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February 19, 2009

A Case Study - Traning for Nurses in Mongolia and Indonesia

I would like to add to some of the points made in an earlier post by Colin, regarding the power of modern knowledge management tools and methods for capacity development, through a current example; A capacity building program on Mother and Child Health Education for Mongolian Youth, and Disaster Nusing Training Course for Indonesian and Timor Leste nurses.

The program aimed to nurture specialists in mother and child health care. Material and expertise were sourced from Japan, where professional contacts with the professional body for Nursing in  Mongolia had already been established. Such opportunities for continuing education for nurses are scarce in Mongolia, so this program was designed specifically for convenient access, by taking advantage of video-conferencing. Five locations within Mongolia and Japan were connected by video-conference. Knowledge was shared with minimal time and financial burden on participating nurses and lecturers. This training course held on April 2008 saw a turnout of 440 young women at five venues connected by the videoconferencing. The participants could not only access the latest knowledge, but were also able to build an informal peer-network among themselves. The cost advantages of the video-conferencing format made it relatively easy to obtain funding for repeat programs, and second session is planned to be held in March 2009, with approximately 400 nurses.

The course also generated demand from elsewhere. Approximately 790 nurses, front-line health providers in Indonesia and Timor Leste will also gather in late February 2009 for a video-conference enabled program on nursing in disaster situations, dealing with disaster preparedness, response, and rehabilitation. The response from Indonesia has been very enthusiastic. This program is also expected to generate interest in effective methods of knowledge sharing among different countries and locations, by taking advantage of modern knowledge management tools and methods.

To reach this many people, with uniform high quality training and access to expertise, would have been logistically and financially impractical, through conventional methods. Many of those who received training would normally not have the opportunity to attend those capacity building programs due to distance, cost and even position within their respective organizations. The programs demonstrated how modern knowledge management tools and methods have the power to reach many different sectors of the population, even those normally “unreached” with the best available expertise, at a fraction of the cost (per person) of conventional methods.

February 13, 2009

Capacity Building - in practice

Capacity building and capacity enhancement are two amongst a host of names for donor activities that aim to improve the workings of government and service delivery by increasing the effectiveness of bureaucracy. Most development professionals will say capacity building is at the heart of development but that it is terribly difficult. Traditionally capacity building activities will involve a study tour, training needs analysis, training programs and expert staff placement. The receiving agencies love them for the travel, per diem and the break from day-to-day work. Training institutions love them because it is easy money and the students are usually quiet and trouble free, companies love them because they get to place long term experts in the field which assists their bottom line.

So lots of money for something that does not work all that well. Perhaps the entire process is flawed...

    ...because it is premised on a belief at developing country bureaucracies do not work properly because the people working in them are knowledge deficient and, just like with an empty bucket the strategy is to improve the bureaucracy by filling the bucket with knowledge from the donor country.

This traditional approach to capacity building needs to be changed and it is clear to some that the time has come to apply lessons learned from the knowledge revolution to development and specifically to capacity building. The knowledge revolution has taught us that :

  • Knowledge does not exist within any one individual or within any single institution. The best knowledge is developed when a range of experts from around the world.

  • Knowledge that is developed is not useful unless the clients have confidence in terms of its relevance in supporting their work and role within the organization.

  • World Class expertise may exist in seemingly odd places such as remote institutions, think tanks or with people are either retired or not in full time work. It may also reside in people who are not comfortable in speaking English.

  • Highest value expertise comes from people who are already very busy. Because their time is valuable and hard to access highly flexible means of accessing their knowledge must be able to accommodate their schedule.

The key to international knowledge development and sharing lies with blending smart modern technology with new approaches to learning. Web based communication tools including email, video conference, digital knowledge libraries are cheap ubiquitous and powerful. When skillfully used they address each of the points above because we know that people enjoy and learn more from learning events that use multi media technologies that include face to face teaching, video conferencing, web tools, written material and peer group discussions and where needed simultaneous translation. The resulting programs that use this approach and technology is known as blended learning and they work.

Even blended learning will fail however if donor programs are not humble. When Vietnam wanted guidance on how to gain entry to the WTO they did not ask an economically advanced country for assistance. They asked China and one major donor facilitated that contact. So it should be with capacity building programs – donors should concentrate on facilitating knowledge development and dissemination. Sometimes but not all of the time part, or all of that knowledge will come from the donor country. In the majority of cases it will come from elsewhere within the country or from other parts of the world.

Lets get rid once and for all the “in our image” approach to capacity building programs and embrace a humble blended learning approach.

February 07, 2009

Welcome to the Link Asea blog

The Blog section of our web site is now in action. This is expected to become a major tool in our work, and hopefully a core communications tool for the community that we hope will develop around Link Asea's core activities.

So, why the pretty picture? Well, effective capacity development through the application of modern knowledge management tools and methods is our core business, and the photo reminds me of perhaps the most rewarding capacity-building experience I've had. 


The scene is of a wedding party of Uygur tribes-people in a truly beautiful setting, known as Heavenly Lake, near Urumqi in Western China. This was at the end of the business planning workshops in Urumqi, in Western China, for thirteen Distance Learning Centres. I was able to visit because the participants worked extra long hours so that the last (planned) day would be available for sight-seeing!

The whole experience during that workshop really demonstrated how much we could learn from each other, how well we could interact and how friendships could be developed even through translators, and how modern communications reaches even the most remote, isolated locations today.