The elephant in the room: The funding dimension of capacity development

23 May 2018 02:00h

Event report

This session addressed the need for quality capacity development in digital policy and its resources. It pointed to the mismatch between the calls for capacity development in speeches and official documents, and the missing practical and concrete discussion on resources and responsibilities. It attempted to answer the question of who should be responsible for the funding of the capacity development programmes.

The session was moderated by Dr Tereza Horejsova (DiploFoundation and the Geneva Internet Platform) who introduced the main points of the need for the capacity development, such as the availability of financial, technical and human resources and the sustainability efforts. She invited the speakers and audience to engage in a discussion of practical solutions and raised the question of who should be funding capacity development.

Ms Sarah Gaffney (Director of Partnerships for the Regulatory Capacity Building Programme at the GSMA) highlighted the problem of getting the right people in the room. She also remarked that it was difficult to find funding for  their education, travel, and work. She mentioned the US Telecommunications Training Institute as one of the organisations which selects and funds training for individuals who will impact the work of their institutions. In particular, Gaffney addressed the need for funding localised content of the courses provided by the GSMA – such as translations and adjusting the content to a local setting. As an example of a practical solution, she cited the training of local sources to content translation. She further stressed the need for an actual impact of the capacity development to make an actual impact, since that in turn would attract the funders.

Ms Livia Walpen (Advisor International Relations, Swiss Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM)) presented the position of the Swiss government and the reasons why it funds capacity building in global digital policy. She stressed the need of capacity development as a precondition for successful policy, leading to a better understanding of global digital issues, resulting in better implemented policy. She then introduced the Geneva Internet Platform as a neutral platform run by DiploFoundation which provided capacity development training for about 6000 alumni.

Mr Alberto Cerda (Global Program Officer for Internet Rights & Access, Internet Freedom Program at the Ford Foundation) presented the challenges faced by funders when it comes to funding capacity development. He introduced the Internet Freedom Program, the Ford Foundation’s work with young organisations in 15 countries on digital issues. He stressed that all of the organisations they are working with are experts in their respective subjects, but there is a need for capacity development in the policy making sector to enhance their policy engagement capacity on an international level. Cerda further explained that there are vast regional differences in funding partners, with the funding of individual projects being especially hard in unstable and fast paced environments. He stressed the importance of core funding, as well as the responsibility of donors for the capacity building or their partners. Cerda further echoed the observations of Gaffney and using the partners to expand the capacity of others.

Mr Dustin Phillips (Co-Executive Director at ICANNWiki) focused on the sustainability of capacity development funding. He touched upon the gap between capacity building and the availability of capacity, stating that some of the work in the sector is not competitive, but could work to expand each others potential. He emphasised the need for long term funding, including in capacity development efforts, since the effects take years to show. He further touched upon the need of community driven processes which would include the training of people to train others.

Ms Evelyn Namara (Global Community Engagement Manager, Internet Society) stressed the importance of being aware of the opportunities to gain capacity, as well as governmental involvement in funding capacity building. She has mentioned problems faced by persons who are both qualified and interested in making an impact, such as geographical distance and visas, a setback for people from the developing countries. Some solutions she mentioned would include moving the events from developed and often expensive countries to more financially and geographically accessible locations to ease participation, as well as awareness raising of governments and private companies.

In the discussion which followed, the speakers addressed the pitfalls of two year funding cycles, the need for trust between the funders and their partners, challenges in defining impact in diverse environments, the importance of local communities and policy makers, as well as the need for partnerships not based on finances, but enhancing each others work.

As a follow-up, the moderator promised to prepare an action plan with points for efficient capacity development, and suggested continuing this discussion at the next Internet Governance Forum.