Monday, December 10, 2007

How to develop fundraising capacity?

"You want to build the fundraising capacity of by helping people to write proposals and documents and build donor contacts, but in practice people want you to write the proposals for them. Time constraints put you in that position too. Yet how will they deal with fundraising after I'm gone? What to do?"

Is there enough quality in the organisation to write proposals and build donor contacts? In some cases the organizations are be capable to write good quality proposals (maybe with some English editing) but have a lot of work to do and deadlines are announced or discovered only shortly before. The definition of the challenge for the advisor is how to best do capacity building, and at the same time making sure there is a good proposal to submit on time.

What exactly is the fundraising capacity that needs improvement? In most cases, organizations can improve on following donors formats, knowing and using the concepts that donors use, or being in synch with the donor's ideas. Innovation levels may be low, and proposals may be (partly) copied.

Which approach to choose? How bad is it to choose for a implementing approach (writing proposals) versus a capacity building approach? Some consideration that an advisor can make to choose between one or the other approach are is to look at the positive and negative aspects of each approach:

What are the negative aspects of writing project proposals for them?

  • There's less capacity building
  • It will take longer before they will (or will be able to) write the documents themselves.
  • It will put your colleagues in a dependent position
  • You might not be aware of any important issues that should beincluded

What are the positive aspects of writing project proposals for them?-

  • Larger chances for timely submission
  • Less working hours put into the process
  • Better use of the English language ;-)-

What are the negative aspects of denying to write documents for them and stick to a capacity building approach?

  • There might not be the desired output
  • Thus e.g. your organization might miss the opportunity forfinding funding

What are the positive aspects of denying to write documents for them and stick to a capacity building approach?

  • More capacity building?
  • Raise of awareness on responsibility
  • They might blame you for it?/ Feel it's inconsiderate?

On another level, the advisor may prepare document on donor-information needs, a planning for proposal writing, and also a donor-list, with donors possibly interested in funding.Working on improvement in the planning, monitoring and evaluation system may lead to more efficient planning of fundraising activities.

When a group of organizations have the same need you may organize a participatory training in fundraising. Participants exchange methodologies used in proposal development and facilitators make modifications to befit comtemporary approach.

An assumption at play within the organization may be that 'what capacity advisors write will be accepted by the donor'. Since the assumption may be that he/she has contacts or knowledge of the language in use. One strategy being used is to allow the organizations to work along themes as advanced by ICCO. This approach will hopefully consolidate the fragmented proposals into programs that may have larger impact.

We can view capacity building from a systems-thinking perspective, in which the different levels of capacity (institutional/contextual;organisational; individual) are interacting in a dynamic and complex way. To give an example of proposal writing, when a partner needs (wants) to develop a proposal, the success will depend on many questions and factors, eg How much information on the context is available?, Are there any partnerships/networks that we engage with that cansupport us? , What is our overall organisational strategy and how does this proposal fits in?

Following this systems-thinking approach as a capacity builder, you conduct an inquiry of the system-factors active in each case. Proposal writing is not simply the development of a group of activities with a budget. It is supposed to be part of thestrategic programming framework of an organisation. Sometimes it is not a bad idea to invest more time in ‘writing’ a proposal when this also leads to a more strategic approach to proposal development (for instance by building on best practices, aligning it to strategic framework, engaging with new partners).

Proposal writing should be in relation to a strategic plan, based upon a profound context analysis. Some advisors have reservations, as strategic plans may be donor-driven and organizations may be more opportunistic in reality while looking for resources. Organizations must learn that they can also say 'no' to a donor. In one case, an organization said no, and the donor returned with a proposal that fit the organization's priorities better.

A gradual approach may be a strategy to facilitate a process of creating awareness about sustainability in proposal writing:

  1. The first time you do the whole proposal writing process together, making sure there is substantive input from your colleague (and recognition for that).
  2. The next time, you start up together, so that it becomes very concrete and clear what needs to be done for this particular assignment. Brainstorm together, but don't write full texts. When it's finished you discuss it together.
  3. The next time, your colleagues brainstorm and you discuss the results afterwards, as well as the final text when that has been written.
  4. And finally, you will only discuss the final steps.
And finally, the advisor may need to let go, the advisor is not responsible!

