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Capacity Building is Parenthood

Sakil Malik
maliksakil@hotmail.com



Capacity building is a word frequently used for organizational behavior, organizational or institutional development practitioners and facilitators. But many organizations in the global south do not have these conceptions. Many believe that an organization is one-man show or a mechanical body. The founder or the charismatic leader is the living legend. And there is no concept of second-generation leadership. Capacity building is much more than training and includes the following: Human resource development, the process of equipping individuals with the understanding, skills and access to information, knowledge and training that enables them to perform effectively. 
Organizational development, the elaboration of management structures, processes and procedures, not only within organizations but also the management of relationships between the different organizations and sectors (public, private and community). Institutional and legal framework development, making legal and regulatory changes to enable organizations, institutions and agencies at all levels and in all sectors to enhance their capacities. 

Why is Capacity Building Needed?

The issue of capacity is critical and the scale of need is enormous, but there is a lack of appreciation of the problem. Some of the challenges for capacity building are:

The link between needs and supply is weak. 
There is a lack of realistic funding. 
There is a need for support in order to accomplish change. 
Training institutions are isolated-communications are poor. 
Development of teaching materials is inefficient. 
Alternative ways of capacity building are not adequately recognized. 

As a capacity building facilitator, I now understand with more confidence that organizational or institutional development is not only an outcome but also a process. Capacity building can be compared with being a parent. The pre-establishment period of an organization can be called the prenatal stage and just after the official registration of the organization could be called the postnatal stage. 

The result of a capacity building process is a developed organization. Many people ask, like the question of egg and chicken, which one is first, capacity building or institutional development? We encourage capacity building first, then institutional development. It's like comparing an organization with a candle. When the organization is developed and starts disseminating the skills, knowledge and attitudes to other organizations it spreads wisdom, like a candle giving light to others. When an organization attains the ability to build the capacity of others, then it may be called an institute. An institute is that which is organizationally developed and can extend products or services to others successfully. 

Capacity building is frequently considered to be a fad for most people in the Southern countries. After ten or fifteen years of grassroots social work, leaders never had the time or opportunity to reflect upon their work. Most do not know their strengths and weaknesses and cannot identify their areas for improvement. When they first hear the word capacity building they take a deep breath, because it is another burden to their regular tasks. They don't appreciate or include capacity building as a component of their daily activity. 

Recently, a few organizations in the global south took on the initiative of capacity building in a broad sense, called NGO Support Organizations. These organizations are trying to build the capacity of small and mid sized organizations. From the capacity assessment to capacity building planning and capacity building facilitator development, to implementation. But again the problem of misconception and lack of knowledge of the subject creates a hindrance. Even the donors are not ready to fund such kind of initiatives or programs. As a result organizations are facing a huge problem of donor commitment. Another interesting outcome of these initiatives is that some smart donors are trying hard to use it as an advantage. They are endeavoring to capitalize on the efforts of support organizations, and are even replicating the programs of support organizations under different names. Not only the motivation of the workforce but also the budget line does not permit the capacity building work to be implemented. 

The NGOs are also facing a different paradigm shift of development in south, namely in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. The global south became the laboratory of northern development theories. After twenty-five years of development process, the growth is not significant. The most significant thing is that at least people are more aware about their rights and they have a voice. 

Capacity Building Concepts

Some of the basic concepts of capacity building process are: 

Linking theory and practice 
Active involvement of adult learners 
Facilitators as managers of the learning process 
Learning from the "here and now" 
Integration of individual and organizational needs 
Facilitator/participant sharing responsibility for the success of learning 
Feedback as an active norm 
Building a community of professional colleagues/cadre 
Curriculum change as a constant issue 
Managing in a multi-cultural environment 
Emphasis on developing skills and "Use of Self" as a change agent 

The Facilitator: The Parent

Capacity building facilitators' role is the role of a parent. The future of the child is dependent on the parents' facilitation process. Have people who do not believe in parenthood, ever they thought about how they were born and brought up? Some people say that the environment must also have an impact on development. Even the environment can be redesigned for the betterment of the child, and it is the same with the organizational design process. Like the future of a child the organization needs a plan-called strategic planning. If there is no plan, there is no outcome or output. But the recognition or endorsement from the CEO is a must for any capacity building program of an organization. Many capacity building programs have failed in south because the CEO didn't endorse the idea.

