Enabling environment: Messages for Busan

Country and donor actors can do better for CD when they understand the context and how it influences performance and capacity development. Successful country managers – and successful donor staff - influence what is within their reach and adapt to what they cannot influence.  That implies sometimes doing less, sometimes doing more for CD. First of all, it demands a more managerial, strategic and dynamic look at capacity development and change, requiring that country and development partners change the mental mode in which they traditionally dialogue about and deal with capacity issues as if it was mainly a technical issue.

This Perspectives Note highlighted three key messages that will help strengthen CD processes and support to such processes:  

  • Make the understanding of the context operationally relevant. This entail getting roles right:  country actors  need to factor the context in, departing from a specific CD agenda and respecting the sensitivities involved. Donors can support and broker context analysis and CD strategizing – if they take it over it is likely to stay at the margins, no matter how well researched and argued.
  • Get CD ambitions right.Successful CD depends on the change readiness shaped by the context, the vision and the capacity and power of those leading and managing change. This may often imply more incremental approaches, a focus on quick visible wins, longer overall timeframes, as well as flexible adaptation to exploit opportunities and avoid dead ends.
  • Harness the leadership and management for change.Country champions need to invest visibly in CD. They need space, capacity and support when they adapt to and influence the context.  Donors need to understand the limitations of the change leadership and management capacity, and abstain from trying to replace endogenous leadership with their own.

Taking the context into account implies recognizing – operationally - that CD is much more than a technical discipline. It affects interests, reshapes configurations of influence and power, and generates or diminishes energies of external and internal stakeholders. Successful CD requires constant strategizing, brokering, coalition building and conflict management. Dealing sensibly and pragmatically with these often thorny issues is a new challenge that in itself has to be addressed:

  • Open the dialogue and learning between country and development partners: A more frank and unpretentious dialogue about context factors, stakeholder and change readiness can help get CD and support to CD on a better footing on the road to and after Busan.