Capacity Building Activities during the COVID-19 Pandemic 

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By Olga Oyier (Team Lead and Policy & Legislative Affairs Specialist) & Maureen Gitau (Policy & Legislative Affairs Officer),USAID/CLEAR Program

The COVID-19 global pandemic has brought with it a change in perspective with regard to ensuring learning continues amidst the requirement to maintain social distancing. Learning institutions have adopted digital platforms to continue engaging their students. Some facilities have even gone to the extent of providing free learning opportunities to ensure people are engaged during this period. As we pause to consider the past year, we see how many stakeholders, including ourselves, have taken a leap to quickly adjust and continue supporting cooperatives! 

In March 2020, the USAID CLEAR Program in collaboration with Strathmore University Business School had prepared to roll-out a tailor-made public policy making process training to selected County Governments. In the spirit of social and economic exchange amongst counties, this training aimed to bring together forty (40) participants from five (5) counties in every training. The first 5-day training workshop session was set to roll out on the week of 30th March 2020. However, due to the government directive on social distancing; the training was postponed indefinitely as the Program took a moment to pause-and-reflect on how best to adapt to the situation. 

One would wonder why capacity building in the area of public policy making would be an issue of interest at this point when the country and the globe’s focus is on the pandemic. Well, inclusive, forward-thinking public policy is what the Kenyan economy will need to create an enabling environment for economic recovery. The initial impact of the global pandemic on the cooperatives sector in Kenya has necessitated a shift in the approach to the policy and legislative framework to provide for contingencies to cushion the cooperatives from economic shocks such as – but not limited to – the global pandemic; and the pillars of the roadmap to recovery. Social distancing presented an opportunity to explore digital platforms and still undertake the training to equip the counties and their stakeholders with the skills to create enabling environment for cooperatives to recover and thrive. In fact, the training became even more accessible by reducing the cost and eliminating a need for travel. Participants could join in from their own homes or offices! As of today, the CLEAR program has now successfully graduated four cohorts of the PPMP curriculum, all virtually! 

The USAID CLEAR Program acknowledges that it has been implementing its activities in a dynamic environment; having to navigate and adapt through devolution challenges, floods, locust invasions and now the global pandemic. Through these experiences the Program has learned to continually reflect and adapt in order to provide relevant and timely interventions within its mandate, to the stakeholders.  In a bid to ensure a collective voice on cooperative policy issues at the county level, the Program realized the need to mobilize officers from the Council of Governors to participate in the PPMP course. COG inclusion in the training was critical as the Council’s representatives were able to understand the cooperative legal framework implementation challenges from the counties’ perspectives. The training presented a great opportunity for COG to prepare a policy brief that will be presented before the National Implementation Committee of the National Cooperative Policy, 2019 to develop a diversified and inclusive implementation mechanism. 

We learnt that online learning requires planning, training and a vested interest from both facilitators and participants in using digital platforms to learn in new ways. The pandemic is a huge challenge but has expedited the digital revolution!  

We can all learn by getting out of our comfort zones and trying new ways of delivering content to ensure continuity in engaging with key stakeholders in the cooperative sector. We are living in unprecedented times that call for innovation and creativity to keep operations moving. The best approach is to face the limitations head on, try, learn and adapt!