| NGO Management |
|Principles of Capacity Strengthening|
colleague gave me a paper entitled, Building the Capacity of Non
Governmental Organizations in the South: The Principles and Practices of
Northern Bilateral Multilateral, and Foundation Owners. One of the
purposes of the study was to "Investigate the principles and
practice of Northern Donor organizations in respect to capacity building
of Southern NGOs". The findings, which are not surprising, was that
the donors do not have commonly accepted principles of capacity
building, nor commonly accepted definition of capacity building (6 out
of 10 had no definition at all) nor commonly accepted methodology for
capacity building. I say this is not surprising because capacity
building is a concept, not a field of study or practice; so of course
everyone is going to take a different approach to it.
But what I did find interesting is the concept of trying to develop principles for capacity building. This is something the field of Organizational Development (OD) has been working on for over thirty years - what are the principles and effective methods for helping an organization become more effective at meeting its vision and surviving in turbulent external environments (why capacity builders in the NGO world continually ignore OD is a mystery to me, but that is another article).
Since my training and educational background is in OD and I work in the are of capacity building with NGOs, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to put forward my suggestions for principles of capacity building.
I started by changing the name from capacity building to capacity strengthening. As I explain below, I am on the horns of a dilemma regarding choosing words; words are very important, but at the same time, I get tired of semantic wrangling. Nevertheless, I don't like the metaphor of building as in, develop a blue print, get the materials, put it together, and your are done. Capacity strengthening is a never ending process - situations change, organizations grow or shrink, and learnings always take place requiring changes in thinking, perceptions, skills, methods, systems, structure, and approaches, in other words, capacity. This said, below are my suggestions for the principles of capacity strengthening.
Principles of "Capacity Strengthening"
Comments from Friends:
Putting a principle statement such as this is an interesting exercise in determining values and then translating them into a written language. Often, I am one of the first to insist on the importance of language and looking for the real meaning imbedded in words and metaphors. On the other hand, at times I also get frustrated with semantic nitpicking when it is a form of resistance. I always find this an interesting dilemma. That said, in putting this together, I have received some very helpful comments on language. In my first cut at this I described an organization receiving capacity strengthening as the recipient. It was suggested that this implied passivity on part of that actor in the process. The suggested replacement was Partner. I thought about this and came to the conclusion that both organizations were partners. Designating only one side as a partner destroys the meaning of the word. Using partner to refer to both sides gets confusing. Therefore, I have settled on consulting organization or capacity strengthening provider for the Northern Donor or NGO and client for the Southern NGO. For capacity strengthening to follow the above principles, both these sides have to develop a real partnership, and I think these terms indicate that both sides bring something positive to that partnership.
If you have any other comments or suggestions, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will add them to this page. It would be fun to get a nice discussion going - so let me know what you think.
(Click on this link to Capacity, Capability, & Competency by Brenda Jones for a very thoughtful article.)
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