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< prev - next > Social and economic development Social Development learning_from_practice (Printable PDF)
NGOs can facilitate capacity building on
practical managerial skills for key operating
individuals or managers within a community
organization, which can help ensure
representation, accountability, effectiveness,
good resource management, etc. Such
skills could include, where appropriate,
establishing a structure and constitution;
writing proposals and reports; project,
people and financial management skills;
democratic decision-making and leadership
(see Box 4); networking and influencing; and
evaluation and performance assessment, etc.
Encouraging good record keeping is important
for internal accountability and external proof of
effectiveness. These capacities can ensure the
efficient functioning of the organization, and
enhance members’ ability to access ongoing
financial support.
In the Cuzco region of Peru, Practical
Action has trained community based
extensionists (known locally as kamayok)
since 1996 to support their fellow farmers
and livestock producers. These extensionists
were supported from 1998 to form a Kamayok
Association to represent and support members
on an ongoing basis. Practical Action provided
guidance in organizational planning and
obtaining resources, as well as how to carry
out a fair selection of members for work
opportunities in other institutions. Building
materials were given to the Association, which
they used to construct their own offices. A
computer and a motorcycle were also made
available to them. The organization has been
successful in developing useful linkages with a
range of public and private institutions, finding
opportunities for members to provide technical
assistance, and accessing new courses to
advance their specialization.
A further crucial element for building
capacity is encouraging confidence in taking
action. For true empowerment, groups must
grow self-belief from seeing their plans
turn into actions that have impact. There is
therefore an obvious role for providing, or
facilitating access to, practical training on
improved ways of working and innovation of
technologies, e.g. relating to food security,
disaster risk reduction, product processing,
sanitation or construction etc. These skills can
be delivered in empowering ways, e.g. using
Participatory Technology Development18 or
exposure visits19, which encourage ‘learning by
doing’ and a continual process of innovation
Box 4. Building capacity in leadership
Practical Action has found that effective,
skilled leadership that fosters initiative,
creativity and responsibility amongst
group members can be transformative:
‘the effectiveness of any organization
is greatly determined by the quality
of its leadership.’14 And yet, providing
appropriate support to leadership
requires a delicate balance. Leadership
‘is an exercise of power,’15 and so must
be treated with sensitivity – too much
reliance on individual leaders and
charismatic individuals can undermine
group involvement, democracy, and so
sustainability; there is the potential to
reinforce inequitable distributions of
There are a range of styles and
systems of leadership – from personalized
authoritarian leaders, to ‘enabling’
consultative leadership, or ‘collective
leadership’ made by a group of persons
taking joint decisions.16 It can be a
challenge to promote empowering
leadership and visioning in groups, whilst
respecting the norms of community
hierarchy in local contexts, and promoting
accountability and participation.
Traditional institutions and leaders may
demand different approaches to more
formalized organizations with established
NGOs can, however, support leadership
skills of listening, and giving and receiving
feedback, and providing support; we can
encourage deliberative dialogue between
organization leaders and the members
they lead, to promote self-reflection and
evaluation;17 and we can work with key
group members (‘champions for change’),
to build capacity for thinking critically,
identifying problems, setting goals, and
finding solutions collaboratively. This
approach has worked well in Southern
Africa. Throughout, it is important to
plan for turnover of leadership, to ensure