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Capacity Building 3.0: How to Strengthen the Social Ecosystem

The social sector has evolved to incorporate multiple stakeholders and organizations to solve social issues, working together in a larger ecosystem to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and scale. The process of building the systems, structures, and skills necessary for success in this environment, commonly referred to as “capacity building,” has played an active role in the social sector since at least the 1970s.

As a term, capacity building has been maligned for vagueness, overuse, and even for being a distraction from the core ethos of doing good. Alternatively, it has also been lauded as a measure of good stewardship, the driver of efficiency and effectiveness, and the key to ultimate success.

We hope that by identifying the issues and providing a framework for discussion, we can enable the field to further advance capacity-building strategy and practice, thereby enhancing the work of a wider range of dedicated and conscientious actors looking to have a positive impact on society.

This paper addresses the evolution of the “who”, “what”, and “how” of capacity building—for whom does capacity need to be built, for what does capacity need to be built, and how that can most effectively occur.

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