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Innovative financing for smallholders: The elusiveness of inclusiveness

May 6, 2013 - Heinz Greijn, Editor-in-Chief, Capacity.org

In order to grow and sustain their livelihood farmers need access to credit. But farmers at the bottom of the pyramid are difficult to reach out to by commercial banks. A commercial bank needs to make profit to sustain its business but there are a multitude of reasons that make it difficult to realize a return on investment from working with small farmers. For local banks it is far easier to invest in government treasury bills than in small farmers. Hence commercial banks tend to work only with large farmers that are well positioned in agricultural value chains. Fortunately not all lenders are driven exclusively by profit.

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Catalysing private investments for development: Call for papers

April 4, 2013 - Heinz Greijn, Editor-in-Chief, Capacity.org

At a time of declining development budgets, attention is turning to how to achieve greater impact with fewer resources. One of the strategies to achieve this is through innovative development financing (IDF) which refers to the innovative use of funds to catalyse private investments for pro-poor or inclusive development in a range of areas including agricultural value chains, water supply systems, renewable energy facilities, education institutes, access to health services etc. However, in many ways knowledge development on IDF is still in its infancy. The next issue of Capacity.org journal aims to shed the spotlight on this important issue by highlighting experiences with IDF, especially at the meso and micro level. We welcome contributions from researchers and practitioners with experience on this topic.

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How to build innovative rural institutions

April 2, 2013 - Heinz Greijn, Editor-in-Chief, Capacity.org

Good practices in building innovative rural institutions to increase food security (FAO 2012) by Denis Herbel, Eve Crowley, Nora Ourabah Haddad and Maria Lee is recommended reading for all practitioners whose core business involves strengthening the capacities of producer organisations, apex organisations and sector wide associations. Based on 35 case studies the authors demonstrate how to support the development of rural institutions in a way that “small producers not only “play the game” of managing natural resources or accessing input and output markets, information and knowledge effectively, but also influence the “rules of the game” by becoming an integral part of policy-making processes.”

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Linking livelihoods and rights in capacity development programmes

March 25, 2013 - The Capacity.org team

Combining activities that will simultaneously enhance livelihood and rights capabilities of target beneficiaries of development interventions appears to be a most effective way of empowering women. This was one of the main conclusions of a workshop organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in February.

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Integrating the nature-poverty nexus in environmental education programmes

February 4, 2013 - Chris Maas Geesteranus, Independent environmental educator

A recent study of 21 conservation project proposals submitted to the IUCN National Committee of The Netherlands concluded that while many seek to contribute to poverty reduction, in practice they do not address the inherent tension between nature conservation and exploitation. My analysis of the findings shows there is need to enhance the capacity of educational programmes to facilitate dialogue at the local level on how to sustain the natural resource base on which communities depend for their livelihoods.

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Strengthening local demand for research capacity building in Africa

January 31, 2013 - Source: GDNet

At a recent workshop organized by the Global Development Network in Arusha, Tanzania, participants identified a number of concrete action areas to help strengthen the "research climate" in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. These include: investing in the research infrastructure and governance; bridging the gap in the "absorption capacity of policymakers and stakeholders"; and "breaking barriers of isolation" among individual researchers by creating research consortia to facilitate the exchange of information and best practice.

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Community-based adaptation: can facilitators and communities speak the same language?

December 7, 2012 - Wangu Mwangi, Web editor, Capacity.org

The just-concluded Development and Climate Days held parallel to the UN climate conference in Doha and facilitated by the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre showcased the use of games in energizing community dialogue processes. Illustrating how this works in practice, the American Red Cross has published an interesting case study about the the pilot testing of a climate game, "Ready" in Namibia that illustrates the challenges of translating games to "real life" settings.

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K* - Getting to grips with the roles of intermediaries in knowledge production, sharing and innovation

November 14, 2012 - Wangu Mwangi, Web editor, Capacity.org

Knowledge management, transfer, exchange, translation, brokering, networking, mobilisation, adaptation ... there is an endless list of terms used to describe the range of activities and functions involved in bridging the gap between knowledge 'production' and 'application'. With a growing number of individuals and organizations describing their core mission as being to improve the use of knowledge in policy, practice and research, there is need for a shared understanding of what this actually entails.

This was the idea behind the first K* (K Star) international conference in Hamilton, Canada, organised by United Nations University -Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) and its partners in April 2012. The organisers have now published a concept paper to facilitate broader understanding and the emergence of a global community of practice on this issue.

