Lesson 07: Universities as capacity builders


Universities can play a crucial role in promoting, contributing to and delivering capacity building activities, alongside local actors, institutions and large donor organisations. As repositories of knowledge informed by research, specialising in delivering research-led teaching, universities and their academic staff are ideally positioned to deliver capacity building.

Universities employ research professionals who are qualified and experienced in teaching and particularly in the facilitation of knowledge exchange and production in seminars, workshops and focus groups. It is in the interplay between the local knowledge(s) being articulated by participants and the specific expertise of facilitators, that productive capacity building can take place: Eric Scheye and Gordon Peake assert that in order to develop sustainable and successful programmes, it ‘may be possible to negotiate a middle ground that privileges local knowledge, traditions, and capacities and, only when necessary, is tempered by international intercession’. Facilitators are present primarily to guide the conversation and bring out the knowledge and expertise possessed by participants. Additionally, in certain contexts such as the Horn of Africa, facilitators who hold academic titles are more likely to be respected and listened to than counterparts working for international non-governmental organisations, for example (as indicated in PeaceCapacity’s Hargeisa workshop feedback). This applies whether the academic facilitators are local or international (or a hybrid identity thereof).


Expand the impact agenda for universities to encourage academics to deliver capacity building programmes in their fields of expertise, and to reward them for doing so. Emphasise to donors and local organisations the pedagogical benefits of involving academics in the (co-)delivery of training activities.