Oxfam Canada’s Capacity Assessment Tool for Gender-Just Organizational Strengthening

by Oxfam Canada | March 16, 2021
Background media: Two Indigenous women participate in a training and induction session for the Camino Verde program in Guatemala.

In 2009, Oxfam Canada piloted a set of practical tools to support the implementation of its global capacity strengthening strategy for women’s rights and gender justice with a diverse set of local civil society partners.

These tools were developed in response to a number of challenges:

  • We wanted to link gender-sensitive, institutional capacity assessment to the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of capacity strengthening programming. A number of the tools we had used in the past were not strong on gender and/or failed to sufficiently integrate needs assessment within the broader framework of program cycle management.
  • We needed a flexible set of tools, attentive to the complexity inherent in organizational capacity strengthening as well as to the diversity of our partner portfolio: we work with mixed organizations as well as women’s and feminist organizations, our partners are of varied sizes, formations and at different stages of organizational growth, and they work in very different regional and country contexts.
  • We wanted a set of tools that, compared to other monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning (MEAL) tools, was reasonably ‘light’ as well as participatory, enabling partners to engage in self-reflective processes and learn about changes in their organizational capacities over time.

The tools we developed included a Capacity Assessment Tool (CAT), along with participatory tools for monitoring ongoing changes in organizational capacity.

Capacity assessment, at an organizational level, allows us to reflect on the deep structure, policies, strategies and practices in place to challenge gendered biases in institutions – reflection that is necessary to support transformative organizational change for gender justice. Our experience with these practical tools, particularly feedback received from field staff and partners, encouraged us to share them widely and also led to their formalization through the development of Oxfam Canada’s (2012) The Power of Gender-Just Organizations: A Conceptual Framework for Transformative Organizational Capacity Building, and the accompanying The Power of Gender-Just Organizations: Toolkit for Transformative Organizational Capacity-Building.

In 2019, Oxfam Canada updated this Toolkit to reflect evolving discussions, learning, needs and priorities of partners working in the women’s rights and gender justice sector. This document, the Capacity Assessment Tool for Gender-Just Organizational Strengthening (CAT4GJO), is a revised version of The Power of Gender-Just Organizations Toolkit sections 1, 2 and 3.14. Key revisions include additional capacity areas on intersectionality, collective and self-care practices, including in digital spaces, promoting environmental best practices, safeguarding, supplementary workshop exercises and an intentional shift in language from capacity building to capacity strengthening.

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