Jared Raynor (@jraynor1) recently published an interesting post on “The Return of Capacity Building” in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. In this thoughtful piece he reflects on how capacity-building remains a cornerstone in the social science sector. Jared argues:
Capacity building—the process of building the systems, structures, and skills organizations need to succeed—is getting left behind, and it has nothing to do with the quality or effectiveness of the work. In fact, in 2012, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) reported that “capacity building support was here to stay” and that 30 percent of grantmakers increased the amount of dollars allocated for capacity building in the previous two years. I don’t have any evidence that that trend has changed.
The issue is not that capacity building is not happening, but that other aspects of the field have co-opted the term. The hot topics of today—things like impact investing (or not) and scaling—are advancing the sector, while many long-time practitioners see capacity building as a rubric that organizations either set aside or assume as implicit.
He notes that capacity building has gone through several iterations in the past, but has remained critical for non-profits, businesses and funders. We are now “on the cusp of a new stage of development”, capacity building 3.0 which builds on existing work, rather than supplanting it.
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