that local communities have access to the life-saving skills they need to prepare for, respond and recover from an emergency.

To host, deliver and manage vital skills and knowledge they entrusted Totara Learn and Totara Partner Catalyst IT, to launch Kaya, a global learning platform delivering training on topics ranging from (but not limited to):

  • Humanitarian principles, practices and standards
  • International Humanitarian Law
  • Disaster risk reduction and management
  • Safety and security
  • Food security and nutrition
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene
  • Project management

“Catalyst IT has an excellent and deep understanding of our end users. They explained that Totara’s open-source LMS, thanks to its ability to scale and be easily customized, would be ideal for our needs.”

Cem Gurkan, Platform Solutions Lead, Humanitarian Leadership Academy
The Solution: developing a scalable LMS

Due to the impressive intended scale, reach and versatility, the Kaya platform had complex frontend, functional and technical requirements.

Catalyst’s technical experts, for example, needed to ensure that the bandwidth and download sizes were appropriate and that content was mobile-friendly; poor network connectivity and accessibility is a major issue for humanitarians in zones in the throes of crisis.

The main Totara Learn features and functionalities used by the Humanitarian Leadership Academy are:

  • SCORM packages
  • Videos and documents
  • Quizzes
  • Forums
  • Seminars
  • Assignments and workshops
  • Customized certificates
  • Feedback forms
  • Reporting
  • Customized dashboards and themes
  • Audiences
  • Organization and position hierarchies
  • Certification programs
  • Multi-language support: English, French, Spanish and Arabic with plans to add more in the future
  • Single sign-on: Organizational partners can allow their staff to access Kaya with the same credentials they use for their other IT systems
  • Kaya Mobile: an app available on iOS and Android, that allows learners to access all of the online courses that they have joined via their smartphone or tablet, so that they can continue to learn wherever they are – even without an internet connection


Catalyst also implemented its innovative global content delivery network (CDN) to ensure the LMS was accessible from anywhere in the world. This way, humanitarian workers in the Philippines or Kenya don’t need to pull content from servers in Ireland – a frustratingly slow and inefficient process.

Instead, the content is mirrored in a closer location. This affords geographically dispersed learners faster access to life-saving training.

Digital badges have also enabled Kaya to provide its global network of humanitarians with a recognizable way to collate and demonstrate skills and knowledge. These badges, often awarded for flagship courses, are displayed and shared with other humanitarians via a “humanitarian passport” on the Academy’s complimentary accreditation platform, HPass.

The Results: Life-saving training delivered to those who need it, when they need it

Currently boasting over 300,000 users from over 190 countries, Kaya is now experiencing exponential growth and success in accomplishing its mission to save lives with learning:

  • Growth rate of up to 15,000 new users per month
  • 136,585 course completions (35% completion rate) – Safeguarding Essentials being the most popular course (11,551 completions)

“The data shows that a lot of our learners are from fragile states in crisis, such as Iraq, Yemen, Nigeria, and Syria. It really does evidence the impact that we’re having. We provide learning opportunities to people who otherwise couldn’t access them”

Cem Gurkan, Platform Solutions Lead, Humanitarian Leadership Academy

A humanitarian organization called “One Love”, for example, had been using Kaya’s online courses to educate and connect humanitarian volunteers in the Jerash Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan.

“You can really see the impact Kaya has on people’s knowledge as their discussion points and perspectives improve throughout the sessions. We’re grateful to have access to these free resources and look forward to helping spread this essential knowledge even further.”

Khaled, Director, One Love.

During the outbreak of COVID-19, by April 2020, humanitarian workers could access the COVID-19 learning pathway on Kaya in four languages. The content helped equip more than 10,300 learners from 165 countries to respond to the global pandemic.

The philanthropic platform offers more than 500 free courses (in 12 different languages and across 190 countries!) that help humanitarians progress in their careers, hone their technical skills and ultimately save more lives across the world. 

Topics spanning from the humanitarian essentials  to more technical and pragmatic areas are available in multiple formats, such as:

  • Online self-directed courses and pathways
  • MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
  • Webinars
  • Face-to-face workshops and blended learning
  • Videos, documents and resources
  • Games, quizzes and assessments
  • Immersive learning / virtual reality

“We had 25K followers on LinkedIn at the beginning of last year, today we have more than 130K. A true viral network effect.”

Anne Garçon, Communications and Marketing Lead, Humanitarian Leadership Academy
What’s next?

In the future, the Humanitarian Leadership Academy will focus on fostering a global learning marketplace through Kaya, and increasing learner engagement.

With an array of existing and potential content available across world, the Academy plans to open Kaya up and encourage individual users and organizational partners to directly contribute content to the platform. With Kaya providing the tools, resources and support, humanitarians will be able to author their own high-quality content and share learning peer-to-peer and from the grassroots up.

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Prepare your people for tomorrow, today.