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Components that Change as it gets Stronger

by Phil Bartle, PhD

Workshop Handout

Capacity growth includes empowerment and strengthening in various directions.
Here are sixteen elements of an organization that change as it gets stronger.


The proportion of, and degree to which, individuals are ready to sacrifice benefits to themselves for the benefit of the organization as a whole (reflected in degrees of generosity, individual humility, communal pride, mutual supportiveness, loyalty, concern, camaraderie, sister/brotherhood).

As an organization develops more altruism, it develops more capacity. (Where individuals, families or factions are allowed to be greedy and selfish at the expense of the organization, this weakens the organization).

Common Values:

The degree to which members of the organization share values, especially the idea that they belong to a common entity that supersedes the interest of members within it.

The more that an organization's members share, or at least understand and tolerate, each others values and attitudes, the stronger their organization will be. (Racism, prejudice and bigotry weaken a community or organization).

Communal Services:

An organization's facilities and services (such as office space, equipment, washrooms, tools, supplies, access to toilets and other personal staff facilities, working facilities, physical plant, potable water), their upkeep (dependable maintenance and repair), sustainability, and the degree to which all the organization's members have access to them.

The more that members have access to needed communal (group) facilities, the greater their capacity, the greater the capacity of the organization.


Within an organization, and between itself and outside, communication includes speaking, electronic methods (eg telephone, radio, TV, InterNet), printed media (newspapers, magazines, books), networks, mutually understandable languages, literacy and the willingness and ability to communicate (which implies tact, diplomacy, willingness to listen as well as to talk) in general.

As a organization gets better communication, it gets stronger (communication equipment, methods and practices available to staff). Poor communication means a weak organization.


While expressed in individuals, how much confidence is shared among the organization as a whole? eg an understanding that the organization can achieve what ever it wishes to do.

Positive attitudes, willingness, self motivation, enthusiasm, optimism, self-reliant rather than dependency attitudes, willingness to fight for its rights, avoidance of apathy and fatalism, a vision of what is possible. Increased strength includes increased confidence.

Context (Political and Administrative):

An organization will be stronger, more able to get stronger and sustain its strength more, the more it exists in an environment that supports that strengthening. This environment includes (1) political (including the values and attitudes of the leaders, laws and legislation) and (2) administrative (attitudes of civil servants and technicians, as well as Governmental regulations and procedures) elements. The legal environment.

When politicians, leaders, technocrats and civil servants, as well as their laws and regulations, take a patronizing approach, the organization is weak, while if they take an enabling approach to the organization acting on a self-managed basis, the organization will be stronger.


More than just having or receiving unprocessed information, the strength of the organization depends upon the ability to process and analyse that information, the level of awareness, knowledge and wisdom found among key individuals and within the group as a whole.

When information is more effective and more useful, not just more in volume, the organization will have more strength. (Note that this is related to, but differs from, the communication element listed above).


What is the extent and effectiveness of animation (management training, awareness raising, stimulation) aimed at strengthening the organization? Do outside or internal powers increase the level of dependency and weaken the organization, or do they challenge the organization's members to act and therefore become stronger?

Is the intervention sustainable or does it depend upon decisions by outside donors who have different goals and agendas than the organization itself? When an organization has more sources of stimulation to develop, it has more strength.


Leaders have power, influence, and the ability to move the organization. The more effective its leadership, the more stronger is an organization. The most effective and sustainable leadership (for strengthening the organization, not just strengthening the leaders) is one that operates so as to follow the decisions and desires of the organization as a whole, to take an enabling and facilitating role.

Leaders must possess skills, willingness, and some charisma. The more effective the leadership, the more capacity has the organization. (Lack of good leadership weakens it).


It is not just "what you know," but also "who you know" that can be a source of strength. (As is often joked, not only "know-how," but also "know-who" gets jobs). What is the extent to which the organization's members, especially leaders, know persons (and their agencies or organizations) who can provide useful resources that will strengthen the organization as a whole?

The useful linkages, potential and realized, that exist within the organization and with others outside it. The more effective the network, the stronger the community. (Isolation produces weakness).


The degree to which different members of the organization see themselves as each having a role in supporting the whole (in contrast to being a mere collection of separate individuals), including (in the sociological sense) organizational integrity, structure, procedures, decision making processes, effectiveness, division of labour and complementarity of roles and functions.

The more organized, or the more effectively organized, an organization is, the more capacity or strength it has.

Political Power:

The degree to which the organization can participate in national and district decision making. Just as individuals have varying power within an organization, so organizations have varying power and influence within the district and nation.

The more political power and influence that an organization can exercise, the higher level of capacity it has.


The ability, manifested in individuals, that will contribute to the organization and the ability of it to get things done that it wants to get done, technical skills, management skills, organizational skills, mobilization skills.

The more skills (group or individual) that an organization can obtain and use, the more empowered is that organization.


The degree to which members of the organization trust each other, especially their leaders, which in turn is a reflection of the degree of integrity (honesty, dependability, openness, transparency, trustworthiness) within the organization.

More trust and dependability within an organization reflects its increased capacity. (Dishonesty, corruption, embezzlement and diversion of organizational resources all contribute to organizational weakness).


Unity means a shared sense of belonging to a known entity (ie the group composing the organization). Although every organization has divisions or schisms (religious, class, status, income, age, gender, ethnicity, clans), the degree to which its members are willing to tolerate the differences and variations among each other and are willing to cooperate and work together, a sense of a common purpose or vision, shared values.

When an organization is more unified, it is stronger. (Unity does not mean that everyone is the same, but that everyone tolerates, even celebratres, each others' differences, and works for the common good).


The degree to which the organization as a whole (in contrast to individuals within it) has control over actual and potential resources , and the production and distribution of scarce and useful goods and services, monetary and non monetary (including labour, land, equipment, supplies, knowledge, skills).

The more wealthy an organization, the stronger it is. (When greedy individuals, families or factions accrue wealth at the expense of the organization as a whole, that weakens the organization).


The more any organization has of each of the above elements, the stronger it is, the more capacity it has, and the more empowered it is.

An organization does not become stronger simply by adding a few more facilities. Strengthening or capacity building involves social change – development – and that, in turn, involves all sixteen of the above elements of strength.

Measuring These Elements:

Participatory methods to measure changes in these elements, thus changes in the strength of the target community, are in the training module: Measuring Strength.


© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle
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Last update: 2012.09.06

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