Lessons from the Street: Capacity Building and Replication

8. Where Are We Going?

We return to the policy framework of Chapter 1. Considerable evidence has been presented on these pages that the technology exists for how to build capacity and replicate what works. But where are we going with that knowledge?

Our ultimate lesson is that the foundations most likely to accept many of our recommendations do not yet have a shared, coordinated, long run strategic plan for capacity building and replication.

One model for what is needed is the community development movement over the last forty years. As Pablo Eisenberg has concluded:1

If