5 Responses

  1. Stephen Howes
    Stephen Howes April 24, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Hi Jo, I don’t have a precise definition, and would welcome your thoughts. I guess an organization’s capacity is its ability to get things done, so if you are developing the capacity of an organization you are helping it to be able to get more things done. That could be achieved in many ways. I wouldn’t define capacity development so that it excludes skills transfer which is what the evaluation does.Skills transfer must be the most obvious way volunteers can contribute to capacity development, so excluding it when you are trying to examine whether volunteers do contribute to capacity development seems very odd indeed.

    1. Jo Spratt
      Jo Spratt May 6, 2014 at 7:53 am

      Hey there Stephen. Sometimes it seems like there are so many definitions of capacity development it ends up having no meaning. My favourite is: “that emergent combination of individual competencies, collective capabilities, assets and relationships that enables a human system to create value” (Baser and Morgan et. al, Capacity Change and Performance: Study Report, Discussion Paper No. 59B, April 2008, European Centre for Development Policy Management, p. 3).

      Recommended further reading are new (relatively) publications by two Australian practitioners, Ernest Antoine and Deborah Rhodes. They both wrote the useful ‘A Practitioners Handbook for Capacity Development: A Cross-Cultural Approach’. And Deborah wrote ‘Capacity Across Cultures. Global Lessons from Pacific Experiences.’ Both make a fabulous contribution to the literature and it is wonderful to have Pacific experiences documented in them.

    2. Jo Spratt
      Jo Spratt May 6, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      Sorry, what I also wanted to say is that I agree that skills transfer is a capacity development ‘tool’, particularly focusing on individual competencies (which might amalgamate, plus other ingredients, to collective capabilities). But I also think that simply placing people (volunteers, for example) in line positions within organisations can be a capacity development tool, too. If you use the Baser and Morgan definition, it fits. And I think examination of individuals in line positions, and the broader impact they may have, would be useful. Perhaps they actually achieve more capacity development than those tasked with skills transfer. Worth a thought. But ultimately, personally, I think capacity development contributions made by external actors come down to the skill, experience and attitude of the individual (in a variety of areas), their understanding of the context, and the relationships they build and maintain.

      1. Stephen Howes
        Stephen Howes May 18, 2014 at 9:37 pm

        Jo, I agree with you that putting someone in an in-line position might be an effective, perhaps the most effective, way to build capacity. But it would be unlikely that you placed a volunteer in such a position with the main purpose of building capacity. Rather, you’d put them there because you need someone to fill the position. That’s one reason why it doesn’t make sense to give as much weight to capacity development as a goal for the volunteer program as this evaluation does.

  2. Jo Spratt
    Jo Spratt April 17, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Thanks Stephen – really useful posts. I’m curious – how do you define capacity development?

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