Capacity Building of Local Health Organizations – May 24-26, 2016

This seminar has ended. We invite you to review the resources, discussion and daily summaries. Read a full summary of the seminar.


Welcome to the three-day seminar on Capacity Building of Local Health Organizations: Balancing Demand & Supply.

“For me, demand-driven capacity development is like going to a local tree nursery, selecting a tree seedling that you really like, and bringing it back home and planting it in your compound. Then you water and care for the tree, because once it matures it will honor you with good shade and fruits. But many projects come here and plant their own trees in our yard. We allow them to do it, but those are trees that we didn’t ask for and don’t care about. They ask us to water them and leave. We let those trees die because they don’t belong to us. That’s why you see so many dead trees in NGO compounds.”

—Civil society organization (CSO) leader in Malawi.

During this seminar, we will:

  • explore the demand-driven approach to capacity building,
  • discuss the importance of a team approach to capacity building, and
  • discuss approaches to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of capacity building activities.

Please begin by reading the Technical Brief on Demand-Driven Organizational Capacity Development.

Action-oriented demand-driven capacity development cycle

Action-oriented demand-driven capacity development cycle

[Source: Demand-Driven Organizational Capacity Development: Lessons from Local HIV and AIDS Civil Society Organizations in Malawi]

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Complete Seminar Summary

Thank you to each participant for a most engaging and thought-provoking seminar! During the three seminar days last week, we were over 175 members logging in from 33 countries, and together we made 68 suggestions for improving the design, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of capacity building. Congratulations!

Day One Summary: May 24, 2016

Discussion Threads:

* Why does organizational capacity building matter?
* What are the merits & demerits of adopting a demand-driven approach?

There were two consistent themes throughout the day: capacity building is not only necessary but essential for improved service delivery as well as organizational maturity and sustainability. However, an emphasis on technical content or lack of regard for local knowledge and context often resulted in poor implementation and sustainability of capacity building measures and results. Many participants stressed the importance of organizational capacity building as a vehicle for health systems strengthening, especially in low and middle-income countries. The concepts of ownership and accountability in capacity building and the importance of local actors being given the space to express demand and appreciated for their contributions in the design and delivery of capacity building interventions were also highlighted. Both the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) approach and US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) complexity aware monitoring approach were cited as potential frameworks for organizational capacity building.

Day Two Summary: May 25, 2016

Discussion Threads:

* What factors make team interventions successful?
* What resources can help with capacity building?

Most participants pointed out that the joint ownership and responsibility of the capacity development measure, between local groups and capacity building providers, may be one of the best ways to ensure successful interventions. Examples shared included: capacity building interventions that focused on demand-driven outcomes for local civil society organizations (CSOs), and listening to local groups’ perceived capacity deficits, coupled with the experience and expertise of a larger organization and/or MOH, resulted in a successful increase in capacity of CSOs. Another participant agreed that starting with asking local teams about their perceived needs is important, and added that there are a variety of tools already available to address commonly expressed needs such as those available through USAID. However, in cases where teams are unable to express, we also agreed to base capacity building on a participatory needs analysis/assessment of the organization and to balance the longer-term capacity building against the often short-term projects and quick results that many donors expect.

A discussion of effective teams highlighted the importance of good leadership, management, and governance skills – all essential ingredients for implementation effectiveness and improved service delivery.

Participants were asked to highlight specific resources available through LeaderNet or other sources that they believed (through first-hand experience or other means) had positive impact in capacity building. In regards to team building, the ‘Coaching through Breakdowns’ tool in the Managers Who Lead section was lauded for its broad applicability, ease of use, and efficacy in solving team-building or group issues. A communication and coaching skills program, Organizational Capacity Assessment Tool (OCAT), the In-service Leadership, Management and Governance manual as well as ‘planning the work and working the plan’ were also mentioned as other good tools and tools for team-led capacity building interventions. Tools and approaches should include guidance on ways they can be adapted and contextualized.

Day Three Summary: May 26, 2016

Discussion Threads:

* What are some approaches to evaluate the effectiveness of capacity building?
* What indicators do you use to measure progress and performance?

In order to facilitate internal ownership of capacity building interventions, self-assessment measures should be encouraged as a legitimate tool for monitoring and evaluation (M&E). It was noted that self-assessment can be on an individual basis or on behalf of a whole group, utilizing performance assessments as well.

While it is important to conduct formal and informal evaluations using a range of standard, predetermined metrics and indicators, it is also essential to view capacity building from a long term angle, and not to lose sight of the process itself that is often non-linear, iterative and unpredictable. A participant shared the example of capacity building efforts of civil society movements for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) utilizing a standard set of planning tools and an M&E plan. She noted that there were three different levels for assessing effectiveness in coalition building: individual, organization, and network, and that there is no one size-fits-all assessment measure. Additionally, long-term capacity building planning relies on a series of rich partnerships and peer relationships that also influence or impact the effectiveness of interventions.

Other participants echoed the call for evaluation of capacity building at multiple levels (individual vs. organization) and the importance of all staff members feeling a base-line of comfort in evaluative measures. It was also mentioned that indicators are useful in measuring the progress of a given capacity building intervention by looking at its efficacy in achieving its stated goal – but they often don’t capture the full story.

Thanks again for an engaging three days. We look forward to seeing you in the next seminar!