How To Make It Work – Our Approach to Capacity Building

How to organise a project to build capacity? Measuring impact beyond satisfaction? In this post, we at HURIDOCS share some of our approaches.

By Friedhelm Weinberg on

It is the people that count. Our focus is technology with human rights organisations: We build databases, case management systems or websites. But a tool is always there for someone, be it a grassroots activist, who needs to swiftly and securely transfer information about what she witnessed; or an analyst, who monitors trends and alerts his advocacy team; or a lawyer, who works on cases and needs to seamlessly collaborate with colleagues over a submission.

It is this someone we spend a lot of time with, go into detail about what she and he need to do their work better. Our partners are diverse: large regional organisations, leading NGOs, NHRIs, grassroots coalitions, and we care about every single one of them. This is why it’s seldom just a training, just an implementation of an off-the-shelf tool, but a mutual exchange during which we work on building the skills necessary and design the solution that works. It takes time, but it is worth it.

At RightsCon, together with a number of other organisations, we are looking to at what works and what does not in technology-centred capacity building with human rights organisations. It will be great to learn from others, exchange and jointly build new strategies for achieving more lasting impact.

To provide some food for thought for this dialogue, we want to share our methodology. We hope participants and others find it interesting and appreciate all feedback.

DEMIR – The Life Cycle of a Project

  • Definition: we always start out with a needs assessment, where we meet with the NGO and define together what needs to be done.
  • Exploration: then we spend some weeks exploring what are the best options: what kind of website or database, what technology, what developers.
  • Modelling: then we make a proposal, with deliverables, timeline, project team, and budget.
  • Implementation: then we implement the project.
  • Review: we then review the results, extract good practices, learn from mistakes and adapt our model

This methodology guides our ongoing project work and has been developed together with John Lannon from Leeds Metropolitan University.

SMAIL – More Than Happy Faces

Of particular relevance for us is to see after a project what the community and we can take away from it. This is why we follow a structured review process that we call SMAIL. Read out it sounds like smile, but happy about the outcome is far from the only indicator that defines success for us.

  • Satisfaction: Are the beneficiaries satisfied with our work, both tangible results and relationship experience? Quality, timeliness, attentiveness, relevance?
  • Mastery: Have new information handling skills and techniques been mainstreamed into the practices of the organisation, as measured 6 months after the end of the project?
  • Autonomy: Has the organisation taken additional ICT initiatives, on its own steam, to apply the learning acquired during the project?
  • Impact: has the project led to tangible benefits for the beneficiary? Increased efficiency, effectiveness and performance? Better advocacy reach or ability to produce knowledge? Better services to their beneficiaries? Unplanned benefits like increased funding?
  • Learning: What can we extract from this project in terms of substantive knowledge or tools that can be re-used on subsequent projects and shared with our network? What mistakes did we make? How can we improve our project management process and organisational change management methodologies?

Like what you are reading here? Got ideas? Want to start a debate? Comment here or get in touch using our contact form. We look forward to exchange on this, during RightsCon, afterwards, on and offline.

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