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Municipalities: The Missing Link To Social Sector Capacity Building

Debika Shome, Affiliate, Nonprofit Effectiveness

When it comes to capacity building, my colleagues and I have seen a noteworthy increase in municipalities interested in strengthening the social sector at the local level. Capacity Building 3.0 – TCC Group’s collaborative approach – calls for elevating the capacity of all players in the social sector to achieve greater impact. If we consider which players have the greatest potential reach and influence to lead in capacity building, why has so little attention been directed at municipalities?

TCC Group has worked on building the capacity of the nonprofit sector locally, regionally, and nationally for over 35 years. Through our work in the field, we have found government agencies are often the critical (and missing) link to building and sustaining a strong social sector.

Cities are accustomed to providing services to nonprofits and individual citizens. They establish and regulate policy change focused on the public good, and serve as the backbone to our society’s infrastructure. Traditionally, city funding has been tied to programmatic support with a focus on outputs instead of outcomes. But more recently, the social sector has seen the beginnings of a shift towards system-wide outcomes and the interdependence of all the players in the social sector – including municipalities.

The City of New York, in partnership with TCC Group, is working on an exciting initiative to build the capacity of nonprofits providing services to NYC residents. In early June, 100 nonprofits will take the Core Capacity Assessment Tool (CCAT) at no cost to them, to determine their organizational effectiveness and generate an actionable capacity building plan. Depending on the way this initial pilot round of 100 organizational assessments goes, the city may consider administering the CCAT to all 500 nonprofits with which it contracts.

As a leading tool for assessing organizational effectiveness, the CCAT provides each participating nonprofit with a customized report, a snapshot of an organization’s strengths and challenges, and a benchmark report in comparison to 5,000+ nonprofits that have taken the CCAT previously. Nonprofits that use this self-assessment tool and walk through a facilitated analysis of the results benefit from increased knowledge of organizational capacity building, greater awareness of the targeted areas they most urgently need to address, and a roadmap for making change.

From our vantage point, few municipalities are currently investing in building capacity of the social sector in this way and at this scale. New York City’s focus on city-wide capacity building is a pilot example of putting theory into practice on a large scale, and is a significant step in the direction of collaborative, community-wide thinking.

Think about your city, regional, or state municipality. How are they engaging in your community’s capacity building conversation?

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