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As local NGOs have developed, international NGOs have taken on a new task - most commonly called Institutional Development. The concept is that Northern NGOs can help Southern NGOs do better work. At certain times in certain places, that concept is, at best, debatable (and at worst arrogant), but it is the basis for Institutional Development. What do recipients and givers of Institutional Development consider Institutional Development and how is it done in the field? Often when I ask colleagues what they mean by Institutional Development, I get essentially a rather quiet, "I don't really know, but we do training and stuff like that." So, what is Institutional Development? Personally, I think it is essentially OD -- an effort which ends up with a more effective organization.

Over the past couple of years, I have been involved with many organizations doing "institutional development" of one sort or another.  There are a number of variables, but there seems to be five major "strategies", so to speak, of providing institutional development, capacity building, or whatever one calls it.  These five are - training, expert consulting, pair of hands consulting, collaborative consulting (for more on these types of consulting see my article, Change Agents ARE Consultants), and funding.  On top of that, it is important to recognize where the drive for institutional development comes from - from the funder or from the NGO itself. The graphic below lays out the hoped for relationships of these five strategies and source of impetus.

 

Each of these "strategies" have their strengths and weaknesses.  The article Change Agents ARE Consultants describes the strengths and weaknesses of each type of consulting.  As for training, there are numerous critiques on the effectiveness of training.  Training can be effective, but there are many variables which impact the effectiveness of training; among these variables are the participants' "felt need" for the training and the receptiveness of the NGO to support and encourage the practices and behaviors imparted in the training, among others.   Money, of course, can have a positive impact on an organizations capacity.  However, that clearly depends on how the money is spent and conscious consideration of how the NGO will manage the completion of the grant and loss of that particular income flow.  

As one goes through my website, it is clear that my preference for institutional development or capacity building is Collaborative Consulting.  By working in a 50/50 relationship with an NGO to meet the NGO's own goals, plans and activities can be developed which choose the most effective and appropriate strategies (training, money, consulting, coaching, etc) to strengthen the NGO.

These, then, are some of my thoughts on ways to go about capacity building.  Does your organization do or receive "institutional development? If so, what is it? Let me know your personal, or your organizations definition of "institutional development" and how you go about it . If you give me permission, I'll post answers below -- I think comparing and sharing such answers would be interesting. Click to send e-mail.

 

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