Results are in from the online membership satisfaction survey conducted in February. The Vi sought to measure the extent to which capacity-building services offered last year were relevant to the members’ work, studies and professional development.

An overwhelming majority (99%) of the 218 respondents said Vi services were useful in one or more of their professional areas, specifically in their research (35%), teaching (21%), studies (20%), policymaking (15%) and advocacy activities (5%).

“The Vi is changing the face of the world through knowledge sharing, especially for people like us from the poorest parts of the world,” said Gibriel Badjie, lecturer at Vi core member, the University of the Gambia.

“The most important thing I benefited from is the published studies and research,” said Eldaw Ahmed Mohamed Eldaw, of the University of Gezira. “Having access to these online published materials is of paramount importance for scientists from developing countries like our case in Sudan.”

In 2015, Virtual Institute capacity-building activities directly benefited nearly 1200 academics, students, and practitioners in government and civil society around the world. The services were delivered through the development of a two-volume teaching material on trade and gender, six local adaptations of existing teaching resources,  three online courses, six professional development workshops, two fellowships, nine study tours and 13 videoconference presentations of UNCTAD research.

“The number of indirect beneficiaries could easily reach several thousand, given the characteristic multiplier effect of Vi services,” said Vi Chief, Vlasta Macku. “Teachers transmit their newly acquired knowledge and skills to their students, researchers incorporate new ideas and methods into their studies, and undertake further studies that contribute to national debate and may influence policymaking.”

Results confirmed that the orientation of Vi services -- providing teaching resources, capacity-building and networking -- is highly valued by the users and responds to their needs. Online courses, the Vi website, academic opportunity (scholarships, call for papers, etc.) e-mail alerts, teaching materials, workshops and fellowships garnered the highest ratings.

“I had the wonderful privilege of benefiting from two online courses conducted by the UNCTAD Virtual Institute,” said Anil Kuruvila, associate professor at Kerala Agricultural University, India. “These were the best (short term/online) courses I have ever undergone, especially in terms of the materials supplied, video lectures, mentoring from experts and discussions. These courses have immensely helped me to refresh my knowledge in these areas and in turn honed my skills in research and teaching.”

“We are particularly satisfied with the teaching materials provided by the Virtual Institute,” said Paskal Zhelev, Vi coordinator at core Bulgarian member, University of National and World Economy. “We would like the Vi to invest more in this field by covering more topics and by updating the existing materials.”

“Through the years I have had the opportunity to take online courses, use the teaching materials, exchange experience with experts from UNCTAD, participate in a fellowship and meetings in Geneva and in some countries with member institutions of the Vi,” said Orlando Da Silva, Vi coordinator at affiliate member, Universidade Federal de Viçosa. “I have to thank all of you for this and say that very much of my learning on trade was multiplied to hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students in Brazil and abroad.”

“The comments we received are a huge encouragement and motivation for our future work,” Macku said. “But we also received a great deal of requests for more capacity-building opportunities than we can currently accommodate with existing resources.”

In essence, members call for more training -- online courses and face-to-face workshops -- and importantly, for opportunities to apply the knowledge they have acquired through Vi training – research mentoring and support, for example.

“The Vi needs to initiate more courses, especially on data analysis and non-tariff measures,” said Pakistani associate member, Salamat Ali, currently at the University of Nottingham. “I deeply request you to initiate a Vi online course on gravity models,” said Kumar Gaurav, of the Indian Institute of Technology Patna.

“In the future, please hold more face-to-face courses on policy formulation and advice on trade related activities,” said Mohato Peete, of Lesotho’s Ministry of Development Planning. “We hope that workshops could be organized more regularly locally. It is very important to interact directly with experts on site,” said Fred Truong Bui Xuan, lecturer at Vietnam Maritime University.

“I would like to see more research project/paper mentorship,” said Mary Odongo, of TradeMark East Africa, Kenya. “I think that Vi could give opportunity to the participants to collect non-tariff measures in their countries, because as they said during the course, there is a lack of information in this field,” said   Djordje Cuzovic, lecturer at Serbia’s Novi Sad Business School.

“The activities of the Vi are extremely important and must be maintained for the benefit of the members,” said Malick Sané, of  core Senegalese member, Cheikh Anta Diop University. “More resources should be put by donors for the provision of Vi services. The dynamism and spirit of innovation and openness of the Vi staff is welcomed.”

“The Virtual Institute is extremely under-funded and under-staffed,” said Vi coordinator, Ramon Torrent, of Spanish core member Universitat de Barcelona. “It would need a substantial increase in budget and staff. It cannot go on forever on the basis of the good will and hard work of its managers (and the collaboration of members).“