Capacity in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to conduct and apply evidence from health systems research is limited due to historically low investment in the field, fragmented funding with a predominance of very small scale grants, a lack of systematic approaches to capacity development, and limited direct investment in capacity development for health systems research. In light of this, and broader concerns about inequities in global health research capacities, the research strategy of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) has an explicit results area focussed on strengthening capacity to conduct and use research. Accordingly, DFID requires all of the RPCs that it supports to dedicate a proportion of their funding to research capacity development.
This brief reflects upon the experience of FHS, a DFID funded RPC, with research capacity development. While FHS espoused a strong commitment to capacity development and put together a package of related strategies to support research capacity development among its partner organizations, these strategies met with varying degrees of success. We consider which types of capacity development strategies may work best for RPCs and under what circumstances.