22 June 2012

On capacity building

Hypothesis: Effective organisations are built by insiders who have learnt how effective organisations work whilst at a different, established, effective organisation, rather than by outsiders coming in and making bad organisations into good ones.

Application to development: it might be better for large international NGOs to directly hire more local staff to deal with ground-level implementation than to “partner” with local organisations and try to delegate tasks to them, and struggle with that whole capacity building thing, which is inherently incredibly difficult, especially when you are an outsider, and which very few people seem to really know how to do very well. If someone works for you directly, you have far greater control over their work, and they get to experience working in an established effective organisation, which may well do more for capacity building in the long run.

Any thoughts? In particular any data or evidence, even anecdotal?

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A better stated hypothesis by email from Monica: a lot of the soft skills stuff that comes up with capacity building  (i.e. leadership development, management training) is very important but very difficult to teach. It is better learned through "modeling" than workshops. Think students in the West with expensive long degrees who still need to do unpaid internships to learn how to actually do a job.

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