(for another blogpost on fundraising go here).

How to redefine capacity building goals in a small organization?

'As junior advisor I work fulltime for a small African NGO to build the capacity of the organization. The organization is led by its founder and employs one secretary and two local interns. Various development organizations from the US, Germany and the Netherlands support the organization financially. I have a good relationship with the staff and I have many opportunities to strengthen the organization. Unfortunately the director seems less interested in some of the initiatives. Should I continue to improve the skills of the staff in their daily administrative tasks - which is a little frustrating- or should I renegotiate my tasks to include more capacity development activities?'

Originally the placement was intended to build capacity in the area of finances, human resources and IT. The director however, felt that it is too much involvement in management issues, and prefered that the advisor assisted the secretarial staff in daily tasks. The director had different expectations of the placement. The advisor lowered his goals, but still sees opportunities that he'd love to work on.

First of all, it is important to search for openings to introduce capacity building directions. The director appreciates the assistance in writing proposals, and administrative tasks. Is it possible to acknowledge and use these kind of openings to be involved in further capacity building of the organization? It might be good to gruadually propose other activities or ideas, activities that contribute more towards structural capacity development of the organization. Take your time to build the relationship and create a 'safe' atmosphere. Gain respect and influence without positional power, but as an advisor. Build a constructive advisory relationship.

Secondly, an understaffed office doesn't have much time to discuss basic development question, preoccupied with problems and activities as it is. So you have to create time and be creative in proposing ideas to management. Find a time that is convenient for an exchange. Then share what you see as more important than urgent challenges to work on. Don't assume there is no time, but ask for it. Furthermore a director may be quite lonely and might appreciate a person to talk to about professional decisions.

How to make sure that your ideas are accepted? Ask difficult or nasty questions if need be. Risking confrontations with management is tricky and depends on your own advisory style. But if something is very important to discuss, it might be worth it. Continue building the relationship and trust with the director as that may change his attitude in the long run. It is a matter of trial and error to see what works. One school of management theory is the 'normative decision model'. This theories states that management styles may be stable, but you can take decisions to choose another style when the situation calls for such a style. You can stimulate the director to see situations in a certain way, point out the real situations and adapt the management style accordingly. It is important not to see it as a change in leadership style. Direct feedback on leadership (which may be the only style he knows) may cause resistence. Furthermore organizations have the right to develop in 'their own way'.

Some concrete strategies to successfully introduce ideas:
  • Try to enter the 'gossip' circuit and listen carefully to the frustrations. Try to link capacity building interventions to these frustrations.
  • Try to incorporate 'hobbies' in the proposals. For instance, if a manager is very interested in ICT, include an ICT component in a capacity building intervention.
  • Use informal talks, eg. in the car driving back from an even, on Friday afternoon, walking home together, etc. to introduce ideas and build a personal relationship.
  • Use formal staff meetings to inform everyone of your opinion and your work. In the end, you may be able to change the meeting culture a litte.
  • Use the room to manouvre that you have as an external advisor.

A danger of developing capacity building proposals for the organization, is that the proposal may be adopted, but without any critical reflection or ownership. To prevent this, it is good to try and let others in the organization take the lead and responsibility and remain in the advisor's position. Now what to do when a deadline is nearby and nobody takes enough responsibility?

Regarding the placement procedure: it is important that the advisory placement has a good start with clarity on the capacity development goals. And it is worthwhile to work fulltime with a small NGO as an advisor? It might be better for keeping the right advisory distance to work with a small group of 3-5 organizations.

Finally: capacity building is a slow process and you have to set your expectations accordingly, you can't change an organization entirely with a year or two. You have to go for small steps and be satisfied with small improvements.

Friday, December 7, 2007

What professional support do junior advisors need to be effective?

Several junior advisors have organizational problems within their local organization from the start of their contract. Is the advice and coaching of a local senior the solution to these problems?

