I recently attended a training program delivered under a capacity development initiative. The topics of the training sessions planned in the agenda sounded interesting so I was really excited to participate and to learn. I think I was not the only one because there was many attendee at the introductory session. Regrettably, the attendance decreased as particpants was getting disappointed and loosing interest.
Personnally, what first disappointed me was how the form and substance of the courses looked too academic. I felt like I was back to university or high school, attending my first « introduction to programming » class. This is not because the trainers were not competent, or not well organized. On the contrary, I had the chance to have an informal discussion with one of them and I was pretty impressed by his expertise. For me, their biggest mistake is to have not inquired about the background and skills of the people there were going to train. They didn’t expect to meet professionals with strong skills in their field, but beginners. The result is that at the last training session, we were no more than 3 participants in the room, in place of the 20 expected.
So, how can we make capacity development programs more successful and efficient?
1.Review the partner’s (Thanks to Wayan Vota, I’m not going to say « beneficiaries » again 🙂 ) background and skills
This should naturally be the first step when designing any capacity development program. I mean there is absolutely no point in providing an introductory and theoretical course on databases to people that are designing and managing databases for years. They will find it boring.
2.Clearly ask the partners what kind of support they need
The best way to help someone is to ask what he needs. No matter how terrific your program is, be sure it fits the partner organization’s needs. Otherwise, it will be a waste of time and resource.
3.Benefit from the expertise of local consultants
Whatever we say, cultural and regional constraints do matter in the success or the failure of capacity development programs. Why not use local consultants who know the environment and are more comfortable (Trust me, I’m not chauvinistic!)? In Africa, the argument that is often used (lack of local competencies), is definitively once and for all no more valid. Use local consultants, save money, avoid travels with 3, 4 (and more) stops, and stimulate local markets. This is called doing development.
4.Remember you are in front of professionals
Capacity building trainings are not high school or university classes. And facilitators or trainers are not school teachers.
5.Develop frameworks for knowledge and good practices sharing between peer organizations
Capacity development programs should now be thought as peer-to-peer knowledge and good practices sharing frameworks. Particulary in Africa, development organizations should more benefit from what others are doing well (or wrong) elsewhere on the continent. I believe this approach can be more efficient by helping partners organizations develop bodies of knowledge instead of everyone trying to reinvent the wheel isolated in his corner. And again, this is what I call doing development.
In your opinion,what can we do to improve capacity development initiatives in Africa? Do not hesitate to leave a comment below!