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Community Contribution

Development Interventions with CSOs for Systemic Change

Leonardo Escobar and Lucila Serrano

The Civil Society Activity (CSA) seeks to improve institutional capacities and increase the sustainability of Mexican Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to effectively implement programs related to violence prevention, criminal justice reform, and human rights. Initially, we approached this work by focusing on the development of internal capacities. However, early on in implementation, we found that our original Theory of Change (ToC) was limited in responding to CSOs needs and to USAID’s desire to scale up impact. Each of our CSOs was undergoing transformation in their leadership or vision which implied shifting their position within their environments, while facing external challenges. Upon consulting with CSOs and USAID, and embracing a CLA approach, we set out to correct course.

Having established a foundation in internal strengthening per the original program design, we took a moment to pause and reflect on how to scale up our intervention holistically when rethinking the ToC. At this point, our goal expanded. We decided to not only strengthen internal capacities, but also to enhance CSO interactions with diverse actors, and to solidify CSOs’ position within the system. To do so, we adjusted our ToC to focus on improving CSOs’ 1) capacities to collaborate, 2) connections with stakeholders, 3) abilities to develop responsive strategies, and 4) access to resources. This approach combined the principles of Human and Institutional Capacity Development (HICD) with Capacity Development 2.0 and Local Systems frameworks and required us to design interventions through adaptive management, which prompted modifications to the strategy and work plan.

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