Guidelines for Joint Learning and Mutual Capacity Strengthening Before, During, and After Transition

February 24, 2020
Organizations Involved: CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, Peace Direct, & Search for Common Ground

Capacity strengthening and learning during programmatic and organizational transitions should be considered a joint process. And, one that not only addresses a diversity of needs but also acknowledges the context and power dynamics surrounding a transition. External and local organizations learn from each other during capacity strengthening processes, and, as a result, grow and change. External organizations learn a great deal about the contexts where they work, and the appropriateness of certain development models and program designs, from national staff, partners, and other interlocutors. They test ideas, strategies and programmatic options with local partners and communities and (often, though not always) learn from their failures and successes.

Likewise, local organizations learn from experiences brought by external colleagues from other contexts and previous projects and trials, as well as international standards and innovations. There is an organic exchange of know-how, lessons, insights and tacit knowledge gained from real-time experimentation. When we fail to acknowledge this and continue to push for mono-directional “capacity building,” from external organization to local entity, we are not doing good development work and risk leaving unintended negative impacts behind.

Practical advice and guidelines when undertaking capacity strengthening initiatives include:

  1. Clearly outlining roles for joint action and learning.
  2. Respectful and inclusive framing of mutual capacity strengthening processes.
  3. Narrow the focus to support what transition stakeholders say matters most.

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