There are 4 options for junior advisors to receive professional support:
  1. Mentor- often another advisor who knows the country and culture of work. Can help the junior in personal and social issues. May also give advice when there are professional difficulties. Not a paid function.
  2. Supervisor - a person within the local organization who accompanies the junior in his/her work. Usually this a supervisor who holds regular work meetings with the junior and ideally also gives him/her feedback.
  3. Contactperson ('relatiebeheerder') - ICCO contact person who accompanies the junior in his/her work. Mainly monitoring of workplans and feedback on reports.
  4. There is an additional option to receive e-coaching from a PSO consultant paid from the training budget.

This is the theoretical support set for a junior advisor. In practice something is missing though. Even when all 4 categories of support are provided, at times, contracts end prematurely. Quite some juniors think about ending their contract prematurely. What's missing is a senior in the field of work of the junior with whom work experiences can be discussed and a learning process is catalyzed.

Some ideas:

The cases indicate the need for intensified face-to-face exchange between the senior and junior advisors. Once or twice a year, seniors and juniors can interact, listen to each other's stories and suggest intervention strategies for each other.

The term 'junior' may be problematic in combination with an advisory task. Juniors are not always taken serious in societies with higher power distances. That may delay the start of a productive advisory relation.

The need for a formal working relationship with someone who can provide technical support in capacity building, from outside the organization.

There needs to be a budget for capacity building efforts. When a budget is not secured, it is harder to take initiatives.

Juniors in consultancies companies in the Netherlands may also be "thrown into the deep". However, in the Netherlands you often have backup from your company or organisation, and start with few, small assignments. In the ICCO assignments you are on your own and assignments are long term and mostly complicated. Furthermore, there are the intercultural differences to cope with which needs new and innovative repertoires.

The intake by ICCO could be improved. The management of expectations of the junior is vital and starts by the definition of the placement and the job description. After the intake the placement should be monitored closely. ICCO should check whether a capacity builder is relevant and needed.

Did an evaluation take place? How satisfied are partner organizations with junior advisors? What went wel, what did not go well?

Be clear about the difference between coaching, supervision and peer learning systems. A good coach helps to distinguish in a question between different layers (technical, is the situation interpreted correctly, why this problem definition?). All the totally new experiences make the advisors fascinated, inspired, puzzled and frustrated. It will therefore be wonderful and useful to have a coach, simply to help understand what is happening. Without a coach it is logical that someone gets lost. The risk is running around in circles or not delivering quality work.

There are certain conditions to a successful coaching process, for instance there should not be a colleagial working relationship. It would hinder the necessary trust and independance.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Where can I find online tools for organizational analysis?

There are various toolkits for organizational analyis/capacity assessment available online.

  • MDF has developed The Integrated Organizational Model and the TANGO toolkit. You can request for the toolkit on the MDF site here.

Tearfund has developed the CASA tool for Capacity Self Assessment.

DFID has published a sourcebook of tools and techniques with about 20 tools.

The participatory Capacity Building Toolkit consist of a list of 100 statements, and using the POET method (Participatory Organisation and Evaluation Tool).

PSO has various report and resource on their site in their resource section about capacity building.

IC-Consult has developed the IC-scan. There is a short scan and an elaborate scan.

USAID developed Discussion-Oriented Organizational Self-Assessment (DOSA) as a tool to measure and build organisational capacity.

A list of 75(!) tools for organisational analysis can be found at Reflect and Learn.

CARE has a developed the PCA tool

How can I design capacity building activities to improve the fundraising capacity?

An organization requests the capacity development advisor to start fundraising, or to ask an external expert to do it for the organization. If the fundraising does not succeed, the organization may collapse. The staff have limited time to work on fundraising. How to design a capacity building activity that improves the fundraising capacity of this organization?

These are the challenges:
  • How to widen the donor base and attract 2-3 major donors to replace the withdrawing donors?
  • How to build the capacity of the organization while important staff will be leaving over the next year or so?
  • How to create time and make fundraising a priority?

