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Lesson #8: Invest time in building an integrated approach for your capacity building efforts

It is worth investing time in designing an integrated approach to capacity building (CB) which reflects your main principles in terms of profile of teachers, methodologies, type and origins of training materials, and how to build a relationship with those who benefit from the CB

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Our overall approach to CB has allowed us to continuously learn and enrich each CB activity. Briefly, it can be described as follows:

  • It prioritizes motivated trainers from developing countries who have worked in the field of bridging research and policy and understand the practical challenges this implies in regions such as Latin America and Africa.
  • It implies a mix of diverse CB activities that nurture each other: facilitating online courses, coordinating regional events with different types of workshops, producing our own CB materials, providing technical assistance post-activity to select participants, etc.
  • It combines global views and debates with regional and local experiences
  • It promotes the participation of a very diverse group of individuals and organisations (in terms of geography, professional background and job position, expertise and specialization, etc.) to ensure an integral understanding of the link between research and policy in the region.
  • It balances theory and practice, which has been very well received by participants, and is based on a strong know how from CIPPEC.
  • It translates high quality knowledge (mostly academic) produced in developed countries such as the UK and the US into practical materials that respond to the needs and realities of local contexts in developing countries
  • It continuously builds on what we learned through research production and communication, using this as a platform to re-format knowledge so as to effectively share it in a workshop or course.
  • It stresses the importance of personal relationships, providing one-to-one mentoring for practical exercises, promoting peer reviews, etc.
  • It emphasizes the value of horizontal learning by constantly deploying mechanisms and methodologies that enable sharing of experiences, peer review of exercises, giving space to active trainees so that they can play a leading role in certain moments, etc.
  • Based on participants’ written evaluations, this approach partially explains the generally high degree of overall satisfaction with our conferences, workshops and courses. However, this has worked for SFE due to CIPPEC’s and GDNet’s previous expertise and the available resources for the programme. It is certainly not a formula for every CB activity.

Even knowing that the overall approach has worked we still have some questions about the most effective ways to develop capacity in a sustainable manner. As Peter da Costa, member of the CB group noticed, “we need to talk about ‘ways’ plural as I believe there is no single approach that works across the board of understanding capacity needs and delivering that capacity so that it ‘sticks’.”