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A framework for capacity development: closing the gap between theory and practice

Boyd, Davina (2009) A framework for capacity development: closing the gap between theory and practice. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Capacity development has long been considered a cornerstone of development. While the development industry’s commitment to capacity development has been fraught with debate about its ambiguous nature and lack of associated success, after more than thirty years of experience, there is now widespread agreement that capacity development is a priority for development. There is also renewed understanding that an alternative development paradigm is at the core of capacity development and core principles and good practice guidelines are emerging. However, while there has been a transformation in thinking, much of the development industry is entrenched in existing practices and there remains a gap between the theory that is espoused and capacity development in practice.

Currently, the development industry is in transition. This transition is necessary and unavoidable if the development challenges faced by billions of people are to be addressed. This research sought to identify ways to facilitate this transition and close the gap between theory and practice. The research was underpinned by a pragmatic philosophical perspective. As such, a central aim of the research was to make a practical contribution to improving practice.

A design-based research methodology was used to carry out research into the practice of delivering two capacity development interventions: 1) the Public Sector Linkages Program (PSLP) Project; and, 2) the Sustainable Sanitation and Wetlands Technology (SSWT) Project. These interventions were designed to develop Indonesian capacity in water and sanitation. In design-based research, practice and research are carried out concurrently. This methodology provided an opportunity to advance understanding of the relationship between capacity development theory based on the alternative paradigm and improved practice.

A Framework for Capacity Development is the main outcome of this research. The Framework provides specific guidance regarding the design of capacity development interventions based on the alternative paradigm. The Framework was found to facilitate the design of interventions with improved processes and outcomes. Further application of the Framework in different contexts is recommended.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Supervisor(s): Ho, Goen and Phillips, Rob
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