SAMU Learning Unit
Strategic vision and principles of action
2016 - 2019

Learning can be defined as the process of acquiring new behaviours, knowledge, skills and attitudes which enhance an employee’s ability to meet current and future job requirements and perform at higher levels (learning contribute to development).

Development involves the growth and enhancement of all aspects of the person. It covers activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance the quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations.

MSF SAMU develops people and their competencies, aligned to MSF culture, principles and operational needs; by providing, on a continuous basis, the most relevant learning and development opportunities to everyone, anywhere, when they most need it.

SAMU L&D collaborates with individuals, managers at HQ and in the field, with all MSF Medical departments and other external actors to develop the capability our Human Resources and to improve both individual and organisational effectiveness and performance in HIV/TB care and hence better fulfill our social mission.


Contrary to the idea that there is a time to learn and then a time to "act", we support the concept of lifelong learning.

Lifelong learning is an all-embracing process which, at every stage of life, builds on all the situations and contexts we find ourselves in.
Building on experiences becomes an attitude that affects not only work, but also an individual's whole approach to life - in the community, as an activist, in their cultural and intellectual life. These individuals are thus able to cope with professional developments and challenges, changes, disruptions linked to changes, technological developments and all the events affecting their lives and work.

The complexity of the contexts of intervention and the developments in medical practices and in methods of resource management require MSF to be innovative and versatile at all times. To achieve this, the development of skills is an essential strategy in the organisation and fulfillment of its social mission.

The expertise and skills within MSF are well known and sometimes unique in the field of emergency humanitarian medical aid and, more specifically, in the work of the SAMU in the fight against HIV and tuberculosis. We must therefore consider that these skills belong to the organisation and not just to the individuals concerned. As the owner and manager of these resources, it is MSF's duty and responsibility to pass them on to its staff.

Therefore we view the development of skills in the same way as any initiative aimed at reducing or closing the gap between skills already possessed by our staff and those that the organisation is seeking. This disparity should be identified and perceived as a potential for individual development, rather than as a gap or weakness.

Whilst knowledge can be acquired during formal training, skills are gained and developed only in work situations. Learning is therefore not confined to a specific period of time, but is a constant process of alternating between periods of work and periods of training. We therefore reaffirm that training, first and foremost, takes place whilst at work.

Training is therefore not separate from life at work or indeed from life itself. It is also part of our day-to-day managerial practices, and pertains to everyone's roles and responsibilities – trainers, coordinators, supervisors and learners.

Thus, we reaffirm the following general principles:

  • Alignment to the organization culture, principles, operational strategies and needs
  • Learning, as understood as lifelong learning, is continuous and happens every day.
  • The development of each and everyone’s autonomy by promoting creativity, recognition, ethics and social responsibility
  • Access: Learning in general and learning methods and tools are to be made easily accessible to all our people, regardless of context, location, position or administrative status
  • Competencies approach is the baseline that guides our learning engineering
  • The 70/20/10 concept: we learn on the job (70%), learn from others (20%) and learn from formal training (10%) Workplace is the first learning place
  • Complementarity / coherence within all L&D activities: learning is a permanent back and forth process between period of experience (work) and period of “formalisation”.
  • Therefore, learning and development is a shared responsibility:
  • MSF is creating a conducive environment for learning that values, encourages and recognizes skills acquisition; and where all employees have a role and responsibility to play.
  • Learners/employees are considered as professional partners of their learning process, they are motivated to learn, are self-reliant and willing to learn on their own terms (expectations / needs / commitment).
  • In the spirit of internal (MSF Movement) and external partnership

For further reference, see Charles Jennings' video: 70/20/10