Organizational Capacity: A Building Block for Sustainability for National NTD Programs

November 23rd, 2016


Ghanaian girl gets a blood test to check for neglected tropical disease infections. Photo: FHI 360

Organizational capacity includes the systems, processes, tools, leadership, and staff, across organizational functions, which enable the achievement of results. By strengthening organizational capacity, we help Neglected Tropical Disease Programs (NTDPs) to develop systems and processes for effectively carrying out financial analysis, strategic planning, partnership activities, advocacy, and communications activities. Effective implementation of these functions is essential to maintaining long-term program sustainability. From the perspective of sustainability planning, NTDP capacity consists of the capacity of both individuals and the organization. As many NTDPs face the very real challenges of staff attrition and personnel turnover, organizational capacity is the “glue” that holds a program’s sustainability planning process together; therefore, it is an important investment for NTDPs.

In the development business, some organizations put their efforts into winning funds or grants from donors, but then neglect the need to build organizational and internal capacity to manage the funds effectively. Such organizations may then find themselves unable to create lasting impact with their new resources if funds are mismanaged or depleted internally. However, by investing adequate resources in strengthening local capacity for organizational management before accepting an increase in funding, NTDPs can avoid such scenarios.

One tool that can help improve organizational capacity is the maturity model, which supports NTDPs in completing an organizational current state analysis. The maturity model enables organizations to use funds effectively by revealing programmatic gaps and areas where organizational capacity needs to be improved. For example, participating in a maturity model exercise enabled a sub-Saharan African country to uncover previously hidden gaps in its supply chain and inventory management processes that had led to mismanagement of donor funding. Following the maturity model exercise, the NTDP was able to strengthen its organizational capacity and improve programmatic outcomes. In another country, the maturity model revealed a need for a finance strategy. Once the country’s NTDP addressed that need, it was able to mobilize additional resources and build strategic partnerships.

The completion of a maturity model is not an outcome unto itself. Rather, the value of completing a maturity model is that the resulting data is then used to better understand the current and desired capacity and the performance of an organization. By painting a clearer picture of both current operations and its desired level of functionality, the tool enables the organization to define specific actions and interventions that can improve capacity and performance across a variety of functions as well as reduce organizational inefficiencies.

Several years ago, the Ghana NTDP used the maturity model to take an in-depth look at its organizational capacity and operational performance. Reflecting on the value of this exercise, Ghana’s NTD Program Manager Dr. Nana-Kwadwo Biritwum said, “the increased management capacity of [Ghana Health Services] staff contributes to productive interactions with colleagues across the Ministry of Health. Combining both management skills and epidemiological knowledge improves efficiency and effectiveness of NTD surveillance and [mass drug administration] assessments in Ghana.”

Because it provides clarity on areas that may likely benefit if improved, NTDPs need to engage in a maturity modeling exercise before beginning intensive work on improving the functional building blocks of sustainability—organizational capacity, financial analysis, advocacy and communications, and social strategic partnerships. With the new clarity they gain following the maturity model exercise, NTDPs can focus their efforts and dollars on implementing effective changes to build robust organizational capacity to support long-term program sustainability.