South Sudan – the world’s newest country – is a difficult place to develop government capacity. This paper looks at lessons learned from a capacity development process where IIEP and UNICEF South Sudan supported South Sudan’s education ministry in developing its first education sector plan in 2010–2011. The main lesson learned is that a participatory planning process pays off. International consultants could easily have been hired to draft a plan in isolation, but in this case where local ministry officials received the necessary time and support, the result was greater ownership, improved leadership, organizational learning, and a more sustainable plan. Such support should be modified to a low-capacity context. Training topics should include not only planning but also basic administrative skills; all materials and products should be kept relatively simple; and training should preferably be accompanied by on-the-job coaching. Meanwhile, incorporating crosscutting issues like gender, youth, and conflict-sensitive planning proved tricky. These are a few of the lessons learned in this study.