Building the Project's Capacity


Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of research on capacity building: What is it? How can we evaluate it? Is there a “best practice” approach to capacity building? Is there a common conceptual framework for capacity building? What are the benefits of doing it? Who should do it? How do you promote capacity building in your organization? In what ways can CTC VISTA build its capacity? How does CTC VISTA help individual VISTAs build the capacity in their organizations?

I’ve found some helpful resources that address some of these questions. I’ve been using them, along with a book titled Communication Planning: An Integrated Approach, to help with CTC VISTA’s ongoing strategic planning. The Project is also working on developing internal communications, outreach, and fundraising plans that summarize the goals and implementation procedures for those areas.

The capacity building work we’re doing so far doesn’t change what the Project does, rather it provides a useful framework that helps us stay focused, productive, and capable of evolving with the needs of those we serve. It also helps clarify the Project and eliminate transitional issues in an organization with an inherently high turnover rate. Eventually the Project might develop new ways in which to evaluate its own capacity building, and the capacity being built by individual VISTAs.

I’d be very interested to hear anyone’s thoughts on or their experiences with these issues. I’m attaching two of the resources I’ve found very helpful in this process. Here, too, is a link to the Free Management Library, which has additional resources and links.

McKinsey Research.pdf2.97 MB
EvaluatingCapacityBuilding.pdf278.44 KB

Comment from Mike Moore on July 18, 2007 - 3:32pm

Haven't read your articles yet as I write this.

My thoughts:

One way to think of this, a way I think of it, is
building in efficiency. That takes getting to know
the "rhythm" so to speak of an organization - how,
why they do what they do.

Efficiency should be, my understanding, something
consistent with how an individual works, an organization's
process, workflow, philosophy, policies, an individuals as well as an organization's likes and dislikes. That takes some time to get to know.

And it's also, my understanding, giving them capacity
consistent with your given organizational mission and abilities.


Almost regardless of the organization you're involved
with, these underlying concerns may provide a springboard
to possible capacity building:

inventory tracking
software licensing
user literacy (training / tutorials)
development tools
online presence (RSS, website, infrastructure, etc)
developmental resources / contacts
organizational process improvements

Basically, as I see it, answering the fundamental question,
how can I within the scope of my responsibilities and
expertise help them do what they do better, more efficiently,
less effort, more bang. Sometimes it's readily apparent.
Something as simple as developing a checkout system
for a shared resource allowing them to do a better job
of tracking and scheduling. Other times it may not be
so readily apparent. You might have to ask questions,
see how they do what they do, get a feel for what their
daily routines and rhythms are.

Taking that time, increases the likelihood that whatever
suggestions, recommendations or changes you attempt to
implement will be consistent with rather than at odds with
their efforts, workflow and goals.

Put yourself in their shoes.

Most people don't appreciate having changes made in their
routine, by people they may not know or trust who may know little or nothing about them, what they do, why they do it.
What you propose is likely to be unhelpful, unused and resented
on that basis alone, nevermind the potential benefits.

All this is involved in leaving things better than you
found them. Capacity building is a collaborative effort
which involves the consent and cooperation of those you
hope to build the capacity of.

My best successes have been taking all that I've said here
into account. Sometimes people are perfectly content with
their system and process. It works for them. That's all
they need to know. And that perspective deserves respect.

Best of luck in your efforts.