Effective capacity development involves understanding and supporting change management processes, according to consultants Carole Pretorius and Nico Pretorius who took part in a special capacity development workshop in Brussels recently. As part of a team of researchers, Carole Pretorius conducted a five country study on how development practitioners can better support capacity development in the field of public finance management.

The findings were based on ‘A Practitioner's Guide to Supporting Capacity Development in Public Financial Management’, commissioned by the Task Force on Public Financial Management of the OECD/DAC.

A powerpoint presentation introducing that study is available for download, here. The report in full is available in two volumes: Supporting Capacity Development in PFM – A Practitioner’s Guide Volume I, and Volume II: The Country Case Studies.

After conducting studies in Lesotho, Mali, Morocco, Nepal and Rwanda, the report authors detailed a number of common findings that highlight typical barriers or impediments to capacity development that have relevance for all development practitioners, not just those working in PFM.

A key finding of their research was that donors did not fully appreciate “the very important link between change management and capacity development,” said Carole Pretorius. “[Donors] tended to just concentrate on communication, or rather, actually speaking down to people.”



“But perhaps the most interesting thing that we found was that in many cases they were not speaking the same language. So a lot of the terms that we consider quite easy – say ‘capacity development’ – donors and partner countries were not necessarily appreciating or understanding the terms,” she added.

The study is intended to be used by both donors and partner countries to improve how donors support partner countries’ efforts in implementing their public financial management reforms.

Managing Change

According to Nico Pretorius, donors could have greater success in the area of capacity development if they adopted measures to better manage as well as to encourage acceptance of change.

Change, whether in a personal context, within an organisation or even in a country, often evokes an emotional response. It can cause discomfort and unease which can ultimately build resistance to change.

Donors should be aware of such emotional responses, learn how to manage them and be willing and able to explain why change is necessary and in some cases inevitable.

According to Mr Pretorius, there are four main reasons why change fails:

  • Lack of clear vision
  • Absence of a sense of urgency
  • Failure to act, due to competing demands and poorly conceived implementation strategy
  • Limited capacity to manage the change process and to embrace new ways of working

For long-term success, Mr Pretorius recommends detailed planning and preparation backed up with continuous monitoring and assessment during the change process.

“In order to get sustainable change you have to have a big idea… and you have to go into very small detail.... And then you have to monitor the process all the time,” said Mr Pretorius. “In the end, it’s trying to create repetitive behaviour so that people change without actually knowing that they’ve changed.”


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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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