Network for Youth in Transition


A Place at the table for Youth on Aid, Capacity Development and Networks.

In a recent article titled, Partnering for progress: A new approach to capacity development after Accra, highlighted the need for improved capacity development to address and manage the complex realities on the ground. It also highlighted the growing realization that donor agencies' role has to change in order to positively impact capacity development. I believe youth led organizations and initiatives can play a vital role in these discussions, discussions especially pertaining to aid accountability. Therefore, I am sharing this article in full, in the hopes that it is informative among the youth focused community as well.

Partnering for Progress: A new approach to capacity development after Accra

Published by the World Bank Group.
Development Outreach, February, 2009 Issue.

By Mark Nelson and Ajay Tejasvi

When more than 100 countries gathered in September in Accra, Ghana, to discuss the effectiveness of the $100-billion-a-year international aid business, one topic permeated nearly all the discussions: capacity development.

Weak capacities—in human resources, organizations and broader societal institutions—were seen as an impediment to the entire aid effectiveness agenda. Insufficient capacity makes it harder for countries to take the lead in their own development agendas. It impedes efforts to build up country systems to generate and manage revenues, to take advantage of available natural resources. Yet, at the same time, international aid has a decidedly poor record of helping countries to develop and retain these critical capacities. Indeed, international aid practices have been blamed not only for failing to develop new capacities but also actually creating incentives that drain countries of existing capacities and human resources. This poor record on capacity development is all the more sobering in light of the current global financial crisis and the threat of a long period of economic weakness.


Capacity development is about skills, performance and governance. Capacity is the ability of people, organizations and broader societal institutions to manage development objectives and resources more effectively to achieve results. The concept is thus much broader than the training and technical assistance approaches that are often put forward as answers to the capacity problem. Capacity development is closely intertwined with the governance agenda and benefits from efforts to improve laws and institutions, leadership, transparency, and accountability.

Source: OECD/DAC.

The good news is that the meeting in Accra provided the first evidence of a fundamental shift in the way the international development community understands capacity development (CD) and how it should be pursued as part of international aid efforts. The deliberations were focused not just on roads and bridges, but on how development aid can be used to create sustainable, country-led development. As a result, the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA) is peppered with references to capacity development. As much as a third of all overseas development assistance is said to be allocated to capacity development work. The AAA represents a new push to get results from these large sums of money, and to help countries develop sustainable capacities for managing their own affairs.

Cover of the End Poverty 2015 Millennium Campaign report Central to this new thinking is a renewed emphasis on partnerships, a more active role for civil society organizations, and networks of capacity development practitioners that can bring knowledge and learning across borders. Not only did a large parallel meeting of more than 500 civil society organizations precede the meeting in Accra, but also the official proceedings were themselves attended by the largest delegation of civil society representatives in the history of these big international aid gatherings.

Non-governmental players are critical to this debate not only because of the role they can play in delivering services and contributing to development, but also because of their role in creating demand for improved government services and outcomes. Until now, however, the engagement with civil society has been often celebrated but rarely made operational as part of the nuts-and-bolts decision-making processes in the spending of development aid. This is slowly, but surely, beginning to change.

A more active partnership between civil society and governments will require strengthened capacity by both to deal with each other on development issues. “Governments have tended to see the role of civil society as one of contestation,” says Emmanuel Akwetey, Director of the Institute for Democratic Governance in Ghana, who notes that certain key reforms that would improve the capacity of civil society to monitor the performance of government, such as right-to-information laws, have stagnated in many countries. “The greatest obstacle is the perception that civil society is someone out in the street protesting who cannot understand anything,” he says, adding that governments need to develop their capacity and skills to engage more effectively with an increasingly demanding public (see the Statement of Reality of Aid following this article).
A changing role for donors

One of more promising parts of this capacity development story is the growing realization among donors that their role has to change in order to improve the outcomes from capacity development initiatives. Over the past decade, practitioners have made progress on the conceptual framework that helps define capacity development and how it can be best managed within various development contexts (OECD/DAC 2006; Taylor and Clarke 2008; World Bank 2005a) Case studies have isolated some critical findings that can be applied in implementing capacity development interventions; country-level practitioners have begun to create a more professionalized capacity development practice that is informed by evidence and experience. “There’s no longer the excuse that we don’t know what we need to do, what works, what doesn’t,” says an official of the United Nations Development Program. “We have moved beyond that.” The challenge now is to move this knowledge into a more widespread use on the ground.

