Capacity Development

Why It Matters Resources
For years, nonprofits have yearned for a place at the global governance table. That place is, by and large, now assured as NGOs gain recognition for their skills in service delivery, brokering, and problem solving. For years, these same organizations sought to persuade national policymakers and international donors that they could play a critical role in empowering the disenfranchised. That role is now widely valued.

Consider the following:
  • The NGO sector is now the eighth largest economy in the world - worth over $1 trillion a year globally.

  • Popular movements, women's organizations, environmental organizations, and many other kinds of citizen groups are on the rise in all regions of the world.

  • NGOs employ more than 19 million paid workers and countless more nonprofit volunteers.

  • Billions of aid dollars for developing countries flow annually through NGOS.
The emerging picture from these observations is both clear and challenging: NGOs have experienced extraordinary growth in resources- a product of successes in creating unprecedented civic engagement opportunities for women, youth, and other marginalized populations. Along with this has come a corresponding rise in the expectations that internal and external stakeholders hold for them to practice wise management of their growth. More and more, policy makers understand the importance of investing in capacity building, and the significance of social capital and the role of civil society organizations in its creation.

How We Do It
In order to address the challenges and opportunities created by this multibillion dollar investment in capacity development, a new approach is needed. This approach must be integral rather than piecemeal. It must focus on systems and linkages among actors rather than viewing individuals in isolation. And it must equip organizations to engage in reflective learning that leads to ever improving performance. For this reason, Root Change has moved beyond the improvement of internal management practices to increasingly emphasize extensive stakeholder engagement, innovation, entrepreneurship, relationship brokering, resource leveraging, and networking across project sectors. This approach, which Root Change calls Capacity 2.0, can leverage change to entire systems by placing a premium on the creation of bonds of trust and connectivity.



Root Change believes there are four key organizational practices critical to building collective capacity:
  • Collaboration - Building partnerships, engaging stakeholders, applying new information-sharing technologies, and using existing resources to attract capital

  • Adapatation - Data collection, experimentation with new innovations, new organizational learning, and thriving amidst uncertainty

  • Boundary redefinition - Engaging new social paradigms such as open data and learning systems, social entrepreneurship and social impact investing

  • Democratic participation - resolving conflict, strengthening stakeholder involvement, distributing influence, promoting diversity, and facilitating rights-based capacity development of individuals and organizations

To accomplish such sweeping changes, Root change steers organizations towards practices that build social capital both internally and externally. Internal (bonding) social capital enables an organization to attract and retain the most gifted personnel. External, (bridging) social capital allows organizations to affect change through productive alliances with supporters, policy-makers, colleague organizations and - most importantly - people served through their programs. This external focus of collective capacity development brings together social networks that lead to other essential forms of capital - financial, political, and intellectual - and gives an organization the means to increase its impact.

What We've Done
Root Change uses a mix of analytical tools and generative capacity building techniques to help organizations build their collective capacity. Our methods include organization capacity assessment, organization and network capacity performance dashboards, learning collaboratives, strategy mapping, Theory of Change Workshops, innovation strategy, action research and the use of Mobile SMS technology to enhance the collective capacity of program operations. Our tools and methodologies are highly customized and address the real-world challenges facing organizations working in health, conservation, education, microfinance, disaster risk reduction, livelihoods and governance.

Root Change recently completed a two year capacity development study with the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC). The study, which involved over 18 countries and more than 50 peer researchers trained by Root Change, found that purposeful networking behavior by civil society organizations was strongly linked to organizational performance. By increasing connections to high value (centrally located) actors, CSOs operating in less developed countries overcame many of the disadvantages associated with low Human Development Index (HDI) status. The study was one of the first to explore the impact of partnerships and network structure on organizational capacity. Root Change is now partnering with the American Red Cross to implement promising new capacity development strategies in Colombia, El Salvador, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana

In Namibia, Root Change launched Community LINKS, a health systems strengthening initiative. Working in partnership with USAID, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and local NGOs, Root Change launched a Mobile-Capacity Building initiative using mobile phone text messaging, Frontline SMS and Ushahidi Mapping technology to build the collective capacity of social workers who support orphans and vulnerable children.

Domestically, Root Change has worked with the National Alliance of Community and Economic Development Associations (NACEDA) and the Brookings Institute to operationalize a framework for sustainable and equitable neighborhood revitalization in the United States. To facilitate collaboration across the country, Root Change developed an online knowledge sharing platform, which uses Collaborative Competitions to identify and disseminate tools, strategies, and approaches for neighborhood assessment, diagnosis, and intervention planning.


Note* Some of these resources were produced by Root Change staff while under the auspices of Pact



Root Change 610 8th St. NE Washington DC
202-470-5566 | info@rootchange.org