Feb 16, 2014
In recent years, the importance of local capacity development has been recognized as an essential element in a Local Organization’s long-term prospects of sustainability. In 2010, USAID Forward was launched with a primary goal of emphasizing local solutions geared toward strengthening a Local Organization’s capacity to promote aid effectiveness and sustainability, while also contributing to country-led solutions. In order to make this goal come to fruition, USAID intends to award 30 percent of its funding directly to Local Organizations, including Local Governments, by FY 15.
So what does this mean for USAID’s Implementing Partners?
For starters, it’s important to note the trend to build capacities required to facilitate the continual growth and sustainability of Local Organizations, including Governments, Civil Society, and the Private Sector, is steadily increasing. The concern however is that the Projects assisting the Local Organizations are often focused primarily on the development of the Organizations’ Technical Capacities, and only in some limited cases, their capacity to better manage their various subcontracts and/or grants. This leads to the enhancement of the Local Organization’s operational efficiency and capacity to work in technical areas such as healthcare, agriculture, climate change, monitoring and evaluation, without adequately addressing other aspects of organizational sustainability.
What these projects fail to emphasize is the development of the Local Organization’s Management Capacities. No matter how proficient the Local Organization is in the technical arena, without strong policies in place, reliable systems at the ready, and properly trained Personnel who are fully capable of handling the various tasks required to achieve success, at best, the Local Organization could continue to acquire limited funding, but the likelihood of their continued growth and sustainability is severely limited.
On the other hand, USAID’s push to work more with Local Organizations brings potential risks for both the Prime Implementer and USAID. This leads Implementers and Donors alike to often wonder, “Do these Local Organizations have the capacity to compliantly manage the funding they are now receiving, whether directly from USAID or through a Prime Contractor or Awardee, to achieve the desired results?”
Currently, there are many assessment tools available to Development Practitioners and the Organizations they work with, but there is no comprehensive methodology in place to adequately benchmark and compare the management capacity of these Organizations, or for a Local Organization to systematically build its own capacity or easily demonstrate its capacity to a potential Prime Contractor or Awardee. Instead, the Local Organization, which already has a limited set of resources (personnel, funding, etc.), finds itself in a position where it has to constantly “prove” itself against the ever changing and usually disparate criteria, before it is finally allowed to join a proposal team or be awarded funding.
To address these issues, not only does the Development Community need to place more emphasis on building and strengthening the management capacity of Local Organizations, it also needs to come to an agreement on a clear and concise way to benchmark and measure the management sophistication of Organizations across multiple technical areas.
Kanava International, in partnership with GlobalWatch Technology and in cooperation with George Mason University, is creating the Impact Strengthening Development (ISD) 9000TM Certification Program to address this gap. ISD 9000TM is a multi-level program designed to provide Donors, the Private Sector, and Non-Profit Organizations with a high level of confidence when partnering with a certified organization. It also presents a systematic methodology for Local Organizations, and U.S. Small Businesses in the development space, to build the capacity required to enhance their management capabilities. The Program focuses on key aspects of an Organization’s business operations, and ensures that its systems, procedures, and properly trained Personnel are in place to be good stewards of the funding granted or contracted to them. At its highest certification level, an Organization participating in this Program would have all the systems needed to bid on any free and open proposal.
ISD 9000TM, an agent of change, not just a seal of approval, is highly participatory. Third Party Vendors based in various parts of the world can work with Local Organizations who wish to attain ISD 9000TM Certification and directly partner with the Target Organizations during the assessment phase, creation of the gap analysis and plan to strengthen their management capacity, and development of the missing policies, systems, procedures, and trained Personnel. It is a system that is a win-win for all parties:USAID, Implementing Partners, and of course, the Local Organizations themselves. But most importantly, ISD 9000TM is a system that provides a methodology that helps Local Organizations become sustainable beyond the short-term focus of assistance under a particular project. Ultimately, the value of ISD 9000TM is to increase the ability of a Certified Organization to attain more funding, whether donor or investment, leading to stronger and more sustainable Organizations in the future.
To learn more about Kanava International, visit their website at kanavainternational.com.