In June and July of 2020, INTRAC ran a brand-new online course on partner capacity strengthening. Taught by Lucy Morris and Catherine Squire, the course aimed to leave participants better equipped to tackle the challenges of capacity strengthening and organisational development work with local partners.
One of the very first civil society professionals to undertake the course was Colleen Koki. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Colleen works for Plan International as a Sponsorship Manager. She kindly took the time to answer some questions from INTRAC about her role, the course, and the lessons she will take from it into her work.
How would you describe your role?
My role is mainly providing strategic direction in the sponsorship department – mainly through partnership building with various stakeholders (including communities, partners, and National Offices). I also provide technical advice to support project design and implementation. I also support field offices in partnership management especially for 17 CBOs that are engaged to deliver on a sponsorship programme.
Before attending the course, what were you expecting? What did you hope to learn?
My expectation was to acquire more skills and knowledge on capacity building of partners. The skills I have been applying in partnerships is not acquired through trainings, but mostly through experiences in working with CBOs/on job training/mentorship and coaching. More specifically, I was expecting this course to give me knowledge/skills in developing assessment tools as well as the best process of conducting capacity assessment. This is because Plan Kenya was planning to carry out capacity assessments of 17 local partners engaged through the sponsorship programme from July- September 2020.
What were the most important things you learned on the course?
The course reinforced to me the idea that ownership is critical. The leadership and staff in an organisation should see the need for change, and they must be part of the whole process. Everyone should be included at all levels of capacity strengthening. Organisations are made up of human beings and so we must take time to understand the culture of organizations. This can only be done if we make time to learn and work with partners. We must be able to see beyond the surface level. We must invest properly in capacity building – that means not only resources, but also time and relationship-building. Finally, there are many capacity strengthening methods. It’s not always about training – the right methods have to be chosen based on the circumstances.
If you could share just one learning from the course that others could benefit from, what would it be?
Characteristics of a capacity building provider/facilitator. As defined by Walter Wright “it all starts with character – who we are – because who we are shapes everything we do and everyone we touch”. It’s critical for capacity strengthening facilitators to bring the right attitudes as this is major determinant of successful capacity strengthening. Sometimes, success or failure in developing others can be as a result of right or wrong character!