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Using video to strengthen multi-stakeholder processes in West Africa

October 3, 2012 - Toon Defoer and Marie Loosvelt, ICRA/MOOV-ON Productions

It is a vicious cycle that is becoming increasingly familiar across the world: more and more people with no alternative means of livelihood are increasingly dependent on a declining natural resource base to survive. This is the case in the fertile lowlands of southern Mali, where conflicts among different users of natural resources make it difficult for local authorities to manage the diverse interests. It is for this reason that our organization, the International Centre for Agricultural Research-oriented development (ICRA) provides support to the Rural Economy Institute (IER) in Mali and AfricaRice.

The two organizations have put in place a number of multi-stakeholder platforms to strengthen the capacity of all stakeholders involved to come up with innovative and sustainable solutions. In this process, the support organizations are increasingly using video, not only to document multi-stakeholder processes but to enhance the dialogue process itself. MOOV-ON has just produced a new docudrama Sinima sinima (our vision of the future) that depicts the conflict, the stages of development of the multi-stakeholder platforms and the resulting technical, organizational and institutional innovations.

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Sustaining joined-up action might well be the true legacy of Rio+20

July 14, 2012 - Wangu Mwangi, Web Editor, Capacity.org

A lot of words have already been written about the recent UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) and what many consider to be a missed opportunity for shaping “the future we want.” Against the backdrop of daily demonstrations and calls for political will that accompanied the main event, this brief reflection is an attempt to highlight what I experienced as a much more positive atmosphere at the many side events I attended. From this vantage point, I will try to argue, a rather different picture of Rio+20 emerges that perhaps points to the under-appreciated leveraging power of mega summits.

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Some advice for those managing large capacity development projects

June 29, 2012 - Ajoy Datta, Overseas Development Institute, UK

Donors invest a significant amount of their Southern research funding on developing capacities to produce and use research knowledge. Given the inherent difficulties of pursuing such ends, especially in rapidly developing societies, what advice can be given to would-be consultants tasked with developing capacities sustainably? This is a question explored by a recent paper by Ajoy Datta, Louise Shaxson and Arnaldo Pellini who reflect on recent experiences of the ODI’s Research and Policy in Development programme in managing relatively large capacity development projects.

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Delivering sustainable water services in small towns: what have we learnt?

June 1, 2012 - By Rinus van Klinken and Steve Mwale, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation

The Millenium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing by half the number of people without access to safe drinking water was achieved in 2010, five years ahead of target [WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Report 2012]. The WHO/UNICEF report states that between 1990 and 2010 more than 2 billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supply and protected wells. But these positive figures hide some striking inequalities. Only 61 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa has access to improved water supply sources. It is the poor, who are disproportionally affected.

Over the past few years SNV Netherlands Development Organisation has undertaken various programmes aimed at enhancing water services in small towns in a number of East and Southern African countries. In a recently published Practice Brief titled Sustainable Water Services and the Poor in Small Towns   SNV practitioners from the region share some of the lessons they have learnt from working with small town water utilities.

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Sharing lessons on multi-stakeholder processes for systemic change

May 21, 2012 - Steve Waddell, NetworkingAction

On 24-25 April 2012, the Change Alliance and the Southern Africa Trust co-organized a workshop in Johannesburg aimed at creating a space for Africans working with multi-stakeholder processes to learn from each other. One of the event's facilitators, Steve Waddel has posted some reflections on the discussions, which took stock of the state of capacity and explored strategies for enhancing multi-stakeholder processes for systemic change (MSP4Change).

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Call for input: Capacity.org Issue 45 on Community Adaptation to Climate Change

March 21, 2012 - Heinz Greijn, Editor-in-Chief, Capacity.org

In the forthcoming issue of Capacity.org journal, due to be published prior to the Rio+20 Sustainable Development conference in June, we will turn the spotlight on those communities that are considered most vulnerable to climate change impacts. These include marginalized small holders and pastoralists whose livelihoods depend on natural resource bases that are already severely stressed and degraded. This focus is "Inspired" by the disappointing progress made at the December 2011 UN Climate Change Conference on Conference held in Durban, South Africa.

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Development support needs to focus more on improving the quality of women’s lives

March 10, 2012 - The Capacity.org team

What’s missing from mainstream development’s women’s empowerment agenda is a focus on women’s own desires and needs.”

