In our country, as development actors, NGOs have become the main service providers where the government is unable to fulfil its traditional role. In the education sector, many NGOs have moved beyond ‘gap-filling’ initiatives into capacity building activities. It is important to address the role of NGOs in development through the lens of capacity building. SRKKF has accepted the role of capacity building of an individual, a group, a society or an institution. We need to determine the effect of SRKKF on capacity development and its role in building capacity on all levels based on five hypotheses:

1. NGOs are moving towards increased involvement in capacity development. The capacity development approach is gaining attention among NGOs working in education and many NGOs are now assuming capacity development activities. Even though capacity development has always existed, it is gaining ground on the national level as an overarching concept promoted by the multilateral aid agenda. Given their extensive knowledge and activities in the education sector, NGOs remain relevant actors alongside government. As a result, NGOs constitute important resources for capacity development, and vice versa. NGOs engaging in capacity development see the approach as a strategy to increase their impact in education governance.

2. This involvement changes the ways in which NGOs operate. Whereas an increasing number of NGOs are involved in capacity development, many still remain committed to education provision and replacing the state on the ground. Capacity development activities compliment this traditional area of NGO intervention and constitute a way of scaling up in a qualitative sense by enhancing the sustainability of NGO efforts. However, many NGOs continue to have conflicting relations with government, or quite simply do not pay much attention to the state. Capacity development aimed at the public education system does take place, but often as a complementary strategy to community empowerment at the local level. As a result, NGO action is increasingly diversified.

3. Through their involvement, they have an impact on the interpretation (in the field) of capacity development.NGOs do have an influence on the concept and content of capacity development. To highlight their influence, we can use the distinction between “influencing within the context of a social meaning” (which is synonymous to influencing within an existing paradigm) and “influencing social meaning” (which is similar to helping to transform a paradigm). NGOs are involved in both processes. NGOs are to a large extent influenced by the hegemonic development discourse and as a result, adapt their activities and strategies to accommodate external demands concerning capacity development. However, through their actions, and by making new activities complementary to and coherent with traditional ones, they engage in a process of shaping the meaning of capacity development. As a result, they contribute to shaping the parameters for a general development framework. So, both processes are present here: NGOs are influenced by the ideology of capacity development, but they also influence its meaning to some extent from the outside. For NGOs, capacity development is linked intrinsically to community-level action, civil society and values of ownership and participation. By promoting these values, they have an impact on the interpretation of capacity development in the field. This is a process that ultimately can lead to a more participatory approach to development.

Through this new interpretation, capacity development can weaken central government, but also strengthen it in the long term. The question of impact is a complex one. Traditionally, through their ‘gap-filling’ and ‘lobbying’ roles, NGOs’ contribution to government capacities has been controversial. The focus on service delivery has, in some cases, weakened the central government by bypassing and replacing government capacities on the ground. On the other hand, developing the capacities of local NGOs alters the power configurations in a given country and can have a positive long-term impact on education by strengthening the abilities of people to demand improved services. The impact of NGO interventions must therefore be analyzed from both a short-term and long-term perspective, and by looking at direct and indirect consequences. NGOs’ increased interest in capacity development may change the interpretation of their contribution to government capacities. From this literature review, it can be deduced that the direct impact of NGOs on government capacity development within the education sector corresponds to two (sometimes overlapping) ways of ‘scaling up’: (1) scaling up by becoming innovators in education and (2) scaling up by taking on capacity development activities (focused directly on government or indirectly through the community or local NGOs).

(a) The main role of NGOs has been in education provision. Their ‘gap-filling’ role and independence from government has allowed them to implement innovative approaches that can serve as models for government and the public education system. In this sense, NGOs should continue doing what they already do best in order to become a useful laboratory for government. Mainstreaming such successful innovations in cooperation with government thus becomes a capacity development process par excellence; going beyond the individual and community level, this type of scaling up can become part of education sector reform, involving all levels and actors, and incorporating NGOs as policy-partners and advisors.

(b) A second way of scaling up is to take on capacity development activities at various levels. The possibilities for making an impact are numerous within a decentralized education system and do not have to be limited to a school focus. Partnerships can be developed, or formalized, with both local and central authorities. NGOs can participate as a policy partner at all levels, bringing knowledge and clarity to education policy formulation and implementation. At the community level, engaging with the authorities can strengthen local education governance as well as local civil society. The latter might be interpreted as more of an indirect than a direct role in capacity development, but is important because it can generate greater civil society input at the level of government.

5. Impact and obstacles. In addition to the traditional obstacles to capacity development shared by most stakeholders, some obstacles are more or less specific to NGOs and are linked to their interpretation of developing capacities. The main obstacles are, as mentioned, the continued focus on civil society and communities, government reticence and the fact that NGOs remain largely involved in service provision. The tendency is for more and more NGOs to prioritize capacity development, leaving implementation issues to local NGOs. Their strategies for capacity development are aimed at both their Southern counterparts and at government through consultations, courses, discussions and policy dialogues. To maximize their impact, NGOs should realize that civil society is not independent of, and much less an alternative to, the state. The consequences of developing the capacities of civil society in relation to government capacities are uncertain. The lack of reliable indicators makes the real impact on government difficult to measure across time and space. More research is therefore needed on the impact of NGO action beyond that of service provision. “there is relatively little material that describes processes of dialogue between government and representatives of NSPs [non-state providers] in the development of policy, regulatory or contractual arrangements”. This is an interesting area for future research. Whereas this paper primarily illustrates how capacity development has translated into changes mostly at the local level, further research could explore how macro-level processes directly translate into participation on a national level in relation to institutions and policy.

Courtesy : This blog has been taken from the report authored by Inger Ulleberg published by UNESCO and IIEP.