What YOU Can Do To Build Capacity
Capacity building efforts include a wide variety of activities—from formal leadership development projects and community wide planning events to less formal activities that build consensus, trust, and camaraderie (Rural Economic Policy Program, 1996, pg. 6). As you adopt a capacity building mindset, you might ask yourself and your community partners some of these questions about the ABCDs of capacity building in practice. Click on the buttons below to learn more about the ABCDs of capacity building.
ADOPT a capacity building mindset
- What kinds of opportunities can be created so that the community partners can grow in capacity and you can grow in your capacity to collaborate with community partners?
- What are current strengths and capacities upon which the collaboration can be built?
- What capacities have your community partners prioritized as areas for more development?
- What might you and your community partners learn by working together?
- How can you work together with your partners in a way that builds lasting change?
BROADEN the community partners' access to and network of resources
- Who are key people or organizations that might contribute resources to this community work?
- Who do you know who can make introductions to these key people and organizations?
- How might you involve these key people in this collaborative work?
- How might connections to this expanding network of resources be sustained?
CREATE a culture of empowerment and shared learning
- How might you and your community partner learn new ideas and practices together?
- In what ways might new knowledge be put into practice or new skills turned into new habits?
- How might that learning be preserved and transmitted to others so that community work continues over time?
- What ways might there be to acknowledge, affirm, and celebrate the new ideas and practices?
DEVELOP structures that re-enforce new learning or habits
- Would flowcharts, checklists, or forms help new practices take root?
- Would a set of procedures, policies, or a guidebook serve as a reminder of new practices?
- Would orientation materials, training guides, or evaluations solidify new ways of doing things in the community?
- Would a webpage, toolkit, or video archive capture knowledge for others? Or would a song, poem, painting, or other creative activity be more effective in the particular culture and context in your community?
In short, you can contribute to capacity building by being mindful and focused on ways in which you and your community partner can go about your collaborative community work so that lasting change takes root and grows over time. The capacity building mindset requires listening and patience. For some, it is challenging, but the long-term benefits often outweigh the short-term difficulties.
A Conversation in the Kitchen
Alicia was grateful that her assignment to Riverfront was for the full semester. She took her time settling in. Luckily, her class schedule was open during the timeslot of their weekly staff meeting. Alicia decided to attend the staff meetings to get to know everyone better and to understand more of what the organization was trying to achieve. She often stayed after staff meetings and helped to tidy up the conference room and put the dishes in the dishwasher.
One day after the staff meeting, she found herself talking with Zoe and another employee, Ryan, about the webpage. When she looked up at the clock, she couldn't believe an entire hour had gone by just talking in the kitchen.
Alicia made sure she wrote about this conversation in her service-learning journal. At first, I felt like I was wasting my time just chatting in the kitchen, but then I realized I learned more about what Zoe really wanted for the webpage in that one hour conversation in the kitchen than I did in all of our formal meetings. I also got to know Ryan a little bit more.
Have you ever learned something valuable through an informal conversation? How did
it help you with your community work?
Often times informal conversations can help you uncover valuable information that you can use to help build strong community partnerships that are sustainable. Through informal conversations you might learn about goals, interests, preferences, desires, and skills of the people you're working with.