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Re-thinking Capacity Development Training After Busan

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2 March 2012

A critical outcome from November’s High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan was the recognition that capacity development is strategic for development effectiveness outcomes, and particularly for achieving sustainable results. A recent pilot training in Brussels reflected the need for changes in the mindset towards capacity development, with the aim to mainstream it as a fundamental concept in the work of the Commission.

According to Public Sector Reform and Capacity Development specialist, Dr Tony Land, the discussions at Busan reflected a shift in the concept of capacity development (CD) from a focus on training and human resources development to recognising that it is more about organisational and system-wide change and reform.   

“We primarily work as bureaucracies or administrators of funds but we really need to make a shift towards being facilitators of change processes.  And that means different skill sets, different procedures, different rules; in sum, a different mindset towards many of the things we have conventionally been doing,” he explained. "In addition, it is important that the space is created within organizations to do things differently." 

Paul Riembault, head of section for Capacity Development in EuropeAid, expressed that the Commission is building on the principles of the Technical Cooperation Reform (backbone strategy) and the lessons which have been learnt after two years of implementation . Within this context, Dr Land is currently supporting the Commission to update its guidance on capacity development and make it an integrated cornerstone of the upcoming Project and Programme Cycle Management guidance (PPCM). 

In parallel, the Commission is also upgrading its former training on Technical Cooperation based on this wider perspective on capacity development as reflected in Busan.

A pilot course on capacity development, supported by Jenny Pearson, was recently tested in Brussels. While the course incorporated existing guidance on technical cooperation and capacity development, it also came after an intense process of improving coherence among donors and partners' organisations who work in the field of capacity development. In the framework of LenCD (Learning Network on Capacity Development), a joint CD Learning Package has been developed in a consultative manner by a working group of LenCD partners, under the guidance of Ms Pearson, who coordinated the process.



Ms. Pearson sees adapting capacity development to a local context as essential to achieving sustainable change.  Another important learning she adheres to is to adopt a holistic approach, taking into consideration the different types of capacity that may exist or be needed at various levels from individuals to organisations, from sectors to societies.

She promotes that capacity development initiatives can only be fully relevant and successful when the inter-relationships between all the different types and levels of capacity, together with the sociopolitical environment are taken into account.

“But of course the ultimate thing is that we have got to make the shift in everything we do in capacity development from being donor-driven to country- led, and that is a very big shift. It needs a re-thinking and a mindset shift and a re-skilling on both sides,” she said.

The pilot training involved active participation and viewpoints of Delegation staff from various locations in order to test the draft modules against the practical day-to-day challenges that staff in Delegations confront. Topics addressed included how to take account of context; how to support partner-led change in ways that reinforce ownership and commitment; how to define capacity development results and monitor them; how to set up programme implementation arrangements in ways that respect aid effectiveness principles and promote capacity development.

Also present at the pilot training were a group of trainers who will soon begin to deliver the course, and their ideas and comments have been used to finalise the course content for delivery.  Over the coming months the trainings will roll out in various locations, and will be announced on

Contributors to this collaborative piece: Dr Tony Land, Jenny Pearson and Paul Riembault. The views, opinions and the content herein do not represent the official view of the European Commission. Multimedia and collaboration facilitated by EuropeAid's 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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