Aided by practitioner networks like the Learning Network on Capacity Development (LenCD), donors are looking to link up with relevant partners on substantive issues, connecting regional and national networks to the global policy debate and growing knowledge base in this area. LenCD is an open network on capacity development that links many initiatives globally and is supporting an evolving community of practice. LenCD emerged as a consequence of informal networking linked to several streams of research, workshops and conferences. Since its conception in June 2004, LenCD has helped establish a collective learning process that now spans many countries and official development agencies.
LenCD’s VISION FOR 2009-2010

LenCD’s vision for 2009-2010 seeks to foster a better approach to capacity development:

* Promote learning on capacity development in its broadest sense among decision makers, analysts and practitioners.
* Convene and support a community of practice around capacity development with professional competence and transparent quality standards.
* Connect emerging regional/local networks to the global policy debate with cutting edge knowledge and respond to demand from countries and networks.
* Broaden the knowledge base on capacity development, promote research, codification of experience, and facilitate access to relevant knowledge.
* Engage in policy advocacy to influence relevant mainstream development processes.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) is also changing its approach to CD. After many years of considering capacity development as a sub-theme of its governance work, the OECD-DAC decided in 2007 to create a small unit inside the DAC secretariat to coordinate and promote awareness about capacity development among the many work streams within DAC structures. Examples include work on the environment, fragile states, procurement, aid effectiveness and other such topics. The new coordinator will seek to ensure that lessons learned in one area are known and shared in the others and that the groups systematically incorporate these findings into their policy advice.

The DAC has also proposed the idea of an alliance among the various organizations working on CD, in particular, to bring the organizations in the developed world in contact with those in the developing world. The proposed alliance would be a Southern-led forum that over the next three years, would coordinate efforts for relevant meetings, including ministerial gatherings and other events convened at the international, regional and sub-regional levels. Side events, knowledge fairs and other learning opportunities will also be organized. The alliance will encourage the development of specific commitments by southern parties to collaborate on CD issues including strategies, measuring and monitoring capacity, south-south cooperation and other matters deemed of high priority.
Leadership from the South

These moves attest to the realization that no amount of coordination among the donors will ensure success unless developing countries themselves play the leading role. Capacity development is inherently a developing country responsibility. In its strategy document, the DAC recommends a number of steps to foster the development of stronger Southern leadership:

* Mobilizing political champions in the South to integrate capacity development into national development strategies.
* Facilitating the identification anod implementation of coordinated capacity development initiatives. This will link Southern policy makers and practitioners with international knowledge bases and expertise as well as with donors, thus providing easier access to technical and financial support.
* Enhancing South-South and triangular cooperation in capacity development through the exchange of experiences and greater use of quality southern expertise. (Tejasvi 2007)
* Promoting greater awareness by sharing lessons of experience and good practice where capacity development is not yet a priority.

Developing countries themselves have started to take the initiative to inform their peers about successful development approaches. Countries such as Brazil, China, India and South Africa have launched a number of partnerships that bring together the public, private and non-governmental sectors. Institutions like the Institute for Democratic Governance in Ghana, The Africa Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), and the Amazon Alliance bring together individuals and organizations from diverse backgrounds and perspectives that help shape new strategies to solve local issues. There are different forms of South-South cooperation that range from organizational networks, developing nations providing technical expertise and advice to other nations and partnerships among developing countries to find innovative solutions. (See Box 3).


Southern Networks: INSouth
INSouth represents an understanding, from a Southern perspective, of the new and emerging issues in the international arena, and the challenges and opportunities they pose for the South. This network brings together intellectuals from the South including policymakers, researchers and representatives from the media, private sector and civil society. The network was founded on the recommendation of the South Commission, which in a 2003 report emphasized that the South was not well organized at the global level and has thus not been effective in mobilizing its considerable combined expertise, experience, or bargaining power. For more information see

Developing Countries Providing Technical Know-how: The Chinese Academy of Sciences
The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has established formal contacts with major research and academic organizations in more than 60 countries (including all the developed countries and some developing countries). In addition to various kinds of cooperative activities on mutually interested issues, the Academy has signed more than 70 cooperative agreements at the Academy level and more than 700 agreements at the institute level with their partners spread over 40-odd countries and regions in the world. The Academy facilitates more than 8,000 personnel exchanges each year. These exchanges have significantly contributed to the improvement of science and technology standards, training, upgrading of and exchange of information. For more information see

Partnerships among Developing Nations:
The India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Trilateral
IBSA is a trilateral, developmental initiative in operation since 2003 among India, Brazil and South Africa to promote South-South cooperation and exchange to compliment competitive strengths into collective synergies. IBSA has become instrumental in promoting closer coordination on global issues. The IBSA Dialogue Forum facilitates interaction among academics, business and other members of civil society. IBSA’s Fund for Poverty Alleviation, the first of its kind, has projects in Haiti, Guinea Bissau and in Laos coordinated by the South-South Unit of the UNDP. For more information see

Knowledge networks: amplifying impact and learning

Networks are emerging as an important delivery mechanism for sustainable development. (Bloom et al 2008). Communities of practice can be tapped to support efforts at the country and regional levels. Professional networks of Southern experts from the public sector, private sector and civil society are key in promoting unmediated interactions within themselves to identify and develop new and innovative solutions to their problems. Strengthening regional organizations and regional knowledge networks would give them much needed capacity and also strengthen individual capacity in developing countries. This would then lay the foundations for a more predictable, long-term support to create effective and innovative regional capacity development initiatives.