Let us understand capacity building as a journey, or a series of journeys. There is a path, and a facilitator. The capacity building aspirant may undertake long and difficult journeys to obtain completion. There is an inner as well as outer journey. Therefore a capacity building journey must be understood in both senses. One is of the organic body of the organization, the other of the minds of the people working there.

Next comes the matter of the facilitator. Many within NGOs of the global south do not feel comfortable with capacity building ideas within organizations. They feel much more comfortable with external consultants, who come with a basket of knowledge. Day after day, year after year these organizations don't get the knowledge or skill that is necessary for their institutional sustainability. The people, who have been in the development sector for a long time, find it very difficult to adjust the classroom theories of their day-to-day work. As a result when the consultants come from outside to articulate their strengths and weakness, it becomes difficult. The consultants do not have any contextual background, nor the cultural orientation for the consultancy. They come as outsiders, and try to figure out what is necessary for the organization. It can be like giving prescriptions without a complete diagnosis. The best option for the capacity building process is that the organization develops facilitators within the organization. S/he is to be with the organization for the whole time of the process, and aides in facilitating the internal growth of capacity building. Another facilitator will be a guide for those who are seekers of the learning process. There needs to be reciprocity in the facilitator/participant relationship-willingness to contribute, listen and be patient. The actual step of entering into true discipleship is challenging, because although everyone may think that they want to learn, s/he may have to struggle with his / her value system. 

Learning can be a challenging and long process. But the capacity building process is based on learning, by doing, and reflections. So, it cannot be framed by time. Many capacity building projects failed in different parts of the world, because of the facilitator time constraints, as many of them don't see capacity building as a long-term process. Until now many people see capacity building as training or workshop based process. But it is beyond that. Capacity building is parenthood: it takes time, money, devotion, commitment, involvement and belief. At first, the facilitator has to reflect on the tasks they do everyday in the organization, and what principles drive them to do those tasks. This is a preliminary work. Then they have to identify that what values are behind those principles. It's a kind of value exercise. It helps the facilitator to finalize his plans for the whole future capacity building process.

Capacity building is a lively process. It is not a mechanical process of tools, and exercises only. Capacity building facilitators should always think twice before they take a new organization for capacity building as it will involve them in many aspects like organizational design, leadership, sustainability, strategic planning, and many more. 

The Future of Capacity Building 

Some of the pressing initiatives during the next few years:

To increase the capacity and impact of NGO support organizations and networks in sectors already identified.
To identify new and emerging trends and issues around which NGO support organizations and networks could be promoted.
To support dialogue and mutually supportive coalitions between NGOs, and between NGOs and government, business and other actors in civil society.

It is not only an issue of discussion, workshop, round-table and training, but there is also an eminent need for time. The next few years will be crucial for the small and medium sized local community based organizations (CBOs), people's voluntary development organizations (PVDOs) and NGOs, this is the time to address this issue and survive against all possible odds. Organizations that are taking on the initiative of capacity building, as a catalyst, will be remembered for their unique initiative for centuries. 

Malik Sakil, Program Coordinator, Office of International Projects, Child Welfare League of America, Washington, DC, USA, e-mail msakil@cwla.org. 


The Columnist is:
Program Coordinator
International Office 
Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), Inc.
440 First Street, NW, 3rd Floor,
Washington, DC 20001-2085
Phone: 202-942-0327
Fax: 202-638-4004
Email: msakil@cwla.org
www.cwla.org

 


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