Community Capacity Building

What is capacity building?

Capacity development is ‘the process by which individuals, groups, organisations, institutions, societies and countries develop their abilities, individually and collectively, to perform functions, solve problems, set and achieve objectives, and understand and deal with their development needs in a broader context and in a sustainable manner’ (United Nations Development Programme 1997).

Capacity development or capacity building is all about helping people develop their own capabilities so that they can achieve their goals.

It is about giving people the chance to improve and strengthen their skills so they can perform tasks better and become more independent.

Capacity building is much more than just formal training, and the capacity to govern requires particular kinds of knowledge, skills and experience from leaders.

Building the capacity of the refugee population or community beyond workshops is recommended: this ensures the sustainability of your training beyond the ‘classroom.’ There are many ways in which you can build refugee leaders and their capacities.

Asylum Access has seen great benefits from training refugees as Community Legal Advisers, so they can provide basic legal advice and facilitate civic engagement within their communities. Similarly, training refugees as Community Interpreters so they can assist other refugees to access justice has been and continues to be a key component in advancing the refugee rights movement’s mission.

Begin by finding out what skills exist already among the community. Are there lawyers? Community organizers? Political leaders? Linguists? Teachers?

This should be your first step towards building community leader programs. Then work with the community so that they can decide what sort of programs they wish to generate.. These could generate a variety of ideas e.g. language trainers, interpreters, peer counselors, community teachers, etc. The following sections are limited to interpreters, legal advisers and advocates, however you should be guided by the interests and aims of the community.

Let clients and workshop participants know that you will be looking for individuals interested in undergoing e.g. interpreter or legal training (or whichever other training you have decided to pursue), and keep a spreadsheet of interested individuals. Once you have designed your training curriculum – with the help of the community – and set out aims for the program, proceed to recruit interested individuals. This should be done in an open fashion, with decisions driven by refugees.

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