What is capacity building, and how can it help your health service organization grow and thrive? Capacity building means more than just an organization’s current ability to perform its mission; rather, it impacts a nonprofit’s capacity to deliver on goals over time, to expand its capabilities, and to further succeed in its mission or take on more work. In other words, it’s an investment in an organization’s success and sustainability.
In broad terms, capacity building activities encompass anything that enables an organization (or team) to do its job better. Whether capacity improvement leads to a greater scope or increased efficiency, it optimizes the ability of individuals, organizations, communities, and systems to achieve a positive impact on those they serve. For health service organizations, capacity building represents a long-term effort to promote and support healthy, sustainable behaviors and environments.
In this post, we’ll explore capacity building examples in the three primary areas where an organization can look to build capacity: individual, organizational, and systemic.
Individual Capacity Building
Successful implementation begins at the individual level, where capacity building activities increase a worker’s knowledge and skill. An individual who’s been empowered to facilitate change can impact their organization and their community, and they can further work to effect systemic change.
At the individual level, examples of capacity building activities include:
- Training: One-on-one or group training, whether face-to-face or online, can increase personal knowledge and skills surrounding an issue. Individuals receive the tools they need to take meaningful actions and advocate and help educate others in their organization, community, or personal sphere.
- Mentorships: Mentoring provides intensive, personalized guidance and builds knowledge and skills. By learning from those with expertise and experience, mentees can gain confidence and build personal and professional networks.
Organizational Capacity Building
For organizations, capacity building activities may focus on shoring up sustainability, improving governance, supporting collaboration, or strengthening infrastructure. All have a common goal: Strengthening the skills, resources, and abilities that allow an organization and its workers to grow and thrive.
Examples of capacity building activities at the organizational level include:
- Fundraising: Raising the funds to keep nonprofits operating is always a challenge. Capacity building activities that focus on fundraising lead to improved sustainability; this may include training on fundraising techniques, fiscal management, or developing skills.
- Hiring new people or seeking volunteers with expertise: Recruiting (and retaining) staff or volunteers with relevant knowledge and expertise means they can then pass their knowledge along to the rest of the organization. A focus on staffing, both selection and development, can promote organizational stability.
- Forging partnerships with other organizations: Which other organizations are working in your field? Could a partnership complement your mission? In many cases, collaboration makes sense, both in terms of avoiding duplication of services and optimizing the work both groups perform.
- Investing in new IT capacity: New technological innovations can cut down on busywork, freeing staff to do more important tasks. If applicable, new IT systems or platforms represent a smart investment in your organization’s future efficiency.
Systemic Capacity Building
At the systemic level, capacity building can be more complex. With multiple layers and moving parts involved, capacity building activities may focus on policy development, allocation of resources, and political advocacy efforts. Examples may include:
- Lobbying elected officials and lawmakers: Public policy decisions can affect entire populations. Strong, visible, and vocal lobbying efforts have the potential to challenge a range of systemic and cultural norms.
- Raising public awareness: Collaborative action can have a powerful effect, changing public opinion and raising awareness of issues. This may be especially true in the case of healthcare issues.
Capacity building is investment in the long-term health and success of your organization. Engaging in capacity building activities at various levels — individual, organizational, and systemic — can help take your nonprofit to the next level.
Capacity for Health believes in empowering organizations at the foundational level, so you can perform your critical work better and more efficiently. Contact us to see how C4H can help your nonprofit grow and thrive.