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Capacity development and continuous learning

Published on: 30/05/2013

Learning models were a topic highlight at the second day of IHE-UNESCO's 3-day 5th Delft Symposium on Water Capacity Development.


Capacity development is important in any development process. In many instances it is the fundamental prerequisite to making development possible and for sustaining progress made in the face of rapidly changing environments.

Today is the second day of IHE-UNESCO's 3-day 5th Delft Symposium on Water Capacity Development. Yesterday, there were inspiring key-note speeches on the imperative of working on capacity development to equip water sector professionals to meet present and future challenges. The keynotes mainly focused on setting the scene: the challenges beyond the MDGs, given the great numbers of people unserved, compounded by tremendous population growth, increased water consumption, increased water insecurity, rapid urbanisation and transboundary water conflicts. Interviews with participants give an impression of the range of issues touched upon.

Besides recognition of the need for capacity building of individuals and organisations, discussions highlighted the importance of building partnerships, strengthening the enabling environment for change and building personal and online communities.

Beyond training and towards continuous learning

 Capacity Dev. needs to tap into the potential for continuous learning


To put the sustainable development goals into practice will take committed leaders throughout the sector. Several speakers mentioned the 70-20-10 model of adult learning, shown here.

According to this model, lessons learned by successful and effective managers are roughly: 10% from courses and reading, 20% from people (mostly their boss) and 70% from tough jobs.

The model stimulates us to think about how we can stimulate learning through creating opportunities for interaction, learning through doing with support of more experienced colleagues and encouraging sharing lessons. And it is another reminder that capacity building, when limited to one-off training, is not going to make a lasting change happen. Capacity development programmes must focus on a broad range of interventions to create supportive environments for people to learn, innovate, take risks and take on leadership roles in their daily work.

Nurturing water leaders

Formal education and on-the-job knowledge requirements are not always well-matched.Traditionally, many universities have focused mainly on the technical skills related to water and sanitation. But future water leaders will also need communication skills, the ability to engage in political processes, and the ability to innovate and motivate others. This video highlights lessons and issues relating to developing water leadership.

Future water leaders will need to convey the importance of water and sanitation for broader development and for a future we all want. There is certainly an opportunity for expanding not only the focus of capacity building, but also the partnerships of capacity builders, to build on strengths of various disciplines, and experience of knowledge institutes, NGOs and private sector alike.


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