what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Capacity development


In fact I didn’t think much of the OECD Guidelines paper on Fragile states I mentioned yesterday. It seems a good example of technocracy – full of jargon and giving little sense of the moral and existential issues involved in this work. I was more stimulated by a paper I was sent last week from the Learning Network on Capacity development entitled Training and Beyond; seeking better practices for capacity development by Jenny Pearson. Her paper echoes many of the points in the definitive paper I wrote on training in late 2008 after my three years of experiences of leading training projects in Kyrygzstan and Bulgaria. It was the former work which introduced me to the concept of capacity development.
It’s one of the pleasures - indeed privileges - of my work that it has given me the chance to learn about subjects about which I know so little. Academics, for example, think that training is a dawdle – so they generally make bad trainers. At least I knew I wasn’t a trainer – I find it difficult to shake off the habit of pontification (I call it brainstorming!) which both academia and politics developed in me. So I chose to look at what my training specialists were saying (and sometimes doing); at what the books said; reflected; encouraged experimentation; had it discussed; changed direction; reflected; wrote it all up; and, if I was lucky, was able to build on whatever insights emerged in my next project.

And I was lucky after I wrote this paper on the development of municipal capacity in Kyrgyzstan to be able to build on the insights for my next project in Bulgaria (where I learned the literature of implementation of the European Acquis - which uses the giveaway word "compliance"!)
Capacity development was in fact the focus of the critical 2007 European Court of Auditors’report on EC Technical Assistance – and I’ve made the comment that the EC response (its Backbone strategy) indicated they had not really grasped the importance of this concept.

I will be taking a final copy of my Varna paper to the printers here in a few days – so that I can distribute the paper to the NISPAcee conference participants. And there is one issue I have not yet properly resolved in my thinking. Everyone seems to agree that there are too many cowboy companies getting business from the EC’s multi-billion euros Technical Assistance budget. Most companies allowed to tender have a „take the money and run” attitude. I can name the number of companies who have a serious interest in knowledge development and transfer on the fingers of one hand. The Americans have an interesting model which has allowed a high-quality think-tank (The Urban Institute) to win long-term contracts in several countries to assist municipal development. This approach has several advantages
• You are buying proven quality
• The contractor’s basic asset is their reputation – fear of losing it acts as powerful incentive to ensure it recruits and offers good experts (unlike the present system)
• the contract gives the flexibility to negotiate adjustments from time to time.

This perhaps gives us some clues about a possible alternative to the present procurement system the EC is currently using - which arguably gives us the worst of all worlds.

Today's Bulgarian painter is one of my favourties Dobre Dobrev (1898-1973). Born in Sliven and graduated 1925 from Prague Fine Arts Academy. Until 1938 he had lived and worked in Republic of Czech. Afterwards he came back to Bulgaria and to 1954 he lived in Sliven (then highly industrial) and afterwards in Sofia. He created paintings revealing the life in villages. He painted landscapes, daily scenes, figurative compositions. His preferred topic are the markets in his native town of Sliven

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