This presentation examines the experience of the Inter-American Development Bank in adopting Open Badges both at the organizational level as well as for external audiences in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC region). It reflects on the value and impact of digital badges for an international multilateral organization, for its employees, and for its regional stakeholders. It discusses the challenges and opportunities of expanding the use of digital badges for open recognition on the wings of a decentralized and organic adoption process that inadvertently benefits creativity and innovation.
Since 2004, IDB has been offering professional capacity building for those in the public sector in the LAC region, covering various topics in social and economic development. This offering has steadily grown in these almost two decades to include a variety of modes of online delivery. The distinction here is that IDB’s learning initiatives focus on training professionals that work with and for its major partners in the public sector throughout the LAC region. Given its mission, IDB has embraced open content, and since it is not a degree-granting institution, open badges are the perfect fit to recognize learning and achievement.
In 2017, IDB stepped into the open badges landscape envisioning two goals: providing recognition of learning achievement to its personnel and to its audience (mostly in the public sector) in the LAC region, and ultimately stimulating and supporting change in the region when it comes to credentialing. Given the decentralized nature of the learning initiatives, open badges have flourished in an organic and decentralized fashion. Although, so far, open badges have for the most part been used for ‘certifying’ formal learning, the absence of a rigid strategy paves the way for several avenues that go beyond the walls of the ‘one course one badge’ pattern.
With close to 300 digital badges and more than 115 thousand badges awarded as of this writing, IDB has come a long way in the process of becoming a significant player as an open badge issuer. This is seen as the doorway to achieve the influencing role in expanding the acceptance and bringing in other players in the LAC region into issuing such types of credentials.
Thus far, for the most part, badges have been created in association with the completion of courses. There are a few instances of lighter touch badges for participation in events or badges to recognize winners of group competitions within training, but these are still exceptions. However, there are no rigid guardrails to prevent the adoption of open badges for other kinds of recognition. As the concept of open badges becomes more ingrained and slowly separates itself from that of a certificate, it can be expected that they will expand to include more diverse learning situations, including informal learning.
IDB is not approaching the credentialing landscape with the goal of breaking it up and contest its authorities. On the contrary, it sees open badges as a way of being included in the credentialing landscape and partner with existing stakeholders. The decentralized nature of the learning initiatives seeps into the decentralized nature of adopting open badges. But the reins of issuing badges are still not shared with “all”. In this sense, we are far from an informal recognition system of informal learning. It is clearly possible to expand the formal recognition of informal learning with this decentralized system, and from there slowly experiment with the meaning and value of informal recognition. For the most part of our extensive external audience, informal recognition, for now, goes counter to the main intent of IDB badges and most certainly the expectation of current badge earners. However, there are some interesting pockets, such as recognition associated with roles within project operations, or contributions in specific initiatives that are strong candidates for successful innovative badging endeavors. The organic evolution of badges within IDB has taught us an important lesson: the most important step in the process is creating new badging stories (new uses of badges) sparked by a critical need of specific stakeholders. These stories serve as powerful examples for other stakeholders. Creating frameworks, generic guidelines and long-term strategies has not proven to be effective, because it stifles the creativity that flourishes when compliance leaves the room.