Capacity Builder Convergences

Aspiration and FabRiders co-organize an ongoing series of Capacity Builder Convergences.

These community meetings are envisioned as a collaborative and supportive environment to connect the broad range of practitioners who enable other organizations and individuals to strengthen their strategies, principles, practices and sustainability. We aim to explore and promote open principles and participatory approaches while sharing methodologies and practices that can be applied to our work.

You might identify as a capacity builder if you:

  • Work with organizations to help them develop and strengthen internal and external capacity in their programmatic and operational work
  • Provide mentoring, training or advising to NGO management and/or staff
  • Offer on-demand or ongoing support to civil society organizations addressing security, financial or other organizational health needs
  • Develop open resources to be used by those working for social and racial justice

If you have interest in meeting, sharing and collaborating with others working in the broad range of practice areas collectively known as "capacity building", Capacity Builder Convergences aim to connect interested practitioners and map what our field looks like and envision what it could be. Who is doing this work and who is missing? Who are we serving or failing to serve? Who is benefiting from our collective capacity building activities, and how can we do better, in terms of centering equity, maximizing inclusion, and increasing our collective impact?

#CapacityCon is envisioned to strengthen the field by better understanding the support that practitioners ourselves need, and in turn, identifying means to build solidarity across all of our practice areas.

Get involved!

The March 2024 Session will focus on "What is your capacity building strategy?", and will take place on Monday, March 11th from 15.00 to 16.30 UTC. As capacity builders we often find ourselves guiding our clients in setting their own strategies. But what about our own? This session will be structured to allow each participant to share and compare how they set capacity building goals, and how in turn we map those objectives to strategic work streams and tactical activities.

To participate, email your RSVP to capacitycon@aspirationtech.org to let us know you will be joining

In addition, we welcome you to join this growing community in ongoing peer knowledge sharing:

  • Join our collaborative, non-noisy mailing list, where questions are always welcome and upcoming convergences are announced and planned.
  • Reach out and let us know what kind of support and collaboration you are looking for, as welcome new ideas and very much want to support a broad range of needs and interests. We are always up for a conversation to discuss the field or to learn about your specific interests and needs.
  • Help us spread the word about these convergences using the hashtag #CapacityCon on Twitter and Mastodon.

  • Follow @AspirationTech on Mastodon, Bluesky, and Twitter and @FabRider on Twitter and Mastodon.

Background

Across nonprofit and civil society ecosystems, a range of organizations and practitioners self-identify as "capacity builders", working to strengthen the sustainability and resilience of individuals and organizations so they can more fully participate, contribute and lead in justice movements and movement building.

Capacity builders do this work out of a passion for teaching, supporting, serving and building. We are most often generous with knowledge and focused on collective impact and network solidarity. We welcome opportunities to compare practices, share knowledge and deepen relationships with others doing related work.

As ubiquitous as capacity builders are across the NGO sector, it is too often the case that we don't identify or operate as a field, or as a rich and diverse community of practice. We are often placed in competitive rather than collaborative circumstances with one another due to the funder-driven nature of service delivery. Resource constraints can also incline relationships between capacity builders and clients to be more transactional rather than oriented around mutual aid or solidarity.

We think we need to hang out more, both to discuss all the above as well as to share skills, knowledge, experiences and visions.

While some discipline-specific communities exist to connect those working in areas such as digital security and data literacy, there are not many broad-based spaces for capacity builders to connect and explore the full range of relevant knowledge domains, from business models and client relations to intellectual property practices, self-care and ongoing learning.

Capacity Builders Convergences

The first Capacity Builders Convergence took place in April 2022, online.

Since then, we have convened online about once per quarter, on a range of themes.

The March 2024 Session will focus on "What is your capacity building strategy?", and will take place on Monday, March 11th from 15.00 to 16.30 UTC. As capacity builders we often find ourselves guiding our clients in setting their own strategies. But what about our own? This session will be structured to allow each participant to share and compare how they set capacity building goals, and how in turn we map those objectives to strategic work streams and tactical activities.

To participate, email your RSVP to capacitycon@aspirationtech.org to let us know you will be joining

Previous sessions have addressed a range of topics:

  • The January 2024 Session focused on "How do we know if our work is making a difference? Comparing approaches to measuring the effectiveness of capacity building work we do". Those present shared insights on how to evaluate work being done, and surfaced questions and challenges encountered in working to achieve the same. The discussion focused on both near-term measurement, such as feedback practices, as well as more longitudinal measurement, evaluation and frameworks for assessing impact.
  • The October 2023 Session focused on "Comparing philosophies, practices and purposes in our Capacity Building". While earlier sessions focused on more specific topics and disciplines, for this session we "zoomed out" and discuss why and how we do this work. Why are you a "capacity builder"? How do you interpret that role in your work, and what drives your passion and vision? What principles and analysis inform your practices and approaches?
  • The July 2023 session focused on "Time Management". In an ever-more time-sliced, multi-tasked, over-scheduled world, the art and science of managing the minutes and hours of each working day has become more of a challenge. What practices are people using to be sustainable and effective in how you manage your time and others'? We explored a range of related topics including managing, prioritizing and tracking individual time and tasks, strategies for managing complex and overlapping calendars, best and equitable practices for managing or facilitating other people's time, as well as setting boundaries around what and how to spend time.
  • The May 2023 session focused on "Navigating and Nurturing Organizational Culture". Capacity Builders shared experiences and questions from both our own and other organizations evolution and and growth, and in particular how to improve and strengthen "organizational culture", including analyzing the nature of relationships and power dynamics that exist within organizations we are asked to support.
  • The February 2023 session focused on "All Things Facilitation". Many in our network have indicated that conversations about facilitating meetings, events, discussions and processes are a priority, so we dedicated the February session to building and sharing those skills and practices.
  • The November 2022 theme was "Facilitating Power and Power Dynamics". As capacity builders, we are often find ourselves mediating across and through spectrums of power. Sometimes this involves buffering those with more power, and other times it involves centering and lifting up those with less power. We also experience power dynamics every time we negotiate for our services, define our agency and role in projects, or evaluate our impact in programs and interventions. We focused on how to observe, name and address individual power, organizational power, and other power dynamics, and shared practical tactics and approaches for modulating, countering and inverting the same.
  • The theme of the September 2022 Convergence was "The business side of capacity building", making space for conversations about "paying for the work" and "making the work pay". Conversations were developed to benefit both those operating as independent consultants or small service organizations, as well as those operating within larger organizations.
  • The June 2022 convergence focused on peer skill sharing and collaborative knowledge exchange on a range of topics.

The agenda for each convergence is co-created with confirmed participants in the time leading up to the meeting.

To participate, just email us and let us know about your current capacity building work, how this convening could be useful to you and what you might learn and share with other practitioners. There is no charge to participate.

"Where the why meets the how. Where the doers of the work that matters work to do better."

Participant, Dev Summit
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