Assessing Capacity Development in Fragile States: an Indicator Development Process From Liberia
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CitationFlannery, Jessica. 2018. Assessing Capacity Development in Fragile States: an Indicator Development Process From Liberia. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
AbstractThis thesis provides a practical example of systematically merging elements of two approaches to Capacity Development (CD), linear and adaptive approaches, for improved assessment of CD in fragile settings. Capacity, or the ‘ability to produce’ is a core constraint in fragile settings, both shaping and exacerbating fragility. In both fragile and non-fragile contexts, efforts to improve capacity through development projects have largely used linear approaches, based on pre-determined inputs and outputs as well as skill-based technical capacity. These efforts have underperformed throughout development contexts. In fragile settings where numerous, intertwined complex factors shape fragility and constrain capacity, technical linear approaches are particularly ill suited to addressing underlying capacity challenges. Adaptive, or systems-based, approaches incorporate a wider range of capacities, including adaptation and relationships. Adaptive approaches may be more appropriate in fragile settings. There are also practical advantages of linear approaches, particularly for governments and financiers: they outline clear, easily understandable steps; cover defined timeframes; and focus on performance results. A particular challenge in knowing which approaches to CD are effective and which are not is a lack of capacity development assessment (CDA). Linear approaches tend to assess performance results as proxies for capacity, but do not demonstrate where capacity problems lay, masking ongoing problems with capacity. Adaptive approaches generally use stories and qualitative means to learn about all types of changes in capacity. These can be complex and difficult to easily digest. Both linear and adaptive approaches struggle with how to effectively assess capacity. This thesis uses literature review on fragility, capacity, CD, and capacity assessment, as well as fieldwork in Liberia, to develop indicators and an assessment process for CD. The indicators and assessment process draw on both linear and adaptive approaches to assess CD in Liberia, a fragile context. The result is indicators that measure incremental changes in different types of capacities along with an assessment process that uses qualitative methods to assess unplanned change. The process for developing this assessment can be applied to a different CD projects in fragile settings including those that merge linear and adaptive methods for CDA.
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