Time flies! It has been a little more than half a year since I came to the JVI, and that felt like a good time to take stock of what I’ve seen and learned so far.
What struck me most is the very strong sense that both the IMF and our colleagues in Austria—the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Oesterreichische Nationalbank—are justifiably proud of what has been accomplished at JVI since 1992. And that pride in Austria extends well beyond officialdom—many Austrian colleagues in academia and the financial sector are well-aware of and support the Joint Vienna Institute.
Almost 30,000 individuals have undergone about 1600 training courses at JVI since its inception, and the number of highly-placed JVI alumni continues to make an impression. For example, in Armenia as many as ten previous or current ministers of finance, including the incumbent Minister Vardan Aramyan, have attended courses at JVI.
At the same time, our IMF colleagues view JVI, which is the oldest and largest of the Fund’s network of Regional Training Centers, as a global model for capacity development on IMF issues. Indeed, the newest of the Fund’s regional centers, the South Asia Regional Training and Technical Assistance Center (SARTTAC), was to some extent designed on the JVI template.
Alumni take a stake in JVI
What has also struck me is the fact that we do get a fair number of “repeat customers,” as participants come back to JVI from time to time for additional professional training. We welcome this practice, as it indicates our courses add value and boost the careers of participants in the JVI region.
Related is the fact that JVI alumni are very loyal to the institution. They keep in touch with the instructors, program officers (POs), and with each other, and serve as ambassadors for the Institute in their own countries. As an example, during a visit to Belarus in January, I hosted a reception for JVI alumni in Minsk to which 60 people came. They were from a variety of institutions and departments—statistics, fiscal, monetary—and all were vocal in their support for JVI, consistently voicing the idea that JVI had been central to their professional and career success.
A clear impression after a half-year is that the JVI staff themselves are a talented, diverse, and dedicated group. They hail from all over the JVI region, as well as Austria and even a bit further (Venezuela being the most distant!). They know their jobs and take pride in what we are accomplishing at JVI, something that is reflected in the consistently excellent feedback we get from participants, course directors, and lecturers alike. I am clearly lucky to work with all of them!
Training Directors come to JVI
We have just finished our Second Meeting of Training Directors from the various ministries and central banks in our target countries. Their sense of ownership and commitment to the JVI made a big impression on me. Many of these mainly human resources professionals have been to JVI for training themselves over the years. They noted that staff development is a key pillar of their home institutions’ capacity development activities, and they offered plenty of constructive feedback and advice about how the JVI can continue to improve its effectiveness.
For me, the advice of these Training Directors is golden. After almost 25 years of continuous operation, the JVI has to be both a teaching and a learning organization. It is our job at the JVI to regularly revisit our course offerings and our modes of operation to ensure that we continue to serve our members.
During the visit of Training Directors to JVI, in addition to plenty of praise and appreciation, we heard a few comments and suggestions. One is that there continues to be strong demand for Russian language instruction. Many Training Directors were very supportive of integrating on-line learning into our curriculum, and there is demand for more peer-to-peer learning. In addition to our established curriculum, there is demand for new courses, whether technical aspects of financial sector supervision, or tax and revenue administration, or gender budgeting. Training Directors told us they favor increased use of social media—Facebook, for example—and more vidcast summaries of course content, to help gauge appropriate training opportunities for their staffs. We will aim to respond to these suggestions in the coming months.
As we mark a quarter century of training of public officials, the one impression that is really inescapable is that JVI has made a positive difference for the individuals and the institutions it has served in this region. There is a consensus on that, and it is something of which we can all be proud—even a relative newcomer like me!
Thomas Richardson, Director, JVI