Grant-giving regional intermediaries like PACT and the ACBF need to be strengthened so that they can effectively support regional and sub-regional knowledge networks. Single and multipurpose networks across the world should be carefully yet systematically engaged whenever and wherever they can constructively help governments, private firms, and citizens improve the delivery of essential services and development of the country as a whole (World Bank 2005 b).

Networks and partnerships like the ACBF and the New Africa Partnership for Development (NEPAD) support and sustain knowledge generation and capacity development in several important ways. Regional networks provide a critical mass of professional peer review not available at the national level, thus sustaining peer pressure for learning and excellence as well as alleviating professional isolation. They are an effective mechanism for keeping in touch with the rapidly changing frontier of knowledge through contact with the rest of the world and information sharing. Networks are a medium for experience sharing and a mechanism for drawing good practices from specific policy and knowledge contexts, making them an important resource for collective knowledge. They are a cost-effective means for providing specialized training and skill information often not viable at the national level, given the limited resources and time availability of specialist trainers. (World Bank 2005 b, pp.68-69). Knowledge and practitioner networks are changing the way information and collective wisdom travels through the world and are helping level the playing field for practitioners from the South.


Networks defy easy categorization as they tend to fulfill multiple roles. The ambiguity of the term “network” makes it difficult to pin down precise meaning. We could be talking about friends, large organizations, routers along the backbone of the internet, or as network researcher Duncan Watts points out, neurons firing in the brain. Here is a list of network types of particular interest to capacity building for development:

Representative Networks are the most formal type of network typically associated with international development partners like the World Bank. These are often legally recognized, bounded groups of similar organizations or individuals that coordinate to take advantage of scale. Examples of representative networks include Chambers of Commerce, InterAction and the American Medical Association.

Action Networks are groups of organizations and/or individuals that coordinate in order to achieve a strategic goal—be it the scale-up of learning, provision of services, or advocacy around a policy issue. They often include diverse groups of organizations and/or individuals. Examples of action networks include ANSA-Africa, Net Impact and the Impact Alliance.

Knowledge Exchange and Social Networks are the most informal type of network for capacity development. These networks are primarily trust based and aim to increase an individual's 'social capital' by facilitating connections, diffusing information, and increasing knowledge. Examples of knowledge exchange and social networks include Knowledge Management for Development, Linked-In, Facebook and the WBI Alumni Group.

Source: Evan Bloom, et al.


The path ahead will require a change in the way that the donor community goes about its assistance to developing nations. More emphasis must be placed on the importance of partnering and empowering Southern leadership to take charge of the development process. Developing countries will need to understand the critical role of civil society and develop new ways of managing those relationships in more productive ways. Donors will need to learn to follow the lead of developing countries in setting priorities and strategies. South-South learning and knowledge networks are changing the development scenario. Countries have more options—of both knowledge and aid—in today’s globalized world. Traditional donors like the World Bank, IMF and developed countries will need to embrace concepts like mutual accountability and aid harmonization. This will not be easy, but these concepts are widely recognized as being crucial in aiding progress towards the goals set in the High-Level Forum in Accra.

Mark Nelson is Senior Operations Officer and Ajay Tejasvi is a Consultant in the World Bank Institute Global Programs Unit.


Bloom, Evan, et al, “Strengthening Networks: Using Organizational Network Analysis to Promote Network Effectiveness, Scale, and Accountability,” Issue No. 28, World Bank Institute, August 2008.

OECD/DAC, “The Challenge of Capacity Development: Working Towards Good Practice,” 2006.

Taylor, Peter and Peter Clarke, “Capacity for a change,” IDS, Sussex, January 2008.

Tejasvi, Ajay, “South-South Capacity Development: The Way to Grow?” CD Brief Issue No. 20, World Bank Institute, February 2007.

World Bank 2005a, Building Effective States: Forging Engaged Societies, Report of the World Bank Task Force on Capacity Development in Africa.

World Bank 2005b, Building Effective States: Forging Engaged Societies, Report of the World Bank Task Force on Capacity Development in Africa, pp 99-101.

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