Capacity Building (B4)

Capacity building – at the individual, institutional, and societal levels – is an important means to further IWRM principles and boost the overall quality of water governance structures. Capacity building essentially stands for a twofold process: (1) it is about understanding the obstacles that prevent the people, the organisations, or any other elements of an institutional framework from fully realizing their development goals; and (2) it is also concerned with finding the applicable mechanisms in overcoming these challenges and ultimately achieving better and more sustainable results.

Capacity development is integral to effective institutional arrangements. The main objective with institutional capacity building is to shore up those critical areas that can be improved and that are within the limits and competence of the concerned intuitional arrangement. It is important to keep in mind, as suggested by Tools B3, that governance is a matter of institutions just as much as it is a matter of linkages. Therefore, institutions themselves, but also the way they interact and communicate with each other are both strategic targets for capacity building.

Capacity development should constitute an essential mindset for all parties involved in IWRM. Capacity building involves three different levels: the individual level, the institutional level, and the societal level. Individual capacity-building relates to a set of prevailing conditions that supports the enhancement of one’s knowledge and skills. Institutional capacity building rather refers to a process by which an organisation’s functions can be improved and enlarged. The focus here is not on establishing new institutions but rather on how to effectively promote and boost the effectiveness of those already in place. At the societal level, capacity building mainly demonstrates itself at the feedback phases of the policy cycle, i.e. where civil society informs governmental entities of their needs.

Capacity development can take tangible and intangible forms. Tangible or material capacity building includes, for instance, giving out training manuals, holding workshops and implanting new technologies. The intangible aspects of capacity building are more difficult to capture, insofar as information sharing networks or the willingness to engage in self-reflection and auto-evaluation practices are comparatively harder measurable dimensions. Whereas the tangible aspects of capacity building have been traditionally favored, the intangible aspects should not yet be seen as lesser counterparts.

Capacity building is much more of a long-term continual process than a one-off intervention. It is a self-reinforcing cycle that involves stakeholder engagement, capacity assessment and the formulation of capacity development responses as well as their implementation and evaluation. Capacity building can lead to short-term or immediate improvements – for example, those that would relate to increases financial capacities or to additional staffing. However, since capacity building is a process, it also lends itself better to ameliorations in the long-term. Change in societal attitudes and political commitment are indications of how long-term capacity building may take place.

The tools in this section identify key instruments that can catalyze the different types of capacity building in the context of water governance. Information Gathering and Sharing Networks (B4.01) only further reinforce the strength of the evaluation phase by capturing and disseminating information on issues of the institutional framework that can be improved. Tool B4.02 discusses the importance of Training Water Professionals in relation to human and project implementation capacity building. Partnerships (B4.03) foster organizational capacity building in various ways – from shared Stakeholder Analysis (C3.02) to common planning and cooperative programme implementation. Bodies for Water Integrity and Anti-corruption (B4.04) inject transparency and accountability principles into institutional structures, thus enhancing the overall capacity of the system.