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Renée Osté on blended training within and (far) beyond the borders: "There are certain universal issues everyone in the world is dealing with"

From the Netherlands to Burkina Faso and Mali and back: that's an accurate description of Renée Osté's professional and personal journey. A few years ago, she and Elvia van den Berg started WORKwise together. The mission: to help people organize themselves and their work and to make a bigger impact. To accomplish that, WORKwise makes tailor-made blended programs available to both individuals and teams. WORKwise combines psychology, anthropology, change management, and cultural intelligence to create a change that resonates within a team, an organization, a family, and a community. The company does this in the Netherlands, but also (far) beyond the borders: from Mali to Laos.

That's a result from Renée's background: "I went global pretty fast because my network was there, and I wondered if, for example, a European time management principle would also work in an African context."

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Elvia van den Berg and Renée Osté

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"Some of people's goals are location independent"

From 1989 to 2009, Renée worked in Burkina Faso and Mali for the Dutch government, among others. Her area of expertise: international development cooperation. "I've always been most interested in the people in an organization," says Renée. "How to get things moving in the organization? And to ensure people in the organization improve collaboration?"

After 20 years of focusing on such questions, Renée returned to the Netherlands. Here, she's become an expert at personal effectiveness, leadership, and team development. For about 10 years, she worked as a self-employed person distributing a particular methodology of personal and leadership development — first in the Netherlands, but soon abroad, too.

"I discovered that there are certain universal issues everyone in the world is dealing with," says Renée. "Getting things done, creating a good work-life balance, getting recognition, developing yourself, and being happy: those are goals people set regardless of their location."

Renée also observed that many African professionals who end up in an organization with a European or Western work culture have to get used to certain elements: "Things such as working in a linear way, keeping tight schedules, having autonomy, and saying no are not self-evident in Africa. There was a missing link there. As it turned out, there was a lot to be gained in the sector when it came to this. That's why I shifted my focus to that geographical area and particularly started to coach people at international NGOs."

In 2021, WORKwise was born from a collaboration with Elvia van den Berg. Her experience is similar to that of Renée, but she has focused on larger (HR or organizational) processes — and she mainly worked in Botswana and Ethiopia. "We greatly complement each other," says Renée. "Through WORKwise, we have trained people in the Sahel as well as in Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya. And recently, we invited three associates to work with us. They each have a different background (diversity), which will partly bring us back to Dutch soil and help us localize (travel less)."


"The moment we meet and talk to participants, they're well prepared"

Although Renée still travels quite a lot, blended learning is crucial to the company. "In LearningStone, we've set up a process participants can complete before they meet us," Renée explains. "The moment we get to talk to them, they're well prepared."

In addition to group programs, WORKwise also offers individual programs. "Someone can complete a personal leadership program, for example. It focuses on working effectively, dealing with work systems such as Outlook, and striking a good work-life balance. You fully complete it online. In between classes, there are opportunities to have personal contact. There's also a special group space, where we keep an overview of all participants — but they can't communicate with each other there. They all work at their own pace, and we keep track of how it goes!"

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"LearningStone helps you look at your training in a very systematic way"

What Renée likes about LearningStone is that she can fully tailor a program's content to (evolving) customer needs: "We create assignments for specific customers and groups, using helpful blocks. That level of flexibility is really great."

LearningStone's setup also supports Renée's way of working: "You have to build and display everything in a structured manner, which forces you to adopt a systematic view when considering your training. It helps put the right information in the right order. And you can continue to develop your training. For example, we recently went to Asia and realized our pictures didn't properly represent that region. We mostly had images of Africa. It was very easy to add more diversity in LearningStone."

And design is definitely one of WORKwise's fortes. "Of course, participants have to get used to the system. But we generally receive very positive reactions to our content and layout."

This likely has to do with Renée and Elvia's philosophy: "Above all, it should be accessible and simple. We make sure our materials are apt and post lots of pictures with text. The blended learning environment really supports conversations and workshops. If you use it for that purpose, you'll get the most out of it!"

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