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CAPACITY BUILDING: is it only a matter of training?

by Giulia Di Pierro

For a better understanding of the role of investments in capacity building, it is crucial to clearly define capacity building in all its various aspects. Quite often, the notion of capacity building is associated to the idea of increasing or developing skills and competencies at an individual level, i.e. training of staff.
Capacity building is a much broader concept that should be considered from a systemic perspective, which involves different clusters, as individuals, organizations, institution and society.

Capacity building

According to the definition of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP): “In the global context, capacity refers to the ability of individuals and institutions to make and implement decisions and perform functions in an effective, efficient and sustainable manner. At the individual level, capacity building refers to the process of changing attitudes and behaviours-imparting knowledge and developing skills while maximizing the benefits of participation, knowledge exchange and ownership. At the institutional level it focuses on the overall organizational performance and functioning capabilities, as well as the ability of an organization to adapt to change. At the systemic level it emphasizes the overall policy framework in which individuals and organizations operate and interact with the external environment.”
Specific and targeted capacity building initiatives needs to be undertaken at each single level. Potential capacity building initiatives for each cluster are:

  • INDIVIDUAL: training programmes, business development activities, workshops for in-depth discussion of specific topics; conferences;
  • INSTITUTIONAL: development of internal policies, organizational and procedural restructuring; and
  • SYSTEMIC: advocacy initiatives, consultations, open dialogue, reforms.

The effects and impacts of each capacity building strategy differ from country to country, institution to institution as well as from individual to individual, according to the pre-existing historical, legal, economic and social background. This is why capacity assessment is a key priority when developing any capacity building programme. As Federico Fellini said, “A pearl is an oyster’s biography”. An in-depth understanding of this “biography” is indeed crucial for the effectiveness of a capacity building strategy and for the overall achievement of a system of knowledge in any field.

Recognizing the important role of capacity building, over the last few years, International Financial Institutions has increasingly engaged themselves in capacity building activities in procurement and competition policy for their Clients. Lear is currently working with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and with the World Bank to implement technical assistance projects focused on each of the above-mentioned capacity building level.