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USAID Contribution

New Directions in Local Capacity Development: Embracing a Systems Perspective


Root Change’s work for the USAID Learning Agenda on Local Organization Capacity Development (LA), corroborates the main finding from the LA fieldwork – foreign assistance has largely ignored the emergence of complexity-informed approaches to the aid challenge, and in particular, capacity development. 

Root Change, in conjunction with the USAID Learning Agenda on Local Organization Capacity Development, set out to better understand the systems view and the importance it places on intangibles, such as trusting relationships and tapping into the power of social bridging and bonding social capital. Four questions emerged from our deep engagement with the topic:

  1. How is capacity built at the local level, and how does foreign assistance influence the process?
  2. Under what local circumstances, if any, is the management-centered approach effective at creating sustainable organizational capacity? 
  3. What capacity development practices have the greatest positive and negative effects on organizational development outcomes?
  4. How can weaknesses in our practices be addressed, and how can strengths be leveraged?

Organizational network analysis (ONA) techniques used in the study highlight the importance of these relationships between actors who include funding agencies, local NGOs (LNGOs), international NGOs (INGOS), government, and private sector entities. The promise of this systems-oriented approach is that it can be used to combine qualitative data about organizational capacity, with a deeper understanding of an organization’s ties and linkages. 

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