Absorptive Capacity: North-South Partnerships and Organizational Learning within Development Networks

In order to improve the efficiency of their interventions, Canadian NGOs – relying on the knowledge-based approach to cooperation – have privileged the establishment of genuine North–South partnerships and relationships between their partners within networks as a strategy for building and sustaining local capacities. Although the networks are associated with development, the mechanisms that enable partners to learn and build their capacities within networks remain unclear. Based on field research carried out with Oxfam-Québec and three of its West African partners, this article examines these mechanisms. The results demonstrate the importance of Oxfam-Québec’s knowledge-management practices in the development of its partners’ absorptive capacity on which their learning within the network is based. As a result, this article contributes to a better understanding of the processes and mechanisms leading to the development of absorptive capacity as well as the conditions associated with the effective use of networks as tools for development.

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