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Capacity Building

A business coach in Africa?

There is one element to the capacity building in the REDD Horizon that we believe is truly unique — we use a “business coach” to build soft skills alongside the technical skills.

It’s not an obvious element to include when looking to support sustainable forest management, but we consider it vital to long-term capacity building.

Last month saw our coach in action once again, in a remote sensing and GPS training workshop for staff in FRIM (the Forest Research Institute of Malawi) and Mzuni (the University of Mzuzu). This first workshop of a planned series of three, was held in Bunda college, and lasted two and a half days, with the clear remit to build technical capacity to use remote sensing data and to compare it accurately to field data (through GPS-based location measurements). These technical skills are a vital requirement if Malawi is to develop a credible sustainable forest management plan. But technical skills alone are not enough. There are two other elements that the team in REDD Horizon have recognised as adding the cement to make the growing skills-set bond together into something much greater than the sum of the individual parts. The first is continuity and inclusiveness — there is a responsibility of everyone involved to make sure that skills training is not “dipping in and out”; that they are consistent and long lasting; that they are not an afterthought or an add-on to a project, but is a fundamental, ongoing component of collaborative projects.

20110725-124107.jpgAlan McColm, the REDD Horizon Coach.

The second is to recognise that the capacity to “do” does not always come with the capacity to “make happen”. In remote sensing terms, to “do” involved learning image processing, geometric correction, overlaying raster and vector data, adding in GPS data to a map, etc. But to “make happen” is about taking personal responsibility to use those skills, to be able to initiate and manage new projects, to be able to set clear goals and create a comprehensive plan to achieve them, and to do all this while making best use of available (often severely limited) resources. It is building these capacities that is the remit of the REDD Horizon business coach, Alan McColm, of MBR Solutions (pictured).

The success of using Alan is best illustrated by some of the anonymous feedback from the workshops:

-“Alanʼs contribution reinforces the application of acquired skills in our day to day work. Application of training input has always been low so his contribution has been a motivation.”
– “I will ensure that I allocate some time every day to practice and try to learn new things using the software that has been provided.”
– “Alanʼs contribution was exceptional.”

Most importantly, Alan makes us all accountable to ourselves — increasing our sense of ownership of projects, taking responsibility for making things happen, and being more willing to be accountable for things going forward — to put our heads a little bit over the parapet and to become more visible. We believe It is through these skills, on top of the technical skills, that things really start to move forward on a sustainable, rather than temporary basis.


MBR Solutions.



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