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In 2009, the Wellcome Trust launched a research capacity strengthening programme known as the 'African Institutions Initiative' (AII). The AII is innovative in its methods and organization. The Initiative funded networked consortia (7 consortia involving 54 institutions in 18 African countries, and Northern partners). RAND Europe was commissioned to undertake a four year evaluation and learning project for the AII. The aims of the project were to (i) evaluate the performance of each consortium and ultimately the Initiative as a whole, based on high quality evidence; (ii) to support intra, inter and extra consortium networking for learning and exchange; and (iii) to extract lessons learnt from the Initiative and disseminate these to the Trust, other funders and relevant stakeholders in academic, policy and practice communities. The objectives of the Initiative represent an ambitious departure from traditional modes of strengthening research capacity in LMICs. While the Initiative is at an early phase, evidence gathered in this evaluation show that consortia are contributing in multiple ways to developing sustainable research capacity. The unique features of the Initiative — an African-led, networked approach — have facilitated many of these achievements. The diversity of networking models for capacity building developed by consortia present the Wellcome Trust with a range of models with differing strengths and weaknesses.

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