China Vision’s Approach To Capacity Development: An Overview
China Vision has been supporting disability rights organisations and self-advocates in China for around 20 years. Our capacity development has been through the provision of funds and also through sharing information, offering advice, training and mentoring and facilitating national and international contacts.
Understanding the needs and current capacities of a partner organisation takes time and there have to be good levels of mutual trust and respect, if partners are to be open about their challenges. China Vision also has to be honest about what it can offer. We are a small organisation with limited resources. We take time to get to know organisations and often collaborate with and support potential partners in small ways as we develop the relationship. We are able to work with established organisations but also with individuals, small groups and networks that may not be formal non-government organisations (NGOs).
In order to support capacity development, China Vision works with its partners to assess their current capacity and their needs. This page sets out our approach. We want our capacity development processes to be collaborative and transparent and so we are happy to share our ideas about capacity development with China Vision partners, potential partners and associates and anyone else who is interested in the topic. Tools referred to in the paper are for China Vision internal use but anyone who wishes to find out more is welcome to contact Theresa Mellon, China Vision Trustee through our website.
The Needs Assessment Process
The needs assessment (NA) process consists of 3 steps:
Step One: Partner Profile
The Profile gives (potential) partners an opportunity to tell us about their organisation in their own words. China Vision will also complete a profile to share with partners.
When dealing with very small and/or new entities, the Partner Profile may be used as an initial needs assessment where it is not appropriate to use a more complex tool.
Conducting a Needs and Capacity Assessment
The purpose of conducting a needs assessment is for the partner organisation to identify its priorities for capacity development. The process should prompt the partner to think beyond the most obvious needs (e.g. we need to get funding) to a deeper analysis (e.g. we need to have a strategy for persuading local companies to support us). For this reason, the Needs Assessment ('NA') should be a collaborative process not a form filling exercise. We encourage partners to involve team members and to consult others who know them to contribute to the NA. Where possible and if acceptable to the partner, we can help facilitate the NA process using some simple tools designed to promote reflection and analysis.
The NA process is designed to help partners recognise their existing strengths and to consider what resources they have to improve their own capacity. It should build confidence not undermine it. For this reason, China Vision does not take a prescriptive approach to NA and collaborates with the partner to find the best approach for them.
Once existing needs and capacities have been identified, there should be a reflection process that enables the partner to clarify their priorities ready to discuss a capacity development plan with China Vision.
Agreeing a Capacity Development Plan
While different approaches can be taken to the NA, we like to have a consistent approach to the action plan that is the result of the process. We use a template for the agreement that sets out the priorities for capacity development as identified in the NA. It specifies the responsibilities of both the partner and China Vision in carrying out the development activities and establishes clear success indicators so that both parties can review progress and eventually evaluate the intervention.
It is important that the plan is flexible, given the rapid changes in the external environment and the likelihood of partners’ needs also changing. The plan can be revisited and amended as often as is needed.
Ways to Develop Capacity
There is a wide range of methods that can be used for learning and development including:
Coaching and mentoring
Accessing articles, books, podcasts, videos and other resource materials
Participating in networks, seminars and conferences
Drawing in external expertise e.g. on-site visits or online consultations with experts in a particular area
Study visits – visiting another organisation or set of organisations to learn about different approaches
Whatever methods are selected, the interventions need to be structured and supported so that the participants gain the most from the experience.
Mentors and Resource People
China Vision Mentors
Where possible and acceptable to the partner, we would like to have a named China Vision team member or associate allocated to the partner as a Mentor. The role of the Mentor is to keep in regular contact with the partner to support them with the Capacity Development Plan. This might take the form of periodic calls or meetings to discuss progress and to offer advice and moral support. The Mentor is not expected to carry out all the capacity development actions themselves but rather to help find relevant resources and resource people who can support the partner. The Mentor also keeps China Vision in touch with developments. The exact nature of the relationship between the Mentor and the partner organisation will depend on the needs and wishes of the partner.
The Mentor needs to have a thorough understanding of the partner and their needs and so where possible, the Mentor should facilitate the NA.
Resource people may be China Vision team members or associates or may be consultants that China Vision brings in to help the partner. The role of the resource person is to carry out a specific activity or set of activities as part of the Capacity Development Plan e.g. facilitating a workshop, advising on a technical issue, suggesting relevant reading material etc.
China Vision’s approach to needs assessment for capacity development consists of three steps:
Obtaining a Partner Profile
Conducting a Needs and Capacity Assessment with the partner
Agreeing a Capacity Development Plan
The approach to needs assessment is flexible. China Vision has developed some tools to support NA and there are other resources available within the NGO sector. It is important that whatever approach is used suits the partner and results in a plan for capacity development. The Partner Profile and Partner Agreement should always be completed.
China Vision will nominate a Mentor to keep in regular contact with the partner and can draw upon other resource people to provide specific capacity development interventions.
It is essential to identify some clear success indicators for each capacity development plan. These will enable both the partner and China Vision to monitor progress and to evaluate success.