The UK-based Pathways of Women’s Empowerment research programme at the Institute of Development Studies recently completed an extensive 5-year study to find out what works to enhance women’s empowerment. In an opinion piece published on International Women’s Day 2012, Pathways director, Andrea Cornwall, called for a less instrumentalist approach to women-in-development programmes. “We hear about the benefits to development of women’s work, and of having more women in public office. Social policies target women because they are assumed to care more for their children, and have more to offer their communities than men. But few development agencies seem to be concerned about improving women’s quality of life,” she argued.

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Capability for self-reliance

March 9, 2012 - Michiel Verweij (Adviser, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation)

Being food insecure is a terrible thing. So too are financial, energy and water insecurity. Sad but true, many families, communities and countries are faced with continued or emerging insecurity in the supply of water, energy, and food. Self-reliance as the capacity to rely on own capabilities to navigate one’s own affairs may not sound as exciting as double digit growth but the concept deserves a central place in the international development cooperation. Self-reliant individuals, organizations and societies develop strategies and implement activities to realize their long-term vision. Self-reliant actors employ technical, social and organizational skills to keep themselves afloat, anticipate and adapt to changing environments and show resilience in the face of adversity. Absence of the capacity for self-reliance implies earlier or later insecurity with possible dire consequences.

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Building resilient (agro-) pastoralist systems

February 5, 2012 - Rinus van Klinken and Joost Nelen (Advisers, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation)

The recent drought in the Horn of Africa was the latest of a series of recurring famines that continue to ravage parts of the continent. The crisis seemed to confirm the views of those who question the future of livelihoods in African drylands. Despite the omnipresence of (agro-) pastoralism on the continent, a dominant school of thought regards it as an 'inefficient' system that cannot cope with current market and food demands. According to this viewpoint, pastoralism should make place for modern livestock-keeping systems that are 'better equipped' to supply the demands of the current market. At best, pastoralists may just manage to survive in remote areas, but will almost certainly remain dependent on food aid. A contrasting viewpoint claims it is too early to predict the demise of (agro-) pastoralists in modern societies: there is no viable alternative for many of the drylands in which they survive. But it also misrepresents their positive contribution to the economy and to the sustainable use of land and water.

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Bringing the invisible into perspective: ECDPM call for reflection and materials on the 5Cs framework

January 10, 2012 - The Capacity.org team

In December 2011, the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) published a synthesis report on initial practices and lessons emerging from organizations in developing countries that are using the five core capabilities (5Cs) framework to support capacity development at various levels. The reference document is intended to make these and other practical experiences more widely accessible.

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Consider the organizational life cycle when evaluating the effectiveness of capacity-development support

December 13, 2011 - Heinz Greijn (Editor-in-Chief, Capacity.org)

In August 2011, the Policy and Operations Evaluation Department (IOB) of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, published a report titled ‘ Facilitating resourcefulness’, which presented the results of an extensive evaluation of Dutch support for capacity development, based on the five core capabilities (5CCs) evaluation model. One of the evaluation’s key findings is that Southern organizations exhibit a high level of donor-dependency. For NGOs in particular, donor funding provides a vital lifeline. In other words, without donor support they do not have the capacity to survive, or as it is described in the 5CCs parlance, “the capability to adapt and self-renew.”

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International resourcefulness now

December 12, 2011 - Michiel Verweij (Adviser, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation)

Although the recently-concluded conference in Busan was the last in a series of high level discussions on aid effectiveness, doubts are mounting on the very concept of development aid itself. Aid and trade, the heralds of the Western capitalist market model have been pushing the poverty frontline backwards. Aid sometimes prepared the ground for trade by supporting an enabling environment of security, infrastructures, education, and public sector reforms. Otherwise, development aid offered relief to the vulnerable and the losers. All in all, aid and trade have been rather successful (not perfect) in spreading prosperity over the globe. From time to time development aid strategies are adapted to a changing environment. This time around new donors will lead to new partnerships, as new poor will lead to new policy.

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Supporting domestic accountability: why quick fixes won't work

November 28, 2011 - Rinus van Klinken (Portfolio Coordinator, SNV Tanzania)

In an interesting review of the process towards the 4th High Level Forum in Busan, the two co-chairs of the OECD/DAC working group on aid effectiveness, Talaat Abel-Malek and Bert Koenders, noted that while it fell short of its targets, good progress had been made towards putting into action the principles of the Paris Declaration. One of these targets is ‘enhanced accountability to citizens and parliaments’, on which only slow progress was recorded. At the initiative of the same Bert Koenders, then in his role of Minister for Development Cooperation in The Netherlands, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation has been working in partnership with the Dutch Ministry to support domestic accountability in a number of countries in (mainly) East and Southern Africa.

