In this Prosper resource Gill Thewlis explores the concept of Capacity Building within the context of the arts, cultural and heritage sector; and provides a seven-point approach to building capacity in organisations.
As leader of your organisation how often have you said, “we just don’t have the capacity”? — I guess this is a common refrain.
This might be in relation to a new project, some research and development (R&D), exploring new ways of bringing income into the organisation, or just keeping your head above water in your existing delivery.
There are never quite enough hours in the day for most of us, and it’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day and always look at our toes and lose sight of the horizon completely. We drift into ways of working that are not efficient or easily effective, and this can be a difficult thing to change by ourselves. So, usually we need some assistance to understand how best to change this, someone to hold up a mirror to us and our practice.
Capacity Building as a term in the arts has been mostly used in relation to diversifying funding. Arts Council England Catalyst programmes, which ran from 2012-2016 have funded organisational capacity building as well as matched additional funds raised as a result.
Capacity building in the wider voluntary sector is applied to a broader range of activities and is focused on things you might do to:
- Expand your organisation
- Change its direction
- Make it more effective in delivery
The term is also commonly used for overseas development in NGO’s, but the principles ideas and practice of capacity development apply to any organisation. The UN defines it as:
“The ability of individuals, institutions, and societies to perform functions, solve problems and set and achieve objectives in a sustainable manner.”
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