A Multi-Level Inquiry into Capacity-Building
: Defying Borders in a Maritime Journey through a Personal Territory and the Portuguese Non-Profit World

  • Raquel Franco

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Capacity, the emergent combination of attributes that enables a human system to create developmental value (Morgan, 2006, 2008), is the point of arrival of an inquiry journey through a personal territory and the Portuguese non-profit world. Inspired by the metaphor of the Portuguese golden age of the maritime discoveries, and by Action Research, in line with Reason and Bradbury’s notion of inquiry into the “quality in our acting” (Reason and Bradbury, 2001), the author defies several borders in her exploration of answers to the question of “how to build capacity?”. This multi-level question is unfolded in three – the individual, the non-profit organisations and the society, in a journey that find points of connection. The author defies the border of her worldviews, embracing a participatory worldview that offers her an extended epistemology, which she explores in its multiple-level understanding of knowing comprised of experiential, practical, propositional and presentational knowing, in a process of personal and professional development in a concrete project – the Acreditar project. Through stories, another border the author defies, meaning is explored through layers of personal reflections and through shared meanings in a Learning History developed by the Acreditar team members. The stories presented are a result of a commitment to highlight the learning in capacity-building endeavours. In a particular story, and in a twist of irony, the learning emerges from an experience of dis-capacity. But that experience would serve as the departing basis for another re-start the author initiates, in a process of forgiveness that acknowledges the past as irreversible but redeemable. It is my intention to engage you in this journey from the beginning, and I hope this is also a useful journey for you. Ultimately its account is here to serve as basis for further dialogue I would be very glad to engage with you.
Date of Award27 Jun 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorGillian Coleman (Supervisor)


  • capacity-building
  • non-profit organizations
  • action research

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