Our industry is in dire need to undergo extensive capacity building. Capacity building is the assistance provided to societies which have a need to develop a certain skill or competence. More recently, however, capacity building is being used to facilitate innovative approaches to social and environmental problems.
Capacity building can be defined as “activity which strengthens the knowledge, abilities, skills and behavior of individuals, while improving institutional structures and processes such that the organization can efficiently meet its mission and goals in a sustainable way.”
For organizations, capacity building may relate to almost any aspect of its work: improved governance, leadership, mission and strategy, administration, program development and implementation, identification of revenue streams, diversity, partnerships and collaboration, evaluation, advocacy and policy change, marketing, positioning, planning, etc.
For individuals, capacity building may relate to leadership development, advocacy skills, instructional abilities, technical skills, organizing skills, and other areas of personal and professional development.
When I began to write this article, I was thinking about a different direction than the one I shifted to this morning. I happened to be listening to Bob Edwards this morning, as I do routinely when I am driving around. He was interviewing Tom Shadyac, best known as the director behind movies like Ace Ventura. I’ll let the I Am video tell the story, but in short, he had a mind-opening experience as a result of a bike accident and the subsequent recovery, and it inspired him to make a documentary which seeks answers to deeper issues.
The point in his interview that really got me was this: We have been taught over the course of our lives when faced with a problem to ask “What is wrong?” when we should really be asking “Why is this wrong?” Shadyac suggests a more metaphysical approach to our cultural issues which revolve around more cooperation and supportiveness and less competition and strife.
When I applied this to what I had begun to write, it occurred to me that maybe we (emergency services and in society as a whole) are going about this all wrong. Our continual inability to work together to foster positive change is likely deeper than even we originally suspected. If we continue to go after each others’ throats in the vollies vs. career, East vs. West, Fire vs. EMS, safe vs. unsafe battles which rage daily in our business, how can we ever expect to achieve any respect from others outside emergency services, much less endorsement on issues we can all agree on.
It seems to me that the KSAs we need to teach are farther removed than basic operational issues, the KSAs we need to emphasize are our greater connection throughout the entire emergency services industry, how we need to get past the things that divide us and unite about things we can agree on and change.
We talk about “brotherhood”, but what really is brotherhood anymore? You have brothers in career shops bashing brothers in vollie houses because of a number of reasons. Shouldn’t we simply agree that we both do a dangerous job, made more dangerous by the bean-counters limiting our abilities to obtain cutting edge technologies, the best training, and sufficient staffing?
I realize that I have indeed been asking “why” things are wrong for a long time, while many of my brothers were and are still focused on “what” is wrong. I just guess I needed someone to point that out to me.
The capacity building in ourselves, in our organizations, and within our industry is essential for our continued survival. Einstein said, “We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.”
I’m suggesting that a good place to start is in a society where there are those who have a core value of service to others, a society in which the greater good is supposed to be placed above that of the individual, and where characteristics of selflessness and courage are valued attributes, not hindrances. If there is any established society in which those morals are daily sought and in which we insist they are founded upon, it would be the society made up of fire and EMS professionals.