2017 Capacity Day

21 Dec 2017

In September this year, we held our first ever capacity-building day, bringing our partners together to facilitate learning and knowledge sharing across the health and education sectors. Here’s a rundown of how it happened and what we learnt.

Why did we do it?

We spent much of 2016 and the first half of 2017 getting to know our partners – their projects, their people and the problems they’re working hard to solve. In doing so, we’ve noticed some common themes and challenges. For some, these challenges are new, while for others, they are issues already navigated, providing valuable lessons along the way. It got us thinking about how we could harness the collective knowledge of our partners and share that wisdom across the group.

We wanted to learn even more about our partners too. We wanted an opportunity to better understand their skills, how they like to work, and in what particular areas they want to build capacity.

And so, on 20 September, we welcomed 28 people from our partner projects across the country to Manly, Sydney, for our first ever full-day capacity-building workshop and dinner.

The goal was to create a learning space where, together, we could have an open and honest dialogue about our experiences, challenges and ideas. From speed dating, to breakout group sessions, and paper plane throwing competitions, our discussions centred around key themes like collaboration and systems change – we tackled big questions, like ‘how can we work with and influence key players in the health and education sectors to change the way we think and do things for the better?’

Feedback from the day was great – one participant said “it is such an amazing opportunity to be in a room with a group of people running large health and education projects and to learn off each other We usually get our funding and then go off on our journey alone.”

This is what we learnt:

While the group’s projects are unique, spanning different areas of health and education, common threads tie them together.

In the post-event survey, one individual noted the potential to foster creative and unorthodox collaborations by linking up projects from different streams that on the surface may appear to be dissimilar, but may share critical elements such as process, governance or evaluation. It was suggested that bringing together diverse organisations in this way might actually assist in thinking about problems differently and approaching challenges from new angles.

Partners recognise the importance of storytelling.

It was clear that partners liked hearing others tell the story of their project in a reflective way, and thinking about how they might tell their own stories so as to better engage and influence others. Many of the group said that pausing to reflect on their organisation’s story and articulating it to others helped to acknowledge what had already been achieved, and gave a clearer idea of what to focus on next.

There are some big ideas that people would like to explore further.

We began some technical discussions around the complex aspects and challenges of the group’s work, including implementation science, evaluation, and data issues. Many people were keen to delve deeper into these ideas in future capacity building sessions.

There was a genuine appetite for collaboration between partners.

In survey feedback, it was clear that our partners would like the connections established on the day to continue, and there were a number of suggestions about what this could look like, including webinars, teleconferences, and more workshop days of this type.

One participant noted, “if our projects are to not only thrive but strive we need to make sure that we are taking care of each other. How do we keep this network and now grow, strengthen, deepen and enrichen the relationships?”

The process has helped us reflect on our role in fostering the continued sharing of experience and information, and building collaboration between partners.

We’re now considering how best we can build capacity among our partners, and thinking carefully about our responsibilities in regard to capacity building for future partners too.

We’ll continue to look at the needs of our partners, both from a project and organisational perspective. Some feedback from the day suggested that we might be able to provide “more opportunities to learn from the best people in the country doing this work” and that an international perspective would be useful. In response, we have already started conversations with other philanthropic organisations – both in Australia and abroad – about how we can work together to provide valuable capacity-building support in the coming year. Stay tuned!