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Support programme to strengthen the capacity of embassy staff

Responding to changes in development policies and practices, CDI and partners provide tailor-made support to embassies’ capacity development processes and assist in the preparation and implementation of multi-annual strategic plans.

Building capacities for effective institutions

Changing development policies and practices have highlighted the importance of addressing capacity issues and institutional change in societies. Sector approaches require deeper understanding of institutional change and the power relations involved. In recent years, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has started to use a number of new tools, such as Multi-Annual Strategic Plans, Result Chains and Power and Change Analysis.

The purpose of the Support Program for Institutional and Capacity Development (SPICAD) is to better equip Dutch embassies so that they can better address these issues, together with country partners and donors, and thereby contribute more effectively to sustainable capacity development in the partner country. The SPICAD programme enhances the capacities of embassy staff to:

  • deal with political and institutional matters
  • develop and monitor sector approaches
  • address cross-cutting themes like public-sector reforms and governance

What does SPICAD offer?

The SPICAD programme is demand-driven, so the embassy staff analyse and determine their own learning and support requirements and decide how to deploy their resources and carry out activities.

Embassy staff, including local, political and financial staff are involved in SPICAD-support activities. These vary from coaching and expertise support, to training or workshops. All SPICAD activities are chosen on the basis of their direct relevance for embassy staff work, and make active use of staff experiences in sharing and exploring.

As the programme moves into its third year, exchange of experiences between embassies and cross-embassy learning events are developing. These make use of virtual learning environments and regional workshops. The SPICAD supported activities are carried out together with country development partners, which include donors, NGOs or civil society organisations, and government bodies.

SPICAD in practice

The Effectiveness and Quality Department within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has overall responsibility for the SPICAD programme. Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), Wageningen UR and the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) manage SPICAD in partnership. During an orientation mission, performed by one Ministry staff and one SPICAD consultant, the learning requirements, experiences and institutional context of the embassies are analysed and the embassies formulate their own plan of action.

CDI and KIT coordinate cross-embassy learning by:
  • conducting regional workshops
  • formulating training modules
  • creating virtual learning environments
  • monitoring and evaluating


SPICAD activities and learning trajectories contribute effectively to the development of embassy capacities and in the preparation of Multi-Annual Strategic Plans. This support included institutional capacity development for planned activities, to ensure synergy and cohesion at embassy level and alignment of cross-cutting and sector themes in the strategic plans.

Examples of issues that embassies have addressed under SPICAD:
  • Getting to grips with accountability, macro-micro linkages and reality checks (Ghana/Benin)
  • Including civil society organisations in sector and budget support programs and analysis (Ghana)
  • Enhancing governance in the water sector (Bangladesh)
  • Use of power and change analysis to support critical team reflection (Senegal)