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Strengthening local capacity for sustainable development: its not just about the money

November 4, 2011 - Wangu Mwangi (Web editor, Capacity.org)

With another economic crisis looming, money talk is everywhere and the international development sector is feeling the pinch. Discussions at the upcoming Climate Change conference in Durban and the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea, are likely to be overshadowed by Europe's financial crisis. Add to this the fascinating debate that has built up around the evaluation of the Columbia University Millenium Villages project, and the limits of the MDG approach more broadly: the notion that with sufficient funding, it is possible to develop the “ perfect” poverty-reduction project and then to replicate it across the world (see recent posts at the CGD blog).

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Can we genuinely learn from evaluations?

September 13, 2011 - Heinz Greijn (Editor-in-Chief, Capacity.org)

The concept of capacity development with its in-built appreciation of endogenous systems and ownership is at the heart of the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. As developing countries increasingly take control over their own capacity development, donors and international development agencies need to respect their leadership and take on a much more supportive role than they have in the past. However, not all external partners can easily adjust to this new role. The contributions in Issue 43 of Capacity.org illustrate that those who do can make a vital contribution in supporting endogenous development efforts.

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Strengthening health systems: we can do better

May 27, 2011 - Heinz Greijn (Editor-in-Chief, Capacity.org)

Since the start of the millennium, annual development assistance for health has surged from US$10.5 billion to US$27 billion 2010. This has led to notable successes, such as the fight against HIV/AIDS, which benefitted from having roughly one-third of official development assistance targeted at this single disease. Unfortunately, there is also a downside to disease-specific progammes. As representatives of 91 countries prepare to convene in Busan in November for the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, the editorial committee of Capacity.org decided to publish a special issue of the journal focusing on the impact of aid in the health sector. We sought contributions from all levels of health service delivery, from frontline health workers to policymakers at the international level. They had a clear message for Busan: there needs to be a shift in emphasis from fighting diseases to strengthening the capacity of health systems.

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"Investing in the immaterial": Development practitioners reflect on the messy business of facilitating change

April 27, 2011 - Wangu Mwangi (Web Editor, Capacity.org)

Development resources are scarcer than ever before which means that at all levels of development practice, there is pressure to demonstrate (and perhaps to creatively tweak) the results of projects and processes. It is therefore refreshing to come across a set of candid personal reflections on the challenges of facilitating change in complex real-life settings. "Investing in the Immaterial" is the first of what aims to become an annual practice digest compiled by the South-African based Community Development Resource Association. Its goal is to contribute to building a body of practice in this area and kicks this off with 10 thought-provoking contributions from practitioners across the development spectrum.

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Wikileaks, technology futures and a president’s dream

March 19, 2011 - Wangu Mwangi (Web editor, Capacity.org)

A series of encounters over the past few months have got me thinking about alternative pathways to African development.

The first was reading media articles based on the now-infamous Wikileaks diplomatic cables, from early 2010. They describe a Kenyan diplomat’s blunt comparison of the capacity-building approach of Western donors vis-à-vis that of China. The second was a book presentation by Japser Grosskurth, author of Futures of Technology in Africa, highlighting the findings of a foresight study of three 'technology hotspots': Nairobi, Johannesburg and Lagos. The third was an interview I did recently with a Brussels-based Southern African diplomat, which painted a picture of a new wave of African leaders who are strategically reorienting the resources at their disposal to tackle the root causes of poverty and underdevelopment. 

At first glance, the three cases do not seem to have much in common.

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New online discussion: Is capacity development on the brink of maturity?

March 18, 2011

The Broker, a magazine and web portal focusing on development cooperation, has launched an online discussion entitled Capacity on the Brink of Maturity? It builds on themes explored in " Capacity Development in Practice ," the resource volume for practitioners that was published by Earthscan in 2010. The discussion will focus on strategies for improving the effectiveness and results of capacity development by expanding on some of the 'what next' questions addressed in the book.

As a first step, the magazine has published a series of blog posts by the co-editors and other contributors to the Volume. To read the entries and participate in the discussion, please click on the link below.



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The road to Busan: How does capacity development fit into the coming aid effectiveness debates?

February 4, 2011 - James Hradsky, Senior Co-ordinator for Capacity Development, OECD/DAC

On 29 November–1 December 2011 the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness will take place in Busan, Korea. It will be a political, multi-stakeholder event of up to 2000 participants from over 150 countries. Organizers would like it to be a milestone for international development co-operation, reflecting the conclusions of several years of collective effort by donors, partner countries and other stakeholders to improve the quality and effectiveness of aid.

