Successful Capacity Strengthening: Three Case Studies by the Capacity Resource Unit (CRU)

In this video, members of the Capacity Research Unit, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, talk about improving the effectiveness of capacity strengthening programmes and present three case studies of such programmes. Speakers include: Imelda Bates (Head of Capacity Research Unit, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine), Stefanie Gregorius, (Research Assistant, Capacity Research Unit, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine), and Laura Dean, (Research Assistant, Capacity Research Unit, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine).

Professor Bates argues that capacity strengthening does not get the attention it needs. While the World Bank (2012) has identified capacity strengthening as the “missing link” in development because countries need home-grown scientists and strong institutions to build capacity to solve their own problems, generally the research on effective capacity building is scarce. The CRU aims to fill this gap and are now at the leading edge of innovative research and practice in planning, implementing and tracking capacity strengthening programmes in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs).

Funders include:
World Health Organization
Malaria Capacity Development Consortium
Seventh Framework Programme
The Royal Society

Professor Bates provides a set of examples of what the CRU can do to support DFID’s capacity strengthening initiatives as follows:
1) Up to date knowledge of the capacity strengthening evidence; a resource for practical help, tools and methods, including new ‘benchmarks’, for doing rigorous capacity strengthening needs assessments
2) Support to implementers to help them plan and monitor capacity strengthening activities at individual, institutional and national/international level
3) Input to DFID’s Calls and Guidance Notes for capacity strengthening applications
4) Advice to DFID’s reviewers about how to assess capacity strengthening applications
5) Broker between funders and implementers to develop useful, non-onerous indicators to track capacity strengthening activities and avoid pitfalls and tensions

She goes on to describe the 5-step process the CRU has developed based on published evidence with the aim to achieve autonomous, self-sustaining, problem-solving institutions and systems:
– Define the goal of the capacity strengthening and the pathway for change
– Use evidence to define the optimal capacity needed to achieve the goal
– Determine existing capacity; identify gaps compared to optimal capacity
– Devise and implement an action plan with indicators at the individual level, the institutional level, the national level, and the international level to fill the gaps
– Revisit the plan and indicators regularly

Dr Gregorius and Ms Dean present the following three recent interventions/case studies conducted by the CRU, and demonstrate how this 5-step process applies in each case:
– Strengthening laboratory capacity for Neglected Tropical Diseases (2012-16) NTD
Strengthening African Universities’ Research Infrastructures and Doctoral Training Capacity (2008-15) MCDC
Royal Society-DFID Research Capacity Strengthening Initiative: UK-Africa consortia (2012-18) The Royal Society

For an introduction to the CRU’s work, click here to watch the HEART Talk on Introducing the Capacity Research Unit (CRU): Strengthening Health Research Capacity around the World.

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