Capacity Development / Capacity Strengthening / CapDev / CGIAR / ILRI / LIVESTOCK-FISH / Research

What does it take to make capacity development happen in a research for development program?

The global dominant development issue this year Sustainable Development is front and centre. Though sustainability means different things to different people, one thing becomes clearer: Convergence on the importance of Capacity Development and Partnerships with over ten references made in the UN Sustainable Development Goals document.

2014, my first full year working for ILRI and the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, was a year of “sense-making” and “design” (conducting almost 20 missions, formulating assessment approaches/tools/methodologies, framing intervention activities for the value chain strategic implementation and works plans etc.), and maybe (facilitating) a profound change about capacity development thinking within the program, the true understandings and implications of which are yet to unfold. Our value chain countries are demanding support and change. Change from how things stand. But it’s less clear what change is sometimes envisaged. In the years ahead, capacity development to support (institutional, organizational and individual) change has to become a constant articulation, not elusive.

Things are somewhat in limbo. CGIAR is undergoing a reform process; CRP value chain countries have huge demands and needs but seem, at least on the “development” side of the coin, understaffed and not sufficiently funded and equipped to assess and drive (the different) capacity changes. What will be the implication of this reform for our CRP in 2015? There are strong hints that it will require even more focus on our performance.

There is a clear need for greater contextualization about our capacity development approach and it is then also with great pleasure that I can share with you today our video production on capacity development in the program. I hope we can open your curious disposition to learning more about what we do (and admitting that we not having all the answers . . .).

During the last months I have written blog posts on why people and local organizations matter and piecing together the (gender) research for (capacity) development puzzle in which I reflect on work we conduct together with value chain partners to develop (gender) capacity assessment methodologies. In the post on big data for organizational development I emphasized that we need data to convince resource organizations, investors, incubator funds and the likes to expand financial investment for the organizational development of our partners and to design and deliver innovative learning materials and approaches to identify innovations and breakthroughs in (e-)learning approaches (gaming, mobile/ICT etc.).

(Research for) Development programs often position themselves to pilot new approaches and take these to scale. But often, pilot interventions do not reach scale and are not sustainable. In part, this is because the contexts within which pilots operate change in ways that are not understood and lessons learned may not always be documented and applied.

A recent external evaluation of our value chain approach stated: “Training provided to producers had been the main contribution of the program to value chain upgrading” and  “for the most part, however, the value chain teams appeared to be working on innovations that are not particularly amenable to scaling.

So, when then is scale, change and capacity development likely to take place? To answer this question we at least require detailed insights about who’s is who, and who connects to whom, and how dynamics of interactions between stakeholders play out. Better understanding of institutional arrangements (policies and regulatory frameworks), cultural norms, values, power is imperative to understand dynamics, this is often tacit knowledge that is invisible to many (scientists?) eyes.

To make capacity development happen a vision needs to be developed, and results to be expected need to be clear. How comprehensive and ambitious can such a vision at CGIAR and CRP levels be? I have argued to the CGIAR office last week that they should consider adding to its vision the development of resilient organizations and institutions and asked for the inclusion of explicit references to three cross cutting topics of global importance namely women and youth, climate change and capacity development.

I am not sure whether our CRP’s capacity development roadmap 2014-2017 suffices to guide and drive large-scale reform or if it just focuses on incremental capacity development. A detailed results framework (as proposed last week by the CGIAR Community of Practice on capacity development) could allow us to be more explicit about tracking against quantitative and qualitative indicators in the new Strategic Results Framework.

I hope you will watch our video. Like the CGIAR Capacity Development Framework it explains ways that CGIAR and its partners can invest and integrate capacity development for both internal and external clients into our CRPs. The framework indicates the key advantages that an integrated approach to capacity development can bring and it outlines the requirement for both an appropriate capacity needs assessment before any strategies can be outlined, as well as comprehensive research, monitoring and evaluation of capacity development throughout the process. At the “heart” of this document are the nine capacity development elements that underpin (agricultural) systems changes.

And then finally the (very small) elephant in the room: Our notion of Sustainable Development may require a complete makeover. Most likely, we will settle for a hybrid as we do in our CRP with Research for Development approaches and investments but I sincerely hope that you will believe that you can be part of creating a new paradigm that has come to be called “Anyway!

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them Anyway
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good Anyway
If you are successful you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed Anyway
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good Anyway
Honestly and Frankness makes your vulnerable. Be honest and frank Anyway
People favor underdogs and follow only top dogs. Fight for some underdogs Anyway
If you find serenity and happiness someone may be jealous. Be happy Anyway.
What you spend years building up may be destroyed overnight. Build Anyway
People really need help but may attack you if you help them. Help people Anyway
Give the world the best you have and you will be kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have got. Anyway!

Let me thank you profoundly for your collaboration this year, and wish you good holidays ahead!

Follow me on twitter: @DianaBrandes

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