Hiring an external fundraiser versus fundraising by yourself. You have to be careful in hiring an external fundraiser. Eventually the director and/or the management team of an organization has to sell and promote the organization to donors. A fundraiser from outside does not show the 'passion' and 'commitment' of the organization and it is best that the organization itself builds the donor relationships. Yet, it might be efficient to hire a fundraiser to do a desk research (eg. to identify donors, key persons that fit the objectives of the organization) and to assist in the process of proposal writing. The director, however, has to make contacts and build relationships. The Management Centre in the UK, works in the same way. It is an organization that does a lot of fundraising training and advisory. But in the end, the organization has to do the fundraising by itself.

How to find new donor agencies? It can easily take more than a year. It might be hard work to contact a lot of new donors, whereas fruit may be harvested much later. Some practical suggestions:

  • Contact current donors that withdraw whether they know other donors. Current donors may have an interest in helping the organization with new donor contacts.
  • Hire an expert to do a research into potential donors. Develop proposals only after contacts have been established.
  • Attend key meetings where donors and partners meet, this can help in trust building and knowing key persons.
  • Contact people who have experience with EU tenders.
  • Organize a training on fundraising by an expert of 1 or 2 days. The training can bring people up to date with latest developments, key donors and effective fundraising.

How to translate the abstract issues of capacity assessment and development?

After a participatory assessment of the network advisors at times experience that organizations have difficulties to understand terminologies such as mission, vision, strategy, etc. Notwithstanding this low understanding of capacity building elements, can I create ownership or the process? Are there ways of 'simplifying' the issues without the organizations losing ownership of the process?

It is important do the following:
  • to invest in the relationship
  • to keep the capacity assessment simple - meeting their needs and understand their language
  • to clarify what you can and want to offer to the organizations
  • continuously ask feedback from colleagues

Example of a process in a small organization with little experience with capacity development: "In one case, I went on a few field trips with various staff. By means of informal talks about their 'difficulties' and 'pain points' but also their ambitions, I formulated a capacity building question and some possible interventions. I went back to them with this formulation to check whether this captured their main concerns. It was appreciated because I formulated the questions in a different manner as they had, but in a way that they felt: Yes, that's exactly what we meant".

How to measure the impact of capacity development intervention at the level of the beneficiaries?

An advisor has been struggling with impact measurement of capacity development intervention, in particular on the quality of service delivery of his partners. What is the impact of capacity development of an organization on its beneficiairies? How to measure this? And how to do this systematically? Furthermore, it would be nice if this method for measurement does not result in a document alone, but in an increased learning capacity of partner organizations, beneficiaries and donors alike. Smaller organizations may do good work with beneficiaries, bu

Measuring the output of capacity development interventions is easy: number of trainings, number of workshops etc. but measuring outcome is more difficult because it is about measuring behavioural change. It is not only about qualitative data, but about qualitative data.

It might be an idea to learn from other sectors how they measure impact, in order to find innovative ways forward. For instance the Dutch 'rekenkamer' the Governmental Accountant Control Institution has worked with the African Accountant Control Institutions and have developed a methodology.

Within the communities of practice theory, there is a suggestion to measure intangible outcomes by collecting 'systematic anecdotal evidence'. What can we learn from these fields of measurement?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

How to create ownership for the capacity development process of a network?

Capacity development of a network has its own dynamics. How to involve the member organizations of the network and ensure that they own the capacity development process of the network?

The network may be seen by the members almost as a 'donor agency', providing training and financial resources. Whereas you would like them to feel part and parcel of the network.

One intervention might be to present the outcomes, conclusions and ideas of the capacity assessment back to the network and its member organizations. However, if member organizations do not feel ownership of the network, and don't feel responsible it is hard to engage them in such a process. Another intervention may therefore be to make them more aware of their membership within the network and communicate about the existing activities.

Another intervention could be to discuss the guiding principles with the network members. Why are we a network and how do we act within the network? This might stimulate more ownership of the issues and ways of working.

Strengthening of the individual members could be an entry point too. A network's strength is determined by the strength of its members. This can be done by formalizing a partnership contract on capacity development of the members. Visualization workshops could be followed by capacity building interventions with the individual member organizations.

