No magic formula for capacity building, says Open University report

Willingness to improve 'is strength of CAF grant programme'

There is no single successful approach to third sector capacity-building, according to a report published by the Open University Business School yesterday.

The university reached the conclusion after studying the impact of the Charities Aid Foundation's grant programme, which has distributed £32m since 1976 to develop the capacity of small and medium-sized organisations.

The report, Learning from Capacity Building and Lessons for Other Funders, claims there is "a dearth of good quality research on capacity-building practice in the third sector", but its analysis of CAF's programme suggests there is no magic formula for getting it right.

"There is no one model or approach to successful capacity building," says the report, which was commissioned by CAF. "Each has their potential benefits and challenges, and varied needs demand a considered choice of funding model."

The report says CAF's approach, which involves getting grant recipients to use its own network of consultants, gave it "greater control over the capacity-building processes and developing shared practices and learning".

The report adds: "What has been commendable about working with the CAF grant programme is not that they always succeeded - although they have many notable successes to their credit, but their constant desire to improve and to learn how to do what they already do well even better."

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