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Capacity development is at the core of NIPN

This guidance note focuses specifically on capacity development for individuals and organisations involved in NIPN activities in countries. It takes account of the range of capacities required for the three steps in the NIPN operational cycle: Question formulation, Analysis of data, Communication of findings. It emphasises that functional skills are as important as technical knowledge, and suggests a range of mechanisms through which capacity can be developed beyond technical training courses. Each NIPN team will tailor its capacity development efforts to its unique national context.
Typically NIPN teams will address the following questions:

  • What are the capacities required for NIPN to function well in a country? (Step 1)
  • How is existing capacity to implement NIPN assessed and gaps identified? (Step 2)
  • What is included a NIPN capacity development strategy and plan of action? (Step 3)
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What is capacity development?
Capacity development refers to “the process through which individuals, organizations and societies increase their ability to perform, solve problems, define objectives, understand and deal with development needs to achieve objectives in a sustainable manner.
Source: LaFond AK, Brown L & Macintyre K (2002) Mapping capacity in the health sector: a conceptual framework. International Journal of Health Planning and Management 17, 3–22.
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Capacity development also known as capacity building or capacity strengthening, is an integral part of the NIPN approach. When capacity is weak or absent, a NIPN cannot function, deliver or be sustained. As the NIPN approach, and especially the step of ‘Formulating policy-relevant questions’, is new and requires different ways of working for policy decision makers and data analysts, capacity development is essential to implement the NIPN operational cycle.

There is no one established way of building capacity. Rather, it is a continuous learning and change process which requires a variety of tools and methods, a flexible approach, and long-term investment. Frequently, capacity development efforts translate into one-off technical trainings but these will not lead to sustained improvements unless they are part of a broader long-term approach.

A first step for a NIPN country team is to identify the capacities that are required for effective implementation of NIPN at each of the three levels (individual, organizational and systemic), and for each element of the NIPN operational cycle (question formulation, analysis of data and communication of findings). This is largely a theoretical exercise which can be carried out during the inception phase of a NIPN in country.