“The old model has been based on [the] mistaken assumption…that it is possible simply to ignore existing capacities in developing countries and replace them with knowledge and systems produced elsewhere—a form of development as displacement, rather than development as transformation.”Capacity for Development: New Solutions to Old Problems, United Nations Development Programme

Counterpart has been a leader in capacity strengthening for more than 55 years, in support of more than 10,000 organizations worldwide, ranging from informal community-based groups to leading non-governmental institutions and networks. Our mission is to promote the development of organizations to be capable of tackling some of the world’s greatest civil society challenges.

To respond to constantly evolving contexts, Counterpart is committed to taking stock, reflecting, and learning about what works about our capacity strengthening frameworks and what needs to be re-thought to meet the challenges faced by civil society in sustainable and relevant ways.

After several months of co-creation activities, Counterpart is launching our refreshed Organizational Development (OD) and Capacity Strengthening Framework.  This innovative framework includes our fundamental principles and the building blocks we apply in our work.

To refresh our approach, we looked at lessons and resources from around the world and engaged more than 15 experts in capacity strengthening and other fields, as well as local organizations and partners from different country contexts. Through a facilitated and participatory process, they discussed their challenges, best practices, and successes.

At Counterpart, we see capacity strengthening as the process through which organizations develop and maintain the capacities and skills to set and achieve their own organizational development objectives. To be considered successful, capacity strengthening must bring about transformation that is generated and sustained from within and focuses on what the organizations will be able to achieve and deliver in the civil society system.

New capacity strengthening approaches aim to support local actors in their journey to becoming more resilient and self-reliant. Research conducted by experts supports the notion that organizations that actively build their capacities are in a better position to deliver on their mission and to ensure greater social impact.

This modernized approach highlights new kinds of capacity strengthening that lead to organizational transformational change, thrivability, resilience, and synergy with other key stakeholders and constituents. Drawing from our experience, we have updated framework building blocks to ensure that all capacity strengthening actions honor and respect our seven fundamental principles:

  • Mission-driven
  • Locally-owned
  • Holistic
  • Mindful and respectful of our partners
  • Based on learning and knowledge
  • Trust-based, with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the forefront

Our approach has been proven successful in different countries. In the Rights and Dignity Project in El Salvador, capacity strengthening has been a whole of team effort in support to committed, mission-driven, and highly motivated human rights organizations. The team promoted the co-creation of an OD Community of Practice that is led and sustained by the local partners. This is a space for the organizations to reflect on their accomplishments and their areas for continued improvement, share best practices, and discuss the challenges they face. They have also incorporated technical matters, such as intersectionality and inclusion, in the discussions.

The Community of Practice allows the organizations to own their OD efforts, which ensures sustainability. This space has generated trust and meaningful relationships among organizations; it has also motivated them to go out of traditional civic spaces to generate amplified social movements and dialogue.

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