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Complexities, Capacities, Communities: Changing Development Narratives in Early Childhood Education, Care and Development

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Description: The term ‘capacity building’ has come into common usage in twenty-first century international development. While the term means different things to different people, it is often used to describe an infusion of knowledge or skills to help ‘build’ a government’s or institution’s ability to address key development challenges. However, like other well intentioned interventions from the industrialized West, such ‘capacity building’ can have destructive, as well as productive, impacts. This volume problematizes such activities and presents an alternative approach to promoting capacity in development contexts. The volume starts with an exploration of the concept of capacity building and goes on to focus on two examples of capacity promotion for early childhood education, care and development (ECD). The First Nations Partnerships Program (FNPP), an innovative and successful post-secondary education program initiated in 1989 at the request of a large tribal council in northern Canada, led to 10 educational deliveries with diverse Indigenous communities over the subsequent two decades. The second program, launched in 1994 at the request of UNICEF headquarters, focuses on sub-Saharan Africa. While the program encompasses a range of capacity-promoting activities, the central vehicle for this ECD development work is the Early Childhood Development Virtual University (ECDVU), a program created in 2001 and now in transition to African universities. This book describes approaches to capacity promotion that respond to the complexities and possibilities of communities—at local and country levels. These initiatives challenge established developmental narratives in ECD and international development, and in so doing provide alternative ways for scholars and practitioners in ECD, education, and the broad international development field to enhance capacities.

Author: Alan Pence, Allison Benner

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Complexities, Capacities, Communities: Changing Development Narratives in Early Childhood Education, Care and Development by Alan Pence, Allison Benner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


1. Reviewed by: Lianne Fisher
  • Institution: Brock University
  • Title/Position: Educational Developer
  • Overall Rating: 3.9 out of 5
  • Date:
  • License: Creative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

As a description of programme evaluation this book is quite comprehensive. The authors have a longevity with international projects and have accounted for their activities in a thorough manner, to share with others how to undertake such projects. I do not give this book a full 5 out of 5 rating, as I wanted the authors to situation the text more fully in programme evaluation rather than the context, e.g., early childhood. Also, as the authors note, they drew from initiated interations with Indigenous Peoples in respect to the 'how' of developing international programming, an important piece of this work. I would have liked to have seen this collaboration discussed in more detail, especially along the process pieces. Again, I would have liked this to have been situated more fully in Canada's historical context with the Africas, especially the work of Foster (2005: Where race does not matter: The new spirit of modernity).

There are voices and chapters from international collaborations in this text, but I found myself looking for richer narratives as promised by the title.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

Unbiased is a difficult word.

Content Accuracy Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

Yes, this text does have longevity and relevance to programme/capacity development for international collaborations, it definitely provides sufficient information as a method to initiate this kind of programming, I was hoping for more grounding and the procedures being informed by Early Childhood Education (ECE), in the sense of what we know and do. I found it more method based for capacity development and I was hoping for more of a balance with ECE knowledge and theory informing the overall process.

Relevance Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

Yes, this a clear text for capacity development. Some technical terminology but it was more that some of the terminology used needed to be unpacked and described more for a fuller and deeper dive into the work. Capacity development in international collaborations is important work, and the authors have undertaken important work in collaboration, but ideas around colonialism, privilege, and the choices of capacity development etc., needed more attention.

Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

Yes, there is consistency, in this case it is the framework of what took place.

Consistency Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

Yes, the chapters and different authors who contribute, I think provide this text with an important modularity component.

Modularity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

Yes, the text has a good flow and is sequentially organized.

Organization Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

I only reviewed the available paper copy (I will look to see if an online version is available yet). For the paper copy, my only comment is the use of abbreviations may cause some issues and if the text is used in a modular fashion I would recommend a glossary for each chapter (I know!).

Interface Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

All good.

Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

Here I had a few more issues, I think language needed a bit more attention and description. For example, the authors spoke of Africa I think this should have been the Africas, for example (e.g., Adichie's Ted Talk on the Danger of the Single Story). Although the authors address colonialism and privilege I don't feel it was adequate and still find myself with some discomfort.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

I recommend this book as a way to think about programme evaluation, capacity development, and international collaborations. I think it does a thorough job of describing the method used and some considerations. I think some situating the goals of the collaboration more fully in ECE theory would have strengthened it, in that way, I found the book more surface. I would use this text to begin to generate questions around privilege, knowledge, theory, collaborations and colonialism. I think these important issues are raised and I would use the text to delve more deeply.