JLBC: Culture is significantly more critical

JLBC: Culture is significantly more critical

Culture is significantly more critical in non‐profits than in for-profit businesses, as it is often the glue that holds the organization together. This importance makes it especially difficult to change. Any capacity-building activity must be effective in the existing culture; it must also be designed to change the organizational culture.

Venture Philanthropy Partners differentiate between aspects of an organization's culture. An organization's core values, beliefs, and behavior norms differ from its performance orientation or performance culture. Organizations with a culture where performance is highly valued (i.e., strong performance culture) are more likely to be successful in their capacity-building efforts. However, building this type of culture requires a substantial commitment of time and resources and a strategic and intellectual approach for it to be successful.

• Readiness

The concept of readiness can be vague, but its importance to successful capacity building cannot be ignored. Organizational readiness to undertake capacity-building efforts affects the implementation of successful strategies. While the initial challenge is enticing organizations to undertake capacity-building work, this is only successful if the motivation is present. The literature does suggest some indicators of readiness, such as openness to learning and change, organizational stability, and absence of crises, as well as the availability of necessary resources and leadership.

The research also demonstrates that organizations know best what they need to build capacity. Funders can help prepare organizations to work on capacity-building by funding organizational reviews or organizational skills assessments. Activities such as these can help design an organization to undertake more comprehensive and targeted development work.

Challenges to Capacity Building

The literature in this area raises several challenges to capacity-building activities to build organizational effectiveness. These challenges stem from the lack of clear understanding around capacity building, little attention or effort to framing capacity building initiatives, lack of appropriate support for practical activities, and mixed evidence supporting capacity building outcomes.

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