Delft, The Netherlands, 11 Jun 2015

Effectiveness of Knowledge and Capacity Development in Water Supply

On 10 June 2015, Mr. Silas Mvulirwenande successfully presented and defended his PhD thesis and was awarded with a Doctoral degree. His research focused on Knowledge and Capacity Development processes in Water Utilities. Professor Guy Alaerts was his Promotor and Dr. Uta Wehn his Co-promotor.

KCD processes in water utilities

After World War II, international development became the world leading development model, but its effectiveness is much debated. Nowadays, it is acknowledged that international development can effectively support development through knowledge and capacity development (KCD). Nonetheless, understanding what capacity really consists of in operational terms and what its development entails remains a challenge.

Mvulirwenande investigated KCD processes in water utilities in Sub-Saharan Africa. The three cases analysed reveal that the learning impact of KCD on utilities depends on whether they are able to close their learning cycle, i.e., to ensure that improved capacity is also translated into mainstream behaviour. This finding challenges conventional wisdom for which KCD translates “automatically” into improved performance. Hence the need to focus KCD evaluation on both capacity improvement and capacity application.

The proposed learning-based framework for KCD identifies two distinct but interrelated stages in KCD, namely knowledge transfer and knowledge absorption. Knowledge absorption usually takes time due to slow organisational processes that govern it. However, in practice it is often taken for granted. The framework also identifies the key factors that shape learning processes in water utilities.

The book argues that water utilities in Sub-Saharan Africa can reinvent themselves by embracing change management approaches and striving to become learning organisations.

Professor Guy Alaerts was Silas Mvulirwenande's Promotor and Dr. Uta Wehn his Co-promotor.

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