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Our Approach to Capacity Building

We take a broad approach to capacity building. We look at capacity building not just as the formal training that we conduct through classroom activities, but also as the day-to-day engagements that we have with our research partners. Our capacity building activities thus consist of three broad activities:

  1. The research we undertake in partnership with junior and other researchers in which we transfer research skills.
  2. The support we provide to researchers to enable them to develop their research ideas from the proposal stage to the final stage of publishing their research papers.
  3. Capacity building training in the form of short courses and workshops.

Training Program on Tax Analysis and Policy-Oriented Research

This course is about how to do rigorous analysis and research on topics of tax policy and administration in Africa. It is constituted of seven modules delivered in 19 days of intensive residential training over the course of a year. Participants are selected through a competitive process on the basis of the proposals or draft working papers that they submit. The approach to the training is highly interactive and hands-on. Participants are engaged in various class exercises which enable them to think critically and practically about their research projects. By the end of the course, participants should be able to formulate clear and feasible research questions, situate their research within existing research, identify the methods and data needs necessary for answering their questions, critically analyse the evidence they encounter, and write publishable papers and policy briefs. To qualify for a certificate of completion, participants must submit a completed research paper. These papers will be considered for publication in either the ICTD Working Paper series or the ICTD African Tax Administration Paper series. 

The course is structured as follows: 

Module 1: Identifying and defining research projects

  • Asking relevant and feasible research questions
  • Thinking about a suitable research design
  • Identifying data needs and suitable methods of collecting data
  • Matching your research design with your research question

Module 2: Connecting empirical questions with theory and literature

  • How to conduct a focused literature review and build a conceptual framework
  • Identifying the size and quality of already existing literature/evidence
  • The importance of bridging the gap between the world of policymakers and researchers
  • Research ethics
  • Key criteria for evaluating policy reforms and administrative initiatives
  • Using pilots and incorporating data collection and evaluation in new initiatives and reforms

Deliverable 1: Research proposal – After the first two modules, participants are required to submit a research proposal that incorporates the lessons learnt in modules 1 & 2.

Participants at the first session of the NTRN/ETRN Research Methods Training course at the FIRS Training School in Abuja, 2019.

Module 3: Qualitative methods

  • How and when to use case studies
  • Designing and conducting interviews
  • Designing and conducting focus group discussions
  • Process tracing

Module 4: Surveys

  • How to design surveys
  • Sampling strategies and the importance of randomisation
  • How to collect data
  • Coding survey data
  • Analysing survey data

Module 5: Setting up large datasets and organising information

  • Administrative data sources and data quality
  • STATA basics
  • Organising and coding quantitative information
  • Basic descriptive analysis
  • Data visualisation
First module of the year-long capacity building program with the Uganda and Rwanda Revenue Authorities, Kigali 2019

Module 6: Quantitative Methods

  • Causal effects and the selection problem
  • Randomised controlled trials
  • Regression analysis and matching
  • Instrumental variables
  • Regression discontinuity designs
  • Panel, difference-in-differences

Deliverable 2: Qualitative or quantitative analysis. Participants submit to their mentors and course convenors a draft outline containing a refined research question, preliminary literature review, methodological approach and preliminary findings. These drafts are discussed with mentors who provide feedback on the way forward. 

Module 7: Communicating research findings and writing an academic paper

  • Research ethics
  • Writing an academic paper
  • Articulating the policy relevance of your research
  • Publishing your work
  • The peer review process
  • Writing policy briefs and blogs

Deliverable 3: Submission of research papers. Participants submit their full research papers. The papers are reviewed by ICTD researchers and other experienced researchers in the ICTD network. 

Tailored Trainings

We deliver tailored training to our partners, either over the course of joint research projects or upon request. This training can be on particular aspects of research and tax analysis or it can be aimed at enabling our partners to understand various aspects of taxation and development. For example, through our research collaboration with the Rwanda Revenue Authority, our team delivered workshops on proposal writing, experimental design, and the use of statistical software (STATA). However, we do not offer technical assistance or deliver training programs on specific aspects of tax administration such as how to conduct audits or what IT systems to implement. 

Training for Civil Society

We have received numerous requests from civil society organisations to deliver training programs on various aspects of taxation and development. In 2017, we ran a six-day training program for the staff of the African ActionAid offices, which covered the role of taxation in development, issues of international taxation, local taxation, and the challenges facing African tax administrations. We also organised a four-day short course on tax and transparency, which examined issues of base erosion and profit shifting as a consequence of lack of transparency, transparency in natural resource extraction and in tax treaties, and the practicalities of coding and analysing tax return data at the country level to be able to make certain kinds of information about tax collection public. We are now in the process of developing additional training materials on the main issues of taxation in developing countries, which can be used by civil society to engage in tax debates. We will be sharing the details of our civil society training program when these materials are finalised. In the meantime, check out our brief “What Might an Agenda for Equitable Taxation Look Like?” and “Improving Tax and Development Outcomes: What Next for Civil Society Engagement?