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Working Group report on the role of short-term training for institutional capacity-building

Short-term training defined
Objectives of short-term training
Targets for a short-term training programme
Present institutional capabilities in conduct of short-term training and resource requirements
Monitoring and evaluation


A careful review of past and present efforts towards addressing food and nutrition problems undoubtedly reveals that these have not had the desired impact of eliminating malnutrition. More alarming is that while undernutrition and specific deficiency disorders continue to afflict major population segments in developing countries, overnutrition and chronic non-communicable diseases are emerging as significant problems in those countries. The latter is due to improving economies and changing lifestyles. This situation is traceable to a narrow understanding of the multifactorial and multidimensional causation of malnutrition among nutritionists and other professionals whose work influences the food and nutrition environment of individuals and populations. It is therefore not surprising that most of the strategies and approaches have failed to address the root causes of problems. In simple terms, most of the scientific knowledge discovered by nutrition and related disciplines has not been translated into practical, specific, and directed actions necessary for the desired impact of reducing, if not eradicating, malnutrition among nutritionally vulnerable groups.

The magnitude and seriousness of the consequences of malnutrition, and the dwindling resources to implement strategies to generate effective action, present especially difficult challenges. The development of a human resource base at various levels (national, regional, international) that is equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to cope with specific needs and problems of various groups is a priority concern of this “silent emergency.” The needed cadre should be able to formulate responsive and relevant policies, plans, programmes, projects, and specific interventions to minimize the problem.

Such a goal can be achieved in several non-exclusive ways. One is through formal, degree-granting programmes, and the other is through short-term training. The merits of the degree-oriented training programmes cannot be overemphasized. The prevailing constraints imposed on an academic institution by the limited possibilities for innovations and flexibility often are exacerbated by the inadequate opportunities for advanced training available to many on the staff. These realities provide an impetus for seeking innovative strategies, such as short-term training directed towards strengthening specific skills and upgrading specific knowledge areas. Here the opportunities for developing a cadre of more narrowly trained personnel are greater.

Short-term training defined

These activities are tailor-made to specific needs or problems of various target groups. They are conducted in a relatively short period of time. They include workshops, short courses, in-service training, and apprenticeships.

Within the context of the present Workshop, the following terms have been defined:

» Workshops are training activities that centre on a particular theme and identify a concrete output at the end, such as project proposals, a set of recommendations, etc.;

» Short courses address specific themes but do not aim for a product or output at their conclusion;

» In-service training is on-site, on-the-job training where job-related skills and knowledge are either provided or strengthened;

» Apprenticeship is a variation similar to in-service training, where the trainee works directly under a tutor or mentor on an individual basis at the tutor’s or the mentor’s site.

Objectives of short-term training

Specifically, the short-term aims are to:

» provide and/or upgrade specific skills and knowledge required for enhanced performance of expected duties and responsibilities;

» facilitate or enhance the development of a critical mass of trained human resources able to work or contribute effectively towards specified nutritional improvements.

Targets for a short-term training programme

The clientele for this type of training must have basic knowledge and skills in nutrition or related fields that are usually obtained through a baccalaureate degree. Although it is not within the scope of this paper to review and analyse baccalaureate programmes, it is worthwhile for academic programmes to review their undergraduate curricular offerings and ensure that the minimum knowledge, competencies, and skills are acquired by their graduates. These will serve as entry requirements for most short-term advanced training.

Thus, members of all categories identified by the national training pyramid discussed earlier are potential recipients of short-term advanced training.

Present institutional capabilities in conduct of short-term training and resource requirements

The Working Group recommended that a survey be conducted to determine institutional capabilities in specific knowledge and skill areas at national, regional, and international levels. The documentation of the wealth of experiences available on global and regional levels should provide a strong foundation for the establishment of networks of collaborating centres. For this purpose, networks are defined as groups of collaborating institutions with common goals. In the spirit of mutual cooperation, each member is expected to contribute and benefit from its involvement. Multiple opportunities for interchange and exchange (whether South-to-South, North-to-North, or South-to-North) are anticipated from the recommended survey to generate multiplier effects and facilitate skill transfer and the cross-fertilization of ideas and skills.

Successful networks require dedicated human resources and facilities. A core of full-time, qualified training faculty and staff is needed. Support services and infrastructure, such as libraries, audio-visual equipment, and computers, also are needed. Financial resources to allow trainees to access training opportunities also are required.


Before any group or individual initiates short-term training, it is advisable that all participants provide brief descriptions of their jobs, detailing their functions and tasks in nutrition programmes or activities in which they are involved. In addition, the trainer and the participant should jointly identify the critical knowledge, skills, and practice to be learned. These inputs are valuable in designing the training, in selecting the methods, and in providing a focus and emphasis on the key content areas and practical skills to be acquired.

The substance of short-term training should be tailored to the needs of country-specific programmes scheduled for implementation. However, there are some common themes that are of general use to most programmes. The Working Group reached a consensus on the following:

» leadership development
» policy formulation
» interpretation and report writing
» advocacy and negotiation
» programme management
» monitoring and evaluation
» data collection, processing, and analysis
» communication for behavioural change
» resource generation and mobilization
» research methodologies

Attention to each of these topics should enhance the skills necessary for better programming. The specific skills and knowledge to be upgraded or provided will define the method of training and its duration and location. The Working Group proposed seven modes (table 1).

TABLE 1. Approaches for achieving short-term training





3 days to 2 weeks


Short course

4 to 12 weeks


In-service training

<1 year



<1 year


Distance-education course

<1 year


Internet course

<1 year


Any combination of the above

Distance education and Internet courses are short courses framed into these specific formats. Of the methods listed in table 1, the Internet course is a new option that the Working Group proposed for exploration and testing for advantages, constraints, efficacy, and so forth in each region. It presents a great potential, given its interactive capability and independence of geographical distances.

The Working Group suggested the modular packaging of contents to facilitate interchange and adaptation among countries and regions. It also recommended the use of participatory techniques, learning by doing, sharing of experiences, and simulation. Whenever applicable, the hands-on approach should be used in short-term training. Further, information technology should be built in to all modules.

Monitoring and evaluation

It is recommended that participants be required to prepare a re-entry plan identifying specific activities they will undertake in the next one to two years upon their reincorporation into their base institutions. Schedules, targets, or persons involved and outcomes should be detailed. Attention should be given to assessing the degree of enhancement or upgrading of knowledge, attitudes, and skills. To monitor the progress of short-term training activities, the Working Group suggested the selection of some activities for follow-up from re-entry plans prepared by trainees. Re-entry plans should be designed to improve the programmes of trainees returning to specific programme sites; thus, the selection of key activities should provide monitoring indicators to fine-tune training programmes.

The Working Group proposed that the impact of short-term training also be measured in terms of the efficiency and efficacy of programmes. Short-term training managers are advised to develop and implement evaluation plans associated with trainee performance. The Working Group stressed that the impact of short-term training should not be defined in terms of improving the food and nutrition security of a community, district, country, or region, but in terms of shorter-term goals that relate more specifically and directly to training objectives.

Chairperson: Ma. Antonia Tuazon

Rapporteur: Rafael Flores

Participants: Sakorn Dhanamitta, Osman Galal, Pham Van Hoan, Mercedes Solon

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