The meeting reflects an acknowledgement of a global movement towards ‘localizing development aid” i.e directing more development aid to the local level—local NGOs, local companies, and local governments. The forum was organized to provide space for the stakeholders invited to discuss the practical challenges and opportunities of local partnerships and create opportunities potential new partnerships addressing effective localization of development aid.
What particularly stood out for us were a number of issues highlighted in a discussion on the nature of local capacity development. Participants shared evidence of how successful partnerships were mostly those that worked effectively with what local organisations and institutions had to offer. A number of observation and questions that were raised, include:
- Increasingly, capacity development is done to support delivery of services related to project demands and conditions, at the risk of local organizations losing their identity and sense of purpose.
- The question of what sustainable local capacity development means, and looks like is not brought to the table for discussion. The only time any of that is mentioned is in response to questions determined and asked by the funding agency during application for funding.
- Development support is largely project based with extremely stringent conditions. Many development partners and AID agencies are reluctant to support long term initiatives including governance, institutional development and identity management of local organizations.
Defining “What sustainable local capacity development looks like” is indeed part of the reason for which APODEA was formed. In addition to keeping this question on the table, APODEA is a movement that uses reflective learning processes to enable its members to develop practices that will support sustainable local organizations, institutions and communities. The kind of practices advanced by APODEA tend to fall under the general themes of transformative and facilitative leadership and organizational capacities, developed through powerful conscious learning tools that support organizations and communities to take responsibility, ownership and control of their development.
Movements can create spaces where local organizations surface their own development questions, and find the collective voice to hold capacity building practitioners accountable for the interventions they make and how these impact institutional development in local situations.
That voices advancing that view in the Nairobi meeting seemed rather marginal at the beginning, but progressively took centre-stage within the conglomeration of actors with diverse interests in the development of local communities. The conviction and power with which this issue was raised reconfirmed for us the strategic significance of a movement like APODEA, which is already that kind of space. I believe APODEA provides the platform and collective voice that is needed to make a difference.
At the end of the meeting we discovered that one of the women from Kenya who had raised many pertinent issues related to capacity development was actually a graduate of FOD (now FOLD) training offered by EASUN. She was particularly excited to hear about APODEA, which made me realize that there may be many more like her who would like to be part of the APODEA platform. Perhaps each of the APODEA country chapter conveners can look for and invite such individuals to their regular chapter meetings.
APODEA is currently in the process of finalizing its draft constitution as one of the first steps towards formalization. In the meantime APODEA is still hosted by EASUN, largely through which its activities are supported.