Experiences of capacity strengthening in sanitation and hygiene research in Africa and Asia

Health and Wellbeing

  • March 2020
  • Journal Articles

The Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity (SHARE) Research Programme consortium is a programme
funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) that aims to contribute to
achieving universal access to effective, sustainable, and equitable sanitation and hygiene worldwide. The capacity
development component is an important pillar for this programme and different strategies were designed and
implemented during the various phases of SHARE. This paper describes and reflects on the capacity-building
strategies of this large multi-country research consortium, identifying lessons learnt and proposing
recommendations for future global health research programmes. In the first phase, the strategy focused on
increasing the capacity of individuals and institutions from low- and middle-income countries in conducting their
own research. SHARE supported six PhD students and 25 MSc students, and organised a wide range of training
events for different stakeholders. SHARE peer-reviewed all proposals that researchers submitted through several
rounds of funding and offered external peer-review for all the reports produced under the partner’s research
platforms. In the second phase, the aim was to support capacity development of a smaller number of African
research institutions to move towards their independent sustainability, with a stronger focus on early and midcareer scientists within these institutions. In each institution, a Research Fellow was supported and a specific
capacity development plan was jointly developed.
Strategies that yielded success were learning by doing (supporting institutions and postgraduate students on
sanitation and hygiene research), providing fellowships to appoint mid-career scientists to support personal and
institutional development, and supporting tailored capacity-building plans. The key lessons learnt were that
research capacity-building programmes need to be driven by local initiatives tailored with support from partners.
We recommend that future programmes seeking to strengthen research capacity should consider targeted
strategies for individuals at early, middle and later career stages and should be sensitive to other institutional
operations to support both the research and management capacities.