Capacity Development is one of those buzz-phrases that gets used and abused almost as much as Sustainable Development. Capacity has various definitions, but for me, one of the clearest is:
“Capacity is the ability of individuals, groups, institutions and organizations to identify and solve problems over time”
(Morgan, P. 1993 quoted on p.7 of Capacity development for improved water management, UNESCO-IHE 2009)
A shortage of capacity – the ability to identify and solve problems – is found in rural water supply across the world, from issues like pump corrosion, to lifecycle cost recovery to making the Human Right to Water a reality.
Problems become a lot easier where there are competent champions or – even better – strong teams who are able and willing to do a good job, even in adverse circumstances.
That’s why I have come to the annual meeting of UNDP Cap-Net, – at the invitation of its director, Dr Themba Gumbo. Cap-Net is a global network of capacity development networks that support capacity development in the water sector by providing technical and match-funding support to water-related training courses. The meeting was hosted by the Spanish cooperation agency, AECID, at their exceptional training facility in Cartagena, Colombia.
The main theme of the week was to explore how to use online and ICT methods to deliver courses and support learners. The centre-piece is Cap-Net’s Virtual Campus. The first three courses, which ran successfully earlier this year, were:
- Sustainable Water Management
- Water Integrity and Transparency
- A Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) to Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)
The courses work in similar way to a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), but requires a bit more commitment and if you want to join you have to submit a short CV and letter explaining why you want to do the course.
The meeting was also an opportunity to meet coordinators from some of Cap-Net’s 22 regional and country networks from all over the world and to explore ideas for developing face-to-face training events. From this I got a lot of ideas and contacts to explore further.
There were other partners there as well, including CAWST, Water Integrity Network (WIN), Global Water Partnership (GWP), Sustainable Energy for All, the UNDP Water Governance Facility at SIWI, Water for People, and SDC Global Programme Water Initiatives so it was good to meet them and find out about the interesting work they are doing.
Another topic, was the potential of serious games, and two examples were presented:
- Diana Rojas (SDC) presented an mobile game called Aventura Yaku for helping children (and grown-ups!) understand water and ecosystems services.
- Gareth Lloyd (DHI) presented an online game called Aqua Republica, and we had a group competition on a version developed specifically for Cap-Net. Aiming at an audience of 13-18 year olds, behind the attractive graphics and game play is a direct link to detailed hydrological models in Denmark.
While great for introducing new audiences to the importance of water resources, don’t expect an RWSN game app for rural water any time soon. I’m not convinced that is it the right solution for what we want to do, but I like these initiatives very much.
Over the course of the rest of the week there were presentations and discussions on the importance of innovating and keeping up with the fast evolving ways of engaging new audiences through communications technology – whilst not forgetting the importance of hands-on, face-to-face learning.
As the week ended, I concluded that here are a group of people – and organisations – that RWSN should collaborate with if we are to fulfil our mission of raising the level of quality and professionalism of rural water supply services.
Watch this space…