Capacity building is a key strategy in our support for local organisations. This is an often overused and poorly understood term. This provides a good example of the divide between development rhetoric and practice (i.e. what is said and what is done), a common concern.
At indigo foundation, we define capacity building as being able to ensure the capacities of the poor and marginalized are acknowledged and strengthened so that they can meet their own needs and aspirations.
To us, capacity building is an approach to development, which enhances the ability of people (and the groups and organisations within which they work) to analyse, manage and improve their lives. We believe this is how we should ‘do’ development. With this definition, both the process and the result are of equal importance.
It means ensuring participatory action-learning takes place, that people are given the opportunity and responsibility to use their skills, and that the opinions, values, working systems and culture of those we work with are respected. This requires international stakeholders (in particular) to listen and respond to local direction, and not feel threatened by local communities taking the lead. Thus, it is through our approach to development that we aim to work towards increasing the capacity of the non profit organisations we support.
Capacity-building is an objective that, if achieved, will:
- assist local organisations to deliver quality services to their communities; and
- allow us to withdraw our support over a reasonable time with minimum disturbance. This means we are always working to do ourselves out of a job. If we can exit a community while being sure the local community will continue to improve the lives of individuals by using local resources (human and financial), then capacity will have been built.
Capacity building is more than training for individuals. In the words of our colleague Leanne Black, capacity building:
“is not a mechanistic resource-transfer… [but requires] a systemic understanding of, and approach to change. A systemic approach to aid and development seeks to strengthen organizational and relational capacities of the state, civil society and the private sector, to create conditions that better facilitate poverty reduction and sustainable development.
A systems approach recognises that development must operate on a number of interconnecting levels. Therefore, indigofoundation works to enhance capacity through:
This approach aims to create a depth of knowledge, skills and relationships within a community that strengthens and sustains its development responses.