This rule may sounds so obvious that it is not even worth stating. But it is amazing how many projects which are labeled as capacity building don’t seem to contain any plans to actually support the building of capacity, i.e. learning.
One common mistake is to think that giving funding to an organisation in the south is ‘capacity building’, as if the money will somehow lead to learning through a process of osmosis. There are plenty more ‘capacity building’ schemes which contain activities supposedly to support learning which are so badly designed and implemented that they are very unlikely to achieve their aims. I have sat through a fair number of ‘capacity building’ workshops that were so deathly boring that the only thing I have learnt is how to pass the time until the next tea break.
The sad thing is that there is actually a lot of good knowledge on how people learn and those who run capacity building could benefit massively from understanding it. I am not talking about the pseudoscientific stuff like the practice of teaching according to learning styles – but the more serious study of pedagogy that has demonstrated what practices really support learning – and which ones should be discarded and at an organisational level, there is lots of good learning on how to support organisational development. It is extremely arrogant of us to assume that just because we know about a given topic that we know how to support others to learn about it.
The point is that you don’t need to start from scratch when designing capacity building – get speaking to people who know and go to some courses in pedagogy/training skills/organisational development and your capacity building programme will be dramatically improved.