Donor harmonisation and capacity building
Interview : Our organisation is learning
Our organisation is learning
Konflikt als Chance (Conflict as Opportunity)
In a mission statement on capacity building, InWEnt has defined the way it works. The document stresses the need for long-term social transformation. If education and training only target individuals, their effect quickly dissipates. Ingrid Jung and Hinrich Mercker, divison directors at InWEnt, elaborate on the strategy.
[ Interview with Ingrid Jung and Hinrich Mercker ]
How does InWEnt make sure that education and training have a long-term impact and does not just reach individuals?
Mercker: In order to be successful in the long run, capacity building needs a multi-level approach. We must work at the individual level, the level of employing institutions and the level of the socio-political system. Of course, the people we train are part of their sending organisations back home. We liaise with those institutions, their human resources departments, their headquarters. The training we provide must serve employers strategies. If that is the case, results are possible at the system level, for instance, when the competency of a finance ministry or an environment agency is enhanced. We also strive for impacts at the system level through policy dialogue and exchange of experience. In line with this triple-level approach, we do not run any stand-alone programmes. We compose long-term packages we coordinate with Germanys development Bank KfW Entwicklungsbank and German Technical Cooperation (GTZ). In that sense, our work supports and complements theirs and vice versa.
Personal training and organisation development obviously go together. But do they really make a difference at system level? Social change is a very complex process. Jung: Of course, we cannot mechanically engineer the course of social evolution. But InWEnt makes a valuable contribution towards keeping development on the right track. The way our four instruments interact makes perfect sense. We train experts, we advise institutions on strategic staff development, we network, and we engage in policy dialogue. It is particularly promising to combine these instruments of capacity building with technical or financial cooperation.
Can the systemic impact be measured?
Jung: Long-term success can be identified. But it would be naive to think we could steer multi-caused processes in a way that would allow us to come up with precisely quantified results month after month. Just like rich nations, developing countries are complex societies. Even in Germany, we cannot identify the immediate impact of every single reform step. At the macro level, however, progress becomes evident in the long run.
InWEnt has only been around since 2003, when it was formed by the merger of Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft (CDG) with the German Foundation for International Development (DSE). If what matters is long-term results, how can you tell whether you are successful?
Mercker: The OECD recently evaluated German development policy. The evaluators described capacity building as a German strength. We attribute that largely to our work. InWEnts predecessors had already stopped conveying textbook knowledge. Instead, we are dealing with developing orientation knowledge. What we understand by textbook knowledge is curricula worked through without much concern for what the alumni are going to do with their knowledge later. Orientation knowledge, on the other hand, is problem-oriented and geared to action which is precisely what is required in todays confusingly globalising world, along with an ability to react fast, of course. This kind of knowledge tackles values, change and reform, the role and function of elites and even international rules and global power constellations. We do not provide operating instructions; we work on understanding different patterns of thought, understanding and action, as well as on making use of them in international affairs.
Those are grand words. Do you question what you are doing yourself?
Jung: Our organisation is constantly learning. In interaction with our partners and through evaluations, InWEnt is always verifying whether we are meeting needs and how we can become better at doing so. Our teachers and trainers must learn during work. Our understanding of learning means we need to approach partners at eye level. Underlying it all is a view of humans as responsible beings. All involved participants and providers check what we know, what we do, and how it all impacts on society. We have high expectations of ourselves, too.
That sounds nice, but what do you mean in practical terms?
Mercker: We deal with tangible questions. How does one manage a water supply system? A hospital? The rule of law? We are not concerned with abstract philosophical topics; we create a new understanding of problems and provide expertise for addressing them. We do not claim to know how and what our partners or participants will have to decide tomorrow. But we enable them to consider arguments, consult various experiences, and take responsible action. That is why we also stress networking. For our alumni and thanks to them , learning and exchange of experiences will go on for a long time, crossing borders, even after seminars have ended. We make systematic use of modern communication technology, one example being our web-platform Global Campus.
As the Americans say, there is no free lunch. In other words, anyone who offers something wants something in return. In the development sector, donors have clear ideas about where developing countries should be heading. Does that not raise doubts about German willingness to learn?
Jung: Let me answer that by citing specific examples. We currently have a group of teacher- trainers from Central America in Berlin. They go into schools, talk to principals and colleagues, and they will take part in an evaluation of each establishment. So we get direct, critical feedback. I can tell you of another, related example. We are running a programme on budget management for the education sector in Southern Africa. The focus is on how ministries of education and finance cooperate in different countries. The German Land of Hesse is also involved; domestically, it is an innovate actor in this area. That kind of dialogue shows that all partners face problems in terms of quality education and resource use. It is only honest to admit the need for reform and, accordingly, learning in Germany. Doing so also boosts partners motivation.
InWEnt programmes often focus on government, business and civil society, which surely reflects the German preference for corporatist decision-making and consensus. But it can also lead to reform deadlock. Is the model really recommendable?
Jung: We do not pretend to target actors from all three sectors in every single case. Sometimes, we decide to focus on civil society, without dealing with state agencies. But in other cases, one simply must involve several sectors. Consider crisis regions, for example. In Colombia, our peace programme is engaging civil society as well as government schools. In the long term, many problems can only be solved with meaningful participation of government, civil society and the private sector, precisely because interests diverge.
Mercker: HIV/Aids is one such example, environmental protection another. InWEnt efforts are geared to supporting such processes on a broad front. Our predecessor organisations were in no position to do that. DSE dealt with governmental bodies, CDG focused on the private sector. Now, we are talking to everyone concerned.
What are the key requirements for the future?
Mercker: We need to form strategic alliances with international partner organisations in the field of capacity building. We are encountering growing interest among other partners like the World Bank Institute, for example, the training arm of the World Bank. They tell us that they like a particular programme and wish to cooperate with us on certain aspects. The international trend is towards budget support and programme-based funding. The time will come when the government of Mozambique, for example, says it has the money for training programmes and intends to assign programmes to agencies. What we will need then is a capacity to cooperate professionally with a large number of partners. We have to move even further beyond trying to stand out from the crowd. Instead, we must focus on really making a sustained impact on the target regions.
Questions by Hans Dembowski.
Dr. Ingrid Jung
heads InWEnts Education Division.
heads InWEnts Environment, Energy and Water Division. On behalf of InWEnts executive management, Mercker and Jung drafted the recent paper on capacity building.
InWEnt paper on capacity building (in German):