The lead up to Busan contains a variety of processes to define the 3-day agenda there. Most recently, 28 January was the deadline for those closest to the process to suggest themes for discussion. It would appear at this stage a given that some form of “capacity development” will be one of the themes, whether at the political or technical level, or both.

How to identify a South-North consensus on capacity approaches, though? Not easy!

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"Click here to submit your failure": Canadian network offers a novel approach to sharing and learning

January 28, 2011

(The Capacity.org team is grateful to  Helen Hambly of University of Guelph for sharing this information via the Pelican Network).

We all know that we learn as much, if not more, from our mistakes as our successes. But how many of us actually go ahead and put  our money where our mouth is? Well, all those brave souls that would like to broadcast their failures to the world now have the opportunity to do so. On Friday, January 14, the Canadian-based "Engineers Without Borders" - along with development thinker Ian Smillie, and Executive Director of Peace Dividend Trust Scott Gilmore — publicly launched a new website admittingfailure.com

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A reaction to Allan Kaplan's essay: "A New Integrity"

January 26, 2011 - By Toon van Eijk

We are pleased to publish this response to an earlier blog post on Allan Kaplan's essay.  This post is a reaction to: Allan Kaplan (2010)  Towards a larger integrity:  Shining a different light on the elusive notion of capacity development. 

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LenCD strategic planning survey: Call for input

January 17, 2011 - Thomas Theisohn, LenCD

This year marks an important point for the Learning Network on Capacity Development (LenCD) and we would like to invite you to take a few minutes to give us your suggestions about the future of the network. In February, network partners will convene in Kigali to review and define the future strategic direction of the network. We hope you will be able to share with us in advance your thoughts and suggestions about the network and its role in capacity development through a strategic planning survey.

We would appreciate input before 25 January -- why not take a few minutes to respond now? The survey consists of only 12 questions and can be found at the following link:  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/lencd

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"Towards a New Integrity" an essay and call for joint reflection on alternative approaches to capacity building from the Proteus Initiative

December 26, 2010 - The Capacity.org team

Allan Kaplan is one of the foremost thinkers on capacity development and as we come to the close of 2010, we would like to highlight his latest reflective essay and call to join a new collaborative action research project into alternative approaches to capacity building. The following excerpts give a sense of the depth of the proposed exploration. To download the full essay, please visit the Proteus Initiative website (link is provided at the bottom of this page).

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Welcome to the new Capacity.org website

December 16, 2010

By Wangu Mwangi, Web editor

Congratulations! you are one of the very first visitors to the brand new Capacity.org website. As you may be aware from visiting the old site, we have been busy updating the website to enhance its role as a knowledge gateway for capacity development practitioners. We are currently entering final revisions to the topic pages, and carrying out the last technical tests. So before you move on, we would be grateful if you would visit a few pages and take a few minutes to post your comments. We look forward to hearing from you.

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A focus on primary health care helps build strong health systems: Call for contributions

December 15, 2010

by Heinz Greijn, Editor-in-Chief, Capacity.org

Over the last 10 years there has been a surge in the levels of international funding earmarked for the health sector. While this is a no doubt a very laudable development, the effects are not all positive. A large proportion of the funds was channelled through donor-driven programmes that targeted specific diseases and that can undermine health priorities within recipient countries.

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Capacity.org reader survey yields interesting findings

November 22, 2010

by Heinz Greijn, Editor-in-Chief, Capacity.org

In the last quarter of 2010 we conducted a survey among readers of the printed journal. I would like to thank the hundreds of readers who responded to our call for feedback. We are gratified, and challenged, by the results.

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Beyond slogans: building capacity for producer-agency

August 10, 2010 - Wangu Mwangi, Web editor, Capacity.org

The call to ‘make markets work for the poor’ is no longer the preserve of traditional development organisations and fair trade advocacy groups. It has become the catchphrase of choice for governments and international bodies – even multinationals keen to boost their corporate social responsibility credentials.

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From organizational development to multi-actor collaboration

August 10, 2010

by Heinz Greijn, Editor, Capacity.org
As capacity development practice has evolved, there has been a corresponding shift in focus: from training individuals to strengthening organizations, and more recently, multi-actor collaboration. Although there has always been a strand of work that has focused on broader institutional, policy and regulatory systems, the entry point of many capacity development interventions still remains the organizational level.

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