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Why capacity building needs to smarten up

Written by Richard Mallett on 24 July, 2015 : 10:19

The limited operationalization of capacity support helps account for why the Ebola virus was so hard to control in Sierra Leone. 

SLRC Researcher, Richard Mallett 

When a low-income country emerges from a devastating crisis like Ebola, how do you go about rebuilding services? How do you ensure that citizens’ urgent needs are met – that kids catch up on lost schooling, that sick people get the treatment they require, that water sources are safe – whilst simultaneously ensuring that, at some point, international assistance will no longer be required for this purpose?

Enter capacity building, a long-time bastion of development policy and practice.

Capacity building is about using foreign aid to strengthen the ability of recipient governments to do stuff better. That might be service delivery, law enforcement, security provision or private sector development, to name a few. At its most basic, capacity building is – or at least should be – about development agencies doing themselves out of a job. Problem is, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon.

Some argue that capacity building has the potential to drive social emancipation, but it is often approached in a narrow, reductive and overly technical way. In a new report from the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC), we argue that this limited operationalization of capacity support helps account for why the Ebola virus was so hard to control in Sierra Leone – just as other public health problems, like undernutrition, have been for many years.

To read the full text of this blog, visit devex.com

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Welcome to SLRC's blog.

This blog will feature reflections from our team of researchers on the practicalities of actually conducting research in conflict-affected situations. We will also be posting guest blogs written by key researchers and practioners working on livelihoods, basic services and social protection in conflict-affected situations.