In 2020, INTRAC convened organisational development experts from a range of organisations and contexts. This project, supported by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, explored capacity strengthening during COVID-19 and the effect of the pandemic on civil society. We held discussions between practitioners based in Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Canada, and the UK and produced several publications which are now accessible to all.

The organisational development experts included:

Sessions 1 and 2 (April and July 2020)

In these first sessions, the conversation focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on capacity strengthening of civil society in the contexts in which the project partners are working. Based on these discussions, INTRAC’s Rick James outlined common challenges to providers, opportunities for action, and the changing emphases in capacity building in his paper: “Cultivating capacity amidst COVID-19”.

Session 3 (September 2020)

The third and final group meeting focused on decolonising capacity strengthening. This conversation tied into ongoing discussions in thecivil society sector about shifting the power and ‘building back better’, as well as a rekindled global Black Lives Matter movement. The dialogue paper titled “Global perspectives on decolonising capacity strengthening”, outlines the group’s perspectives on what decolonising capacity strengthening really means in their work.

Joint webinar (November 2020)

In November 2020, these discussions were extended beyond the project group with a webinar that explored the implications of 2020 on capacity strengthening of civil society. Participants discussed how foundations can effectively support capacity strengthening and what this may mean for the day-to-day work of programme staff in the future.

The online event was attended by staff from the Packard Foundation, Ford Foundation, Oak Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, PeaceNexus Foundation and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

Other publications and next steps

Over the course of 2021 we will further explore the questions and dilemmas in supporting capacity strengthening as the pandemic continues to have a major impact on the work and development of CSOs around the world.