An analysis of the capacity strengthening process and short term outcomes in the SCARDA project: The case of Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC) Sudan

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working paper
Oruko, L.
Methu, J.
El-Siddig, K.
Chancellor, T.

This paper is a case study of capacity strengthening activities carried out at the Agricultural Research Corporation in Sudan between July 2008 and March 2011. These activities were undertaken through the project ‘Strengthening Capacity for Agricultural Research and Development (SCARDA)’ which was implemented in the East and Central Africa region by the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa. The paper describes the identification of capacity needs and the design and implementation of interventions aimed at enhancing the performance of ARC and strengthening its links with partner organizations. A combination of training workshops, mentoring, short courses, long-term postgraduate training and work-based experiential learning was used to address a set of priority needs. The training was placed in an organizational change context and guided by a learning framework. The hypothesis was that the acquisition by key staff of a set of core competencies would lead to a change of mindset among staff which would begin to enhance organizational performance. An analysis of the short term outcomes of the capacity strengthening process, based largely on discussions with ARC staff, shows that beneficial change in the organization has started. Managers and senior researchers have introduced new methods, including the use of management tools such as feedback, into their working practices. Improved communication and team work has resulted from project activities and staff have begun to focus more on strategic issues affecting the organization. New multi-stakeholder partnerships have been formed, largely through a set of ‘peer learning groups’ that were established with the support of the project. These partnerships had the additional advantage of drawing in new sources of funding at a time when the organization’s budget was under severe pressure. The analysis also revealed that these early beneficial outcomes are fragile and may not be sustainable unless ARC takes further action to institutionalize the improved working practices within the organization. The challenge for ARC is to find a way to mainstream capacity strengthening within its core activities, and at the same time allocate scarce resources to other priority programmes. 

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Capacity strengthening
needs assessment
change management
organizational development
peer learning