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Building capacity…

By 6th July 2010No Comments

‘Building capacity’ – quite possibly one of the most hackneyed terms in the whole of the humanitarian / international development realm.

I have misgivings about the term ‘building capacity’ – if we’re going to do anything with (or to) capacity, then let’s acknowledge that it almost certainly exists already (to a greater or lesser extent), and let’s talk about ‘strengthening capacity‘ instead.

Anyhow, I have noticed a growing trend for ‘capacity builders’ in the humanitarian and international development sector, and discussions with corporate sector HR Directors and Organisational Development colleagues confirms that this trend is evident elsewhere too. It seems that right-thinking front line managers are short-circuiting less-than-agile HR departments and Training and Development specialists to secure funding to implement innovative, grass-roots, capacity strengthening initiatives, with coaching and mentoring support well embedded.

Time will tell whether this is good or bad, but for now, it simply ‘is’. There’s clearly an opportunity for capacity builders to align with existing specialists, be they in HR or Learning / Training & Development, but as long as donors (and therefore funding) shift their focus to capacity strengthening, then astute organisations will adapt their structures and ensure the best people managers benefit from available investment.

I have a strong hunch it’s a good thing. It will disrupt the traditional orthodoxies, and organisational structures, but if it increases organisational effectiveness and enhances impact, especially at a local or field level, then great.

It’s going to be interesting seeing how this plays out over the next couple of years or so!

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Ben Emmens