In networks it is a challenge to find the balance between objectives from the network (by its secretariat) and the needs of the member organizations. It is important to look at the role, needs and expectations from the member organizations towards the network.

How to facilitate a capacity assessment?

Josefien de Kwaadsteniet worked in Burundi. She wrote a case study which is summarized in this blogpost. She worked in a two-year ICCO program on capacity strengthening. The -ambitieus- objective of the program is to make organizations in Burundi work more efficient, effective, participatory and sustainable.

When she started she visited all organizations several times to exchange ideas and explain about capacity building, using the diagram shown here. After that, the capacity assessment took place. This was done by a two day participatory workshop with each organzation. She worked with local consultants who had been given a training on the method. Josefien used the Participatory Capacity Building Toolkit.

During the workshop, the worked with maximum 15 persons. First a profile of the organization is made - vision, mission and main activities. Then the capacity of the organization is analysed on on the basis of questions and discussions. In between the group is animated by games to keep up their energy level. The results are summarized in a report and given to the organization.

This is the basis for a next series of workshops in which the most important capacity areas are chosen and a plan is developed. Most organization have difficulties to manage their financial and human resources and to plan, monitor and evaluate their activities.

Some do's and don't for the facilitator
  • Do take your time to explain capacity strengthening
  • Do work with local consultants and make sure they really understand the method
  • Do let the organization choose one or two persons responsible for the process within their organization
  • Don't rush things and take your time to adapt to their schedule
  • Don't be a perfectionist
  • Do adapt the method to the level of the organizations and if possible conduct a pilot
  • Do share the idea of capacity strengthening with other donors of the organization to get shared support and to avoid double work

Some lessons Josefien learned are that you have to find a balance between the way you want to see things and they way it is going, sometimes you can't influence things. You never know for sure what the real motivation of organizations is to participate, don't push on this too much. Capacity strengthening is a process that takes time and one has to be really patient.

More documents on capacity strengthening can be found at the PSO website. Some capacity building advisor sites:


Facilicom Consult

Baco Consult

Photo: workshop with one of the partner organizations

How to facilitate an auto-evaluation?

Picture: restitution and planification workshop

Erwin Brouwer wrote a case study about auto-evaluation which is the basis for this blogpost. He is making use of the following (downloadable) toolkit: Participatory Capacity Building, a facilitators Toolbox for Assessment and Strategic Planning of NGO Capacity.

In september 2005 he started a new capacity building program in Congo, with an OD/ID approach and a special focus on Peace and Democratisation. He explained the participatory capacity building cycle through an introduction workshop for 11 partner organizations. The objective was to ensure the support of the representatives.

Then an auto evaluation took place with all organisations, using a questionnaire. This was finalized by restitution workshops and the development of a capacity building strategy and workplan. Erwin worked with a local consultancy organization. The consultants knew the context and the local NGOs well, as well as the culture and openness to discuss internal problems.

The most important result of the auto-evaluation was that the organizations feel a sense of 'ownership' of the results. It was their evaluation and interpretation of the results, which lead to their capacity building strategies. A positive effect of the auto-evaluation was that internal discussions were started which mirrored their own situation. They discovered their strengths and what needs strengthening by training, coaching or exchange. Members from all levels of the organization participated, giving a voice to persons who are not always involved in decision making.

Some downsides of the method: sometimes staff did not feel comfortable to speak their mind in presence of the coordination of the organization. The facilitators tried to resolve this by splitting up the groups. Sometimes participants did not have enough trust to give 'negative scores' even after clear discussions on weak elements of their organization.

Furthermore, the method had to be adapted to the local context and level of understanding of each organization. This is not a downside, but something that should be kept in mind. In South Kivu, there is a culture of talking and listening. This means quick brainstorm discussions and writing ideas on cards is difficult. The written words count and should be weighed. The method of presentation with a computerized calculator, graphics had to be adapted. In this context there was often no electricity.

The language was also a problem, not all understand French, hence the questionnaire was translated and the facilitators were allowed times to explain. This meant that the strict time-tables of the manual were not feasible.

