Key factors that influence the effectiveness of technical assistance in individual workplace learning. A case study of the Afghan public sector (2002-2014)
thesisposted on 26.09.2016, 11:55 by Youliana Stoyanova Stoyanova
At the turn of the century Afghanistan started receiving significant development assistance, becoming the world’s top aid recipient from 2007. A major share of this assistance has been allocated to learning and other interventions aiming to improve the capacities of Afghan government institutions and employees. Such support has been predominantly delivered by externally-funded consultants embedded within host government agencies. Yet the return on this investment has been questionable, with some suggesting that the effectiveness of the national government in this period actually declined. Consequently, this thesis explores the key factors that enabled or inhibited individual workplace learning in Afghanistan’s public sector during the period 2002-2014, the years marking the influx, peak and recent decline of development assistance to the country. It makes use of multiple data sources anchored around 34 qualitative semi-structured interviews with Afghan civil servants and advisors at the forefront of aid delivery. To answer its research question, the study brings into conversation the workplace learning literature with insights from the literature on development. While the features of the aid-dependent Afghan bureaucracy clearly diverge from the typical sites studied in the West, this case study confirms the applicability of workplace theories into the unchartered territory of capacity building practices. Furthermore, by adopting a Bourdieusian theoretical framework, the thesis presents an explanation that includes contextual, subjective and power-related factors influencing learning outcomes. This study concludes that contextual factors sourcing from both the provider and recipient side of development assistance are highly influential modifiers of the effectiveness of learning interventions. It also refutes the assumption characterising most development practice that psychological and interactional factors can be safely ignored. Finally, this thesis indicates that the practice of capacity building can be experienced as a means of reinforcing the unequal power relations of development.