Civil Society Capacity Development

Civil Society Capacity Development FINAL_Page_1MSI’s approach to civil society capacity development advances local ownership and sustainable results. We believe that building local capacity is about leaving citizen groups and organizations stronger and more effective in tackling the social, economic and democratic challenges of their societies.

For more than three decades, we have provided support, tools and resources to local civil society organizations (CSOs) to build capacity and achieve significant results. Our support can be found across numerous sectors and regions:

• Democratic governance
• Conflict mitigation
• Health, education
and economic growth
• Environment

• South and Southeast Asia
• Africa
• Europe and Eurasia
• Latin America and Caribbean
• Middle East

We strive to assist partner organizations to achieve their visions and leave them strong enough to receive direct funding from local and international donors. Our approach is based on best practices distilled from years of experience and the highest professional standards.

Best Practices in Strengthening Civil Society

A vibrant civil society provides forums and channels for citizens to voice their interests, hold government accountable, and provide needed services. Civil society helps fill the gaps created by democratic and economic market failures and helps communities solve their own problems. The overarching goal of all our civil society programs is to enable local civil societies to fulfill their potential and produce positive sustainable results in development and governance.

We weave into all our programs three tried-and-true practices from our work in the field on this for more than thirty years.

1) Local Ownership Results from Local Choices and Decision-making
CSOs value and can sustain new skills and systems that address their own strategies and priorities. Capacity development providers must balance the objectives, indicators and short time frames of development projects with building positive relationships with CSOs and moving at a speed that permits CSOs to absorb and apply new systems and skills.

One of our main approaches to empowering the local partners and organizations is through the Institutional Development Framework (IDF) Toolkit. Applied in over 50 countries, the IDF is our signature organizational capacity assessment toolkit. The toolkit guides CSOs to assess their capacities, select priorities for development, and plan for and monitor organizational change. We work with clients locally to adapt the IDF to the context of each country and program, so the tool is always relevant.

Impact in the Field:
• Through the IDF self-assessment, many leaders of 91 partner Lebanese media and advocacy CSOs indicated a strong desire for increased social media capacity, which we then worked with them to develop.
• We adapted the IDF Toolkit to support 107 CSOs in Zambia to build their management and human resource capacities to deliver improved HIV/AIDS services.

2) Technical + Organizational Capacity Building = Increased Program Capability and Performance
Simply training staff in new skills does not improve service delivery or advocacy over the long term if adequate management systems are not in place. We help partner organizations to develop the organization’s strategic commitment and integrated systems to internalize and sustain new skills and technical approaches.

Impact in the Field:
• In Jamaica, we worked with over 60 CSOs to improve citizen security in inner cities. The Jamaican CSOs improved their core management systems and their abilities to collaborate effectively among themselves and with key stakeholders in citizen security.
• In Morocco, we reached more than 700 CSOs advocating for youth and other marginalized groups with vital information and platforms for mutual learning by providing webinars
and moderated list servs. Participating CSOs improved their sustainability and outreach capacities.

3) Local Mentoring and Coaching Enhances Ownership and Sustainability
We find that the most effective way for partners to embrace capacity building is through engaging local capacity development facilitators who act as coaches that listen, guide and respond to emerging needs. Our experts are not there to provide short-term advice on a single topic. We train local capacity development professionals and build Intermediate Support Organizations (ISOs) so that they can continue providing services once our work is done.

Local CSOs usually operate in resource-scarce and dynamic environments that can affect their daily operations and strategic choices in unexpected ways. When we help develop sound business plans for local capacity development providers, local CSOs can access organizational development support, even in difficult economic climates.

Impact in the Field:
• The Zambian consultants trained by us found a need to improve and promote organization development skills. With our support, they created the Institute of Organization Development Facilitators (IODF) to organize the first-ever Conference on Organization Development in Zambia. The IODF continues to gain new members and provide a platform for professional development.