Some do's and don't for the facilitator
  • Do make it clear that you are not there to judge them or their program
  • Do work with local consultants
  • Do respect the confidentiality, don't send the reports to ICCO for instance
  • Don't follow the method without adapting it to the level of each organization
  • Don't mix your position with that of a prgram evaluator
  • Don't hand the program over to local consultants, but stay in charge of the method
  • Don't pay per diems for participants in workshops, this is about learning

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

How to create conditions for changing management styles?

Capacity development is about change processes. How to guide a change process when a top-down management style is obstructing organisational development? What are things to pay attention to as a capacity development advisor in such a context?

If (part of) the objective of the change process is to change the leadership style itself, both the leaders and the followers have to change. Both leader(s) and followers play a part in the leaderships culture within an organisation. Leaders may behave in a hierarchical style because it is expected from them. This means both leaders(s) and followers have to change in order to create a sustained changed leadership style. Personal change and organisational change have to go hand in hand.

This requires from an advisor to develop a very good relationship with the leader(s) built on trust and mutual respect, not an easy task. One way of building that relationship may be to use informal talks and showing your capacities. Building trust also has to do with listening well and responding to the right issues. If you are able to understand an pinpoint some of the key issues in an organization, you will gain a lot of trust with the leadership.

An way of putting leadership styles on the agenda and make it discussable is to organise a conference on leadership and organizational change. The conference could target leaders and at the conference good and bad leadership practice that enhance or retard the growth of organizations can be discussed. The advantage of this approach is that leaders are giving the chance to learn amongst and from other leaders - their peers, which may be easier than learning from a capacity development advisor.

The position of the advisor within the organization also matters. If the advisor is placed within the organization he/she is part of the organogram and placed in a hierarchical relationship to the leadership. This makes it hard to change the system you are part of.

Timing is also important and you can wait for - and try to recognize- windows of opportunity. There might be a moment that the leadership needs you, and then you can be of help en create a positive advisory relationship.

Alan Fowler has summarized 4 pre-conditions for successful capacity building interventions in the newsletter of January 2000.
  1. There should be clarity on the question: Capacity for What?
  2. The capacity building intervention should fit with other interventions that are taking place on different levels in the system
  3. The trigger for change should be there: who is the owner of the capacity building intervention?
  4. There should be clarity on the exit strategy: when are we done?

How to link capacity development to improved service delivery? (2)

Sometimes NGOs are self-responsible for their capacity building program. They formulate what kind of training or capacity building support they want and request the donor organisation for that type of support. In those situations, the NGOs hires local consultants for training and coaching. The international advisor coaches from the sideline. The local trainers speak the local language, which is a great advantage.

However, what is the link with improved service delivery? Some partners improve their programs, others still seem to have difficulties in implementing a good program. So how we evaluate the link between the capacity building interventions and impored program implementation or service delivery?

One possible solution is to integrate capacity building activities into project proposals, and to build in moments of evaluation into these programs, which include evaluation of the capacity building interventions. Another solution may be to have a program representative and a separate capaciy building advisor. This makes it easier to follow progress with regards to capacity development.

However, the option of integrating capacity building activities into project proposals may not work for capacity development activities that do not have a direct link to the project for instance, developing the Board of Trustees, or working out the relation between the Board and the Management Team.

How to find the right balance between advising and implementing?

For a junior advisor it may take some time to find their role and to build trust as capacity development advisor while working with older colleagues. One way of building this trust relationship is working with an organisation and 'doing things' and taking on implementing tasks. For instance, you may be asked to write proposals, lead meetings and organize trainings, but when you want to advice and work with others colleagues, they may have other priorities.

So how to build trust and show your added value as a capacity development advisor? One strategy may be to start with the implementing task and slowly try to shift towards a more advisory role. Another strategy may be to develop a partnership with the director, or the management team of an organisation.

Related to this is the situation where an advisor is working with one NGO, it is hard to keep enough distance to stay in an advisory role working with one organization. For instance, after a training, you don't want to stay idle for 3 weeks. A solution in this situation may be to create your own projects to keep you busy and be clear that you are implementor within that project, and advisor towards the organisation.

