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USAID Contribution

Country Systems Strengthening: Beyond Human and Organizational Capacity Development

Felix Alvarado, John Gillies

A background paper for the November 2012 USAID Experience Summit on Strengthening Country Systems.

After 60 years of evolving development theory and programmatic interventions, it is time for a more holistic and pragmatic approach to country systems strengthening. For decades, the central question of systems strengthening in international development has seldom been explicitly defined or operationalized, and is more subject to generic rhetorical assertions than to rigorous analysis based on a theory of change. This background paper explores USAID’s experience in human and organizational capacity in the context of systems strengthening, exploring the following issues:

  • How has human and institutional capacity building contributed to country system strengthening?
  • What are the primary factors that contribute to successful country systems strengthening?
  • What implementation modalities have proven effective for developing national capacity?
  • How do we know that interventions are actually improving systems?
  • What are the implications for donors, and USAID in particular, in the context of changing international assistance?

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