Examples of session plans for workshops using the Core Concept materials

This page contains two example session plans to illustrate ways in which the learning package materials can be used:


UN agency – one day workshop

This sample session plan was used to guide a workshop conducted for a mixed group of participants at a UN agency headquarters. The participant group was very mixed, ranging from senior department heads at one end of the scale to interns at the other. This group were very open to working in participatory and creative ways.

Learning Objective: By the end of the workshop the participants will have deepened their knowledge and understanding of capacity development concepts and identified ways in which this learning can be applied to their work.

9.00: Introductions

9.10: Capacity in their agency context

  • Participants individually draw a symbol or other type of characterisation of capacity in their work context
  • Share and discuss drawings in pairs, making a note of key words, characteristics and ideas
  • Pairs share their key points for whole group discussion and synthesis
  • Facilitator shares some definitions of capacity for group to compare their ideas

10.00: Break

10.15: Levels, types and themes

  • PowerPoint on the levels, types and core themes. Questions and clarifications
  • Small group work exercise to:
    • Identify the levels, types and themes that seem most relevant for this UN agency’s work
    • Draft a definition of capacity for your area of work/department
  • Group feedback and discussion. Reflection questions to include:
    • From this discussion what is emerging as really important for this UN agency’s context?
    • In what ways does this fit with or change your previous thinking about how capacity is defined?

12.30: Lunch

1.30: Capacity development

  • ‘What if...’ Start with a statement such as What if this UN agency had the capacity to do everything it wanted to in its sector...  The first person answers the question. Then go round the group asking each person to build on the statement made by the previous speaker, without any repetitions.
  • PowerPoint on different definitions of capacity development, why a shared understanding of principles and values is needed, and key current challenges – including results measurement. Questions and clarifications.
  • Small group work:
    • Which of the ideas or definitions have resonance for this UN agency, and why? Which are not important, and why?
    • Identify the factors of culture and context that are particularly relevant to understanding, practicing and measuring capacity development in this UN agency context
    • What is emerging as the most important learning points for how capacity development is conceptualised and practiced in this UN agency?
  • Presentations and group discussion to synthesise.

3.00: Break

3.15: From learning to action

  • Referencing back to the first exercise and the ideas about capacity in your context, small groups discuss:
    • What has been your most important learning from the session
    • How this supports or challenges your own capacity development practice
    • How this supports or challenges this UN agency’s current approach to capacity development
    • How you are going to take this learning into your work
  • Sharing and discussion in whole group

4.30: Evaluation

4.45: Wrap up and closing comments – including reference to website and ‘How to...’ pages.


National government officials - two linked half day workshops

This learning exercise was designed fro national government officials, most of whom have a mandate concerned with aid effectiveness and aid coordination. They are therefore actively involved on a daily basis with development partners for the management of projects. This group had expectations of processes that were based on a formal, didactic methodology for learning so offered less opportunity for creative exercises.

Learning Objectives: By the end of the two workshops the participants will have:

  • Deepened their knowledge and understanding of capacity development concepts, and
  • Using at least one of the ‘How to …’ notes for guidance, improved their knowledge and skills through practical application of the guidance given

Workshop one

2.30 Introductions and explanations about LenCD and the learning package

2.45 Existing capacity - Brief whole group discussion:

  • What do you think are your country’s capacity development successes so far – either generally or for your sector? What are the remaining challenges?
  • List the key points and synthesise to get an overall picture of the participants’ perceptions

3.00 PowerPoint presentation on Towards a Shared Understanding.  Comments, questions and clarifications: discuss how this overview resonates by asking:

  • What is the synthesis between what you have identified as your challenges and these global issues?
  • Which of these issues particularly resonates for you in the country context?

3.30 Continue presentation - Core Concept: levels, types and themes, the importance of culture and context and some examples of capacity development definitions. (Be sure to include any relevant frameworks in current use by the national government, either for overview of the national development agenda, or within specific sectors or themes.)  Comments, questions and clarifications.

4.00 Break

4.15 Small group work - Discuss and prepare a short presentation on:

  • What in these definitions do you find helpful for the national context, and why?
  • Which ideas would be most appropriate to apply to your specific areas of work?

Group presentations and discussion to synthesise

5.00 Introduction of the ‘How to...’ pages and assignment. (Have copies available for distribution.) Assignment instructions

  • Take the paper and apply it to your task between now the next workshop – either working alone or in pairs/small groups.
  • Prepare a short paper/presentation to share at the next workshop about (NOTE: feedback presentations should focus on the challenges and learning, rather than a lot of detail about the activities):
    • What you did
    • How the ideas did or didn’t help you move forward with the task
    • The challenges that emerged
    • The learning you have gained from working on this exercise
    • What you will do next
  • Participants chose one or more that they want to work with for the assignment.

5.20 Wrap up comments

5.30 Close

Workshop two

2.30 Check in and welcome back

2.45 Small group work: organisation of groups can either be by the subject worked on, or by the work mandate of the participants. For the purposes of timing the groups should have a maximum of 4 participants each.  Instructions:

  • Each participant gives their presentation about challenges and learning – maximum 5 minutes, followed by 5 minutes for other group members to ask questions of clarification.
  • Group discusses the key challenges and learning points that have emerged from all of their presentations. Synthesise for presentation to the large group. (20 minutes)

3.45 Break

4.00 Groups present back to the whole group. Facilitator to lead the discussion about what has emerged from the exercises. Depending on what the group has identified and think is most important the remaining time to be spent on discussion of how to overcome challenges, or how to apply the learning to other areas of their work.

5.15 Evaluation and wrap up

5.30 Close

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