Heading to Arusha for the Capacity for Humanity conference was exciting. I was to take part in a culmination of months of preparation by ActionAid and Humentum to enable a South-to-South Learning Forum.
The conference was also big step for us because as an organization, Action Aid is in the process of developing a learning and knowledge management strategy. The conference would provide a good platform to share our journey of integrating learning and knowledge management into our mission with others, as well as to learn from others and use the time to reflect on our journey. At a personal level, it was also my first time to meet some of the Humentum colleagues I had only met virtually so I was looking forward to putting the faces to the names.
The conference provided a space full of learning and development professionals, which was exciting for networking, bouncing off ideas with others, and most importantly, to hear what others were doing in this field.
ActionAid General Secretary Adriano Campolina set a good theme for the conference as he delivered the keynote address on the importance of capacity building at the local level. He emphasized the importance of ‘decolonizing knowledge’ and the symbolic meaning of holding the conference in Tanzania. Of note from the speech was the need to develop transformative capacity building for the local level that will bring about change; this is the centre of ActionAid’s work.
Session after session at the Capacity for Humanity conference provided rich content, invaluable experiences, knowledge sharing between peers, and learning about capacity building initiatives from organisations in the same field. A key lesson from this conference was that there is a lot of knowledge, experience, and expertise in capacity building from developing communities, implementing projects, staff and partners—all with the aim of improving program quality.
The main message, building local capacity through sharing local knowledge, was underpinned in all presentations and conversations. For ActionAid, this was in line with the Action for Global Justice, our 10-year strategy which clearly states that one of the way we contribute to bringing change is through learning and generating alternatives. This can only be achieved through integrating a learning approach as we work with communities and by using the deep-rooted knowledge from our work experiences to influence our decisions. The impact of power (in its various forms) was noted as a key determinant in the learning curve of both individuals and organisations at large. Building capacity at local level will be that shift of power to provide sustainable social change!
What came out as a missed opportunity that organisations can leverage on was inter-agency collaboration and sharing knowledge. The lack of collaboration and knowledge sharing often results in duplication of resources, and repetition of mistakes that can be avoided. By coming together to share experiences and lessons learnt, organisations will be more effective and impactful.
I would only hope that this was a first of many learning conferences in the Global South, as it was proof that there is demand for and supply of capacity building, learning, and knowledge management in Africa.