Capacity Development (CD) is a long-term endogenous process. Despite an abundant literature, CD and the length of time required for its realisation are still abstract in practice. The examination of the process of fostering CD contributes to understanding the time required and the role of external actors, such as international donors, in supporting CD. This article aims to reveal part of the process of fostering CD and the time required, and to consider the role of international donors. This qualitative study focuses on Wakatobi district in Southeast Sulawesi province, Indonesia. The data reveal how bottom-up local development approaches have developed through national and external donor programmes and projects. This study confirms the long endogenous learning process that CD involves. The case of Wakatobi district shows the continual efforts to institutionalize and functionalize bottom-up local development. The acquired knowledge and skills have gradually developed the core capacities of Wakatobi, with beneficial effects on other districts and society more broadly. The fostering of CD, which resists social transformation, will take longer than donors expect. Continual learning is key and constant for the growth of CD. Donors should consider the provision of training, which makes continual, endless learning possible.
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