How to work with a local consultancy agency?

When you work with an individual consultant, it is easy to develop a clear Terms of Reference. However, when you, as an international advisor, work with a local consultancy agency, it is more difficult. There may be various dilemmas:
  • The local consultancy agency may have the desire to conduct a larger part of the capacity building program than they are asked for. This may create a feeling of competition with the capacity building program.
  • The local trainers may have other ways of working, eg. may be more theoretical or more practical.

The advisor has to learn to let go in this situation. One option is to focus on coaching and follow-up and find a new role. When you think the trainers are more theoretical, you can integrate excursions and breaks in the training program, sot that there is enough opportunity to exchange for the participants.

How to deal with high staff turn-over?

An advisor working with various local NGOs faced the main challenge of high staff turnover of the local staff. After the staff members have been trained and improve their performance, they leave the NGO for another job. Many well performing staff of local NGOs moved to international NGOs.

How can an advisor working to develop the capacity of local NGOs deal with this? An option is to keep meetings and trainings very simple. The capacity assessments are performed in a light way, because they are only a snapshot, and change as time passes by. The plannings that follow are focused within a time frame of 6-12 months. If there are 3-4 things to work on for a period of 6 months, the results may be more sustainable. One year later, the context can be totally different due to the departure of staff.

So what are interventions that can reduce the high level of staff turn-over and/or mitigate its effect on the organisation? As a capacity building advisor you can stimulate:
  • Improvement of the non-monetary working conditions, the secondary benefits
  • Documentation of practices
  • Sharing of stories about activities that have been undertaken in the organisation

How to improve Human Resource policies?

picture: Jouwert with Blantyre Synof project staff
Jouwert van Geene shared his experiences with strengthening Human Resource Management for partner organisations in Malawi in a case study. This is a shorter version of the case.

A tool for participatory assessment and planning of human resource policies and practices was developed in collaboration with a local consulting company, Sabi Consulting.

The process consisted of the following activities:

  • Interactive assessment of the human resource capacity by group discussions, individual questionnaires and interviews
  • Interactive analysis and prioritisation of human resource issues
  • Development of organisation specific assessment reports with concrete recommendations
  • Implementation planning by partner management
  • After this, organisations would receive specific training on human resource management issues and started to develop their own human resource systems and procedures.

    The assessments raised a lot of issues and put human resource management much higher on their agenda. All partners have changed the way human resource matters are covered by members of the management team. Some changes are easy like the distribution of the organisational chart, others take more time like the development of an HIV/AIDS workplace policy.

    The strategic importance of human resources made them choose a relatively high level of external input. At the same time, they tried to bring down the technical issues to understandable proportions which allowed staff of different levels to participate in the assessment.

    A key learning is the trust that organisations have to place in the facilitators of this process. Human resource issues are sensitive. In this case, organisations had already gone through other interventions with the advisor and the local consultancy firm, for about a year.

      How to link capacity development to improved services delivery?

      Shannon McNary (see picture) shared her experiences trying to reinforce the link between capacity development and improved service delivery. In this blogpost you will find a summary of her case.

      She worked in Baku in Azerbaijan with the National Committee of the Helsinki Citizens Assemblee (HCA) working towards sustainable peace, protecting human rights and promoting civil society.

      The habit within the capacity building program was that each organisation created a capacity building plan, and most partners focused on training topics like improving public relations, writing proposals, computer and language skills and attracting volunteers. Nearly all chose to use local trainers for these trainings. A mid-term review of the capacity building program showed however that the partners were too much time on managing the program, and the interventions were delinked from actual service delivery and analysis. It had become 'capacity for capacity sake' and needed to be capacity linked to program and organizational goals.

      So how to improve the link between capacity development and improved service delivery? The advisors embarked on a strategic planning and organizational self-assessment process with each partner. In the workshop, for 6 days long, partners using the Rose of Leary to score themselves. Long and short term strategies and activities and proposals for capacity building were explicitly linked to programs and activities.

      Picture below: trust building meeting for youth in Georgia

      Friday, October 26, 2007

      Finalization discussion 'capacity building vs implementation'

      Last week, 19th October 2007, we finalized our discussions about ' capacity building vs implementation' with a skype meeting reviewing and talking through our d-group discussions. Hereby some of our discussion group findings.

      Two advisors are both struggling with the fact that they want to build capacity by helping the people in their organizations writing their proposals and other documents themselves, but that in practice people want them to write it for them, or put them in that position due to time constraints.

      I it suggested that it is probably different in different situations which choices might be best. Furthermore one of the processes in capacity building is that the participants gain confidence in their ability of proposal writing. She proposes an example of a four step approach to build this capacity (start doing everything together; next start together but let colleague do main writing; next let colleague start and coach along the way; finally only discuss the final product)

      Also contingent and systems-thinking perspective is proposed, in which the different levels of capacity (institutional/contextual; organisational; individual) are interacting in a dynamic and complex way. Each situation is different and it is proposed to systematically analyse these situations by answering a series of questions, to feed the approach you should take as a capacity builder. Based on this systematic analysis, sometimes it could be not a bad idea to invest more time in ‘writing’ a proposal when this also leads to a more strategic approach to proposal development. But when a new proposal is less strategic, but more of the same, you may want to stick to the ‘advising’ part (and maybe some editing).

      Discussions went on to see how best to measure the progress in this capacity building process (e.g. % of proposals developed on their own) and the relationship / dependency between southern and northern partners.

      What are the recommendations from our Skype meetings?

      Advisor 1: The Strategic Plan should be the starting point, and be based on good context analysis. It should be monitored and evaluated if strategies should be executed with or without support of people from abroad (participatory M&E).

      Advisor 2: It is important to facilitate, let things go and then see what happens. We should discuss within the organization whether we should or should not appoint new people from abroad.

      Advisor 3: Context analysis is important. When formulating the strategic plan, but also in the entire capacity building process, to keep observe, reflect and act on the context.

      Advisor 4: Sometimes you should let things go. If I don’t feel comfortable, is that me? We should not always respond to all problems, but that can be difficult.

      Advisor 3: Indeed, we should make people in the organization take the lead, also in expressing the problem. But I also observe that that is what they expect of me, thus sometimes it feels like I am dodging my tasks if I don’t provide my opinion. They don’t always appreciate if I don’t. Difficult to unify with capacity building.

      Advisor 2: It helps to explain why you act the way you act. Not because I don’t want to assist, but because I think it is better for the organization to do it this way.



      Monday, October 1, 2007

      Capacity Building vs implementing activities

      1st October 2007

      Since September 2007 we are discussing how to deal with organisations who want the ICCO advisors to write the project proposals. What to do? How to deal with this?

      Following one of the comments during the D-group discussions.

      Capacity building versus implementing activities

      You are both struggling with the fact that you want to build capacity by helping the people in your organizations writing their proposals and other documents themselves, but that in practice people want you to write it for them, or put you in that position due to time constraints.

      First of all, I think the processes that you are already in, will also contribute to capacity building. You are involving the people in your organizations in your activities. And, as was also noted, by discussing the current procedures, the process of awareness on the undesirableness of this situation at least has started. However, I also agree that the situation is not ideal.

      What are the negative aspects of you writing documents for them?
      - There’s less capacity building; it will take longer before they will (or will be able to) write the documents themselves.
      - It will put your colleagues in a dependent position
      - You might not be aware of any important issues that should be included
      - …..
      What are the positive aspects of you writing documents for them?
      - Larger chances for timely submission
      - Less working hours put into the process
      - Better use of the English language ;-)
      - ….

      What are the negative aspects of denying to write documents for them and stick to your capacity building approach?
      - There might not be the desired output
      - Thus e.g. your organization might miss the opportunity for finding funding
      - ….
      What are the positive aspects of denying to write documents for them and stick to your capacity building approach?
      - More capacity building?
      - Raise of awareness on responsibility
      - They might blame you for it? / Feel it’s inconsiderate?
      - ……

      What’s best, what’s worse?
      I think that might differ in the different situations you encounter and thus different choices might be best.

      We will keep you up to date.