Implementing Institutional and Capacity Development: Conceptual and Operational Issues

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    In October 1999, the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) and the DAC Informal Network on Institutional and Capacity Development (I/CD Informal Network) organised a Workshop on “Operational Approaches to Institutional and Capacity Development.”

    The workshop, attended by 70 participants representing national policy research institutes from Africa together with members of the DAC Informal Network, reviewed and drew lessons of experience of capacity building in practice from a set of case studies commissioned for the workshop. Presentations and working group sessions dealt with questions such as: How have interventions been conceived; and how has capacity development been understood? What intervention strategies and instruments have been employed? How did the design and implementation of programmes work out; who has participated in the process; and how have interventions and processes been monitored and evaluated?

    Why such a workshop? Our conceptual understanding of the factors that influence organisational and institutional behaviour and performance is in danger of running ahead of our empirical understanding and synthesis. It is difficult to provide practical and strategic guidance on how to approach the design of capacity development programmes and to ensure that external technical assistance genuinely supports broader capacity development processes.

    During the 1998 annual meeting of the DAC Informal Network on Institutional and Capacity Development a proposal was therefore made to organise a workshop to draw practical lessons of experience on the design and implementation of institutional and capacity development programmes.
    It was considered timely and useful to draw on a range of field experiences in order to learn how and in what ways capacity programmes are being supported. Such empirical lessons of experience could help refine our conceptual thinking on this topic, and provide a basis for drawing policy and operational guidance of use to both developing countries and external agencies.

    As an input to the workshop, and as an introduction to the presentation of cases, this “Overview” of conceptual and operational issues was prepared. It draws on the 10 case studies prepared for the workshop, and which are referred to throughout this document.

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