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Market thinking to enhance ownership of capacity development processes

(I wrote this blogpost together with Nicolette Mathijssen, was published on 17 March 2011 for an upcoming online discussion "Capacity: on the brink of maturity?" in The Broker)

Ownership is an important issue in Capacity Development (CD) processes. People and organisations don’t develop simply because an outsider believes it needs to happen. This argument is almost too basic to make. Yet, our studies into CD investments at the sub-national level clearly show how little ownership actually exists.

In striving for localisation of CD services to organizations operating at the sub-national level - such as the lower tiers of government, local NGOs, and Small and Medium Enterprises - SNV Netherlands Development Organisation studied the current provision of CD services from a market perspective: Who asks for CD interventions (users) and who responds (providers)?

In Lao PDR, we found that the Government is the main user (42.8%), with very few CD services (6.3%) going to provincial and district levels. Data from Pakistan showed that 70% of health organisations in a remote district of Punjab province had not accessed any CD services in the past two years, and the remaining 30% accessed only once. The provincial capital Lahore represented a more dynamic market, with access in the past two years of up to 5 times. Research from the UNDP-SNV partnership in 5 Asian countries confirms this alarming picture: poverty reduction efforts need to be delivered by sub-national actors, and yet these organizations benefit least of all from CD investments.

In the HIV/AIDS sector in Vietnam our research noted that CD services are purchased by international actors on behalf of the end users. Needs and supply of CD services are determined externally, with little input from users and little awareness of their actual needs. Similarly in Lao PDR, we concluded that the end users and service providers only meet at delivery time. While there may be country ownership of the CD agenda, there is very little ownership of CD services with the sub-national users. What comes out strongly is that the latter have little choice about the development of their capacity, except ‘stay away’, which they actually do at times as anecdotal evidence from donors themselves suggests. Should we then be surprised about persistent complaints that the main benefits of CD events are ‘sitting allowances'?

To anchor ownership of CD processes more firmly at the sub-national level, so that we boost the results of CD interventions, stakeholders that engaged with us in these market surveys have suggested to tackle the following urgently:

  • find ways to communicate directly with the potential end users about the CD options available to them: specific examples of what similar organisations have achieved concretely through CD services work better than communication about ‘training topics’
  • bring users and providers closer together: strengthen the capacity and outreach of providers, and enable more direct ‘business’ interactions between the two
  • find ways to make more CD resources (e.g. up to UD$ 20,000) directly available to sub-national organizations, so that CD service providers have a reason to engage with provincial and district users before actual service delivery.

Views: 87

Comment by Russell Lewis on September 23, 2011 at 23:50
I would probably go one step further and say that CD outside of government (i.e. civil society) is almost non-existent in country level thinking and yet most of the meaningful work in the community is being done by the civil sector and small NGOs - usually on a volunteer basis.  Given that real change in countries and in particular corruption really only occurs with the expansion of a strong middle class, perhaps more should be done at the grass-roots level to lift community standards, thereby hastening that middle class.
Comment by Lucia Nass on September 26, 2011 at 9:07

It is so true that CD outside the civil service is not part of government thinking/planning. In-country Aid Effectiveness debates among development partners have often been about how to get money down in the government system, and how to spread it to other local actors. (I have not seen them engage country governments around it...)

SNV is not only looking at redirecting fund flows to the local level, but also at how to better tap into local resources. The growing middle class in countries like Vietnam certainly has hughe potential. SNVs "CD market place" work in Vietnam takes 'social entrepreneurship' as a way of tapping into local resources.

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