FEATURE: Seeking capacity development results
How can capacity development best be organised to generate good results? Klas Sandström of Niras looks at a CDKN-supported water project where over 130 professionals increased their capacity in climate resilient planning and a Pan-Africa network in climate adaptation work was established.
Capacity development is often regarded as critical to promote change and positive development. But how can capacity development best be organised to generate good results? The large and long-term capacity development programme titled “The Economics of Adaptation, Water Security and Climate Resilient Development in Africa” provides an excellent case for a study of this question. It offers the experience and lessons learned of a program representing many types of pedagogic approaches, implemented across Africa, and managed and owned by a combination of local and international institutions.
The programme was designed to provide senior government planners in eight countries across Africa with the capacity to build resilience against climate change into national investment programmes and to enhance professional networks. It was implemented in Cameroon, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique from January 2013 to November 2015. The programme was supported by the CDKN, and implemented by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and Niras InDevelop of Stockholm, Sweden. The programme was managed in each country by GWP’s national management and Water, Climate and Development Programme (WACDEP) Country Managers, and implemented by a National Training Coordinator together with a team consisting of three lecturers from each country.
As part of the programme, a complete package of learning material in three languages (English, French and Portuguese) was developed, over 40 professional workshops were held, and participants received a certificate following the successful completion of a demanding web-based exam facilitated independently by UNITAR.
There were two types of participants; planners and senior decision-makers. The former were on average 12 per country and the latter were on average five per country. Decision-makers were only involved at the beginning and end of the programme, however the decision makers were an important group as they provided support to the planners’ involvement in the programme and were made aware of how climate resilient development could be promoted and mainstreamed into national government processes. Today this group forms an additional entry-point for future climate work within each country government. They can support future capacity development programmes in terms of identifying participants, key institutions, and on-going national processes. It is a powerful and supportive group that has proven its interest and engagement.
A key output the planners had to produce was an Action Plan. The Action Plan was an assignment that was developed by the planner in collaboration with their home institution. It linked programme activities and learning processes with the participants’ organisation and assigned responsibilities. It engaged participants in tasks such as policy reviews, curriculum development, research applications, and report writing.
The Action Plans actually bridged the rift that often exists between training and implementation, and engaged participants in a way that training alone would never achieve. A national programme coordinator described it like this: “The capacity building programme wasn’t operated as a one way programme were the participants were expected to receive knowledge. Participants were active in the programme through the group exercise and the mentoring activities. The participants realised the role they can play on mainstreaming water security and climate resilient development in the planning chain. Actually, they became aware that they are entry points themselves, being directly involved as actors of the development process”. It was via the connection between lectures, discussions and the implementation of the Action Plan that participants’ learning processes became concrete and delivered real, useful results. Many acknowledged this, such as one participant from Rwanda: “The programme equipped me with a lot of knowledge and skill on Climate Change issues which has improved my professional career”.
Throughout the programme Planners were supported by a mentor. This was something new to all – lecturers (who also acted as mentors) and participants alike. A “Mentor-Mentee Agreement” was signed at an early stage, outlining how they should cooperate, when to meet and what to discuss. National coordinators followed their interactions. In the end, mentors contributed much to the Action Plan’s focus and quality. Participants liked it. A Ghana participant wrote: “Mentor-mentee relationship was a brilliant idea. It serves as a platform for continuous learning aside the workshop periods. In my case, I had the opportunity to contact other tutors as well.” The experience gained from organising and supporting mentor-mentee work can easily feed into future capacity development programmes.
To encourage learning from each other across the eight countries, the programme included networking through Pan-African discussion groups held online. Participants were organised into 12 groups, six in French and six in English, and given a topic of shared, professional interest to discuss. Two facilitators supported each group. The quality of deliberations varied, but many turned into good quality discussions about the water and climate challenges that Africa face. Difficult issues were raised; like how do you allocate water between competing demands and how do you manage the effects of climate change on water quality? The activity is an example of the benefits that online discussion forums can provide.
Whilst many outcomes have been noted, the true impacts – i.e. changes in people’s lives – will take longer to be seen. Still, the outcomes are very important. Examples include an inclusion of climate change in the national standard Terms of Reference for water and land planning studies in Tunisia, a successful submission of a project proposal titled “Supporting urban flood management in Maputo towards enhancing climate resilience” by participants from Mozambique (the proposal has subsequently been approved for funding by the African Water Facility), and the inclusion of the programme’s capacity development curriculum in several training institutions in Ghana.
Outcomes are easily discerned today, while the impacts require time to mature. Participants in Burkina Faso identified water security gaps in their National Adaptation Planning (NAP) process document and how to bridge these. It was good work, aiming for a better future. And that is the nature of capacity development. It is a process. And as such it takes time to arrive at the point where the trees will bear fruit.