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European Commission and World Bank Institute's Staff Share Insights Towards Innovation in Capacity Development

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7 June 2012

The World Bank Institute and the European Commission’s DG Development and Cooperation recently held a one day workshop to discuss their respective approaches to capacity development and explore ways of enhancing WBI- European Commission synergies.

Three and a half years ago the World Bank Institute (WBI) took a long, hard look at itself and took steps that resulted in a 63% adaptation of the workforce and adoption of an open, results -based approach entitled the Open Knowledge and Collaborative Governance Approach to Capacity Development.

At around the same time, the European Commission started a bold reform called the Backbone Strategy on Technical Cooperation, which aimed at improving capacity development in its programmes. Part of that commitment involved establishing, as an online knowledge sharing tool for EC staff and other development professionals.

Resonating well with agreements made at last year’s High Level Forum in Busan and with the strategic orientations set out in the EU’s Agenda for Change, the workshop displayed potential complementarities between the WBI and the European Commission’s DG Development and Cooperation in areas such as transparency, country result frameworks, budget support operations, governance/fragility and dialogue and support to non-state actors.

"Capacity development understanding and practice is a global effort,” said Paul Riembault, Head of Section Capacity Development in EuropeAid. "This good collaboration among us has been facilitated by the existence of LenCD, the Learning Network on Capacity Development. In particular in the run-up to Busan, LenCD has allowed a series of stakeholders - from donors, partner countries, non- state actors - to evolve towards common views."


The WBI has pioneered a number of innovative approaches as part of a bank-wide effort to increase citizen engagement, feedback and transparency in order to strengthen accountability in countries and within the international aid system. 

One of the tools being used to this end is called Boost. “It is, at a very simple level, a tool that takes public expenditure data with budget data and puts it in a very simple excel format which makes it easy to understand, easy for visualize and then easy to mix up with other socio economic data,” explained Robert Hunja, a Lead Governance Specialist at the WBI. “But the beauty of it is that it enables great transparency around budgets and around expenditures, which enables citizen groups, parliamentarians and media to then use this data to make stories, to hold governments to account, to talk about policy changes with governments.” Utilising this tool, the WBI acts as a connector bringing together the various actors to allow them to work together to improve policy choices, budget execution and ultimately, service delivery to their citizens.

Chairman of WBI, Sanjay Pradhan enthused about the potential of this new role. “Traditionally we have had a passive approach to capacity development – people go to training courses and they try to learn, but today there is a much more dynamic area of capacity development. Practitioners want to learn from other practitioners … developing countries want to learn from other developing countries … each country wants to share a few things that it is proud of, “ he said. “So we need to play the role of a connector. And the reason this becomes so powerful is that when you learn from peers it builds inspiration.” 

Common Interests

A common area of DG Development and Cooperation and WBI interest and approach was identified in engaging with civil society organisations (CSOs). Virginia Manzitti, Head of EuropeAid's sector in charge of the relations with civil society and local authorities, highlighted the recent EC Open Consultation process with civil society organizations. This consultation focused on the action of CSOs in policy work and domestic accountability and included reference to the rise of social media and social movements.  "The objective of our consultation is to reach out to local CSOs and gather views on how to promote their participation in policy processes and their roles in oversight functions and more broadly for enhanced domestic accountability. These functions are complex and of political nature, they entail risks and need adequate capacities," said Ms Manzitti.

Common interests were also seen in accountability, transparency and value for money. “Transparency with our data resources is at the heart of the WBI approach,” said Practice Manager for Innovation, Aleem Walji, “the aim being to transform that data into learning and knowledge.”  In 2011 the WBI opened the doors on its vast databank, and Walji has been delighted at how software developers have independently utilised the data to create new platforms that are working towards improved aid effectiveness. He encourages development practitioners to explore the resulting opportunities.

"As we heard in the workshop,” said Paul Riembault from EuropeAid, "today there are more mobile phones connections in Africa than in Europe. Access to information is a factor of empowerment. We have been particularly interested by WBI’s experience of South Kivu where SMS participatory budgeting has led to an increase in tax revenues. Change is happening there. ICT and information sharing have become a means of supporting the development of capacities."

The day closed with a ‘way forward’ discussion, having identified areas of compatibility, with intention to use this as a basis of increased collaboration over time.

This collaborative peice was drafted with input from Virginia Manzitti, Paul Riembault, and Aleem Walji with support from the Coordination Team.


DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission, or any other organisation.

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