4.5 Building leadership capacity to govern
4.5.1 What is capacity development?
“Capacity building is about regeneration of our communities from the inside out—communities renewing themselves by identifying, appreciating and using their assets …
Each individual and organisation is a resource on which to build.”
(Mick Dodson, Chair Indigenous Governance Awards)
Definition: Capacity development is ‘the process by which individuals, groups, organisations, institutions, societies and countries develop their abilities, individually and collectively, to perform functions, solve problems, set and achieve objectives, and understand and deal with their development needs in a broader context and in a sustainable manner’ (United Nations Development Programme 1997).
Capacity development or capacity building is all about helping people develop their own capabilities so that they can achieve their goals.
It is about giving people the chance to improve and strengthen their skills so they can perform tasks better and become more independent.
Capacity building is much more than just formal training, and the capacity to govern requires particular kinds of knowledge, skills and experience from leaders.
There may be many other capacities you can identify as important for your leaders. Consider putting together a list that applies to your situation.
4.5.2 Developing a leader’s capacity to govern
Leadership for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander governance is a specialist area of knowledge and expertise.
As a leader, developing your capacity to govern is more than just a matter of personal development.
It requires building shared values, attitudes, ways of behaving, and acquiring the specialist abilities that are needed to do the collective job of governing.
First it must start with developing strong cultural values and confidence:
“… imbuing young people with a strong sense of their culture and identity gives them the best chance of finding their way in the world. Embedding culture in communities and young people is a form of Indigenous investment. [Indigenous] people … invest their knowledge, time and resources in young people because they know no one else, not teachers, or social workers or governments, can give what they give.”
(Mick Dodson, ‘Indigenous governance: Self-determination in action’ Reconciliation News No 25, December 2012, page 11)
However, having a strong cultural identity and recognition as a leader must be supported by the practical ability to get things done on behalf of others.
If future leaders are to govern their nations and organisations well, they will need to have access to the right tools, skills, experience and knowledge to carry out these responsibilities.
Three specific areas of capacity development for youth ‘governance leadership’ are central to a cultural reinvestment in youth. They are:
- opportunities for youth representation and participation in governance, such as decision making, planning and youth councils
- place-based work experience in communities and organisations that focus on the practical aspects of governing
- governance training, education and mentoring opportunities
Bringing younger people along to negotiations, high-level meetings and conferences, and involving them in your strategic planning and decision making are important ways to develop future leaders.
The benefits for the young people are obvious, and these individuals have much to contribute as they add energy, enthusiasm and a fresh perspective.
This strategy of shadowing alongside a leader needs to become a routine part of the work of senior leaders, so that upcoming generations are exposed to critical experiences, can build their own skills, and can acquire the trust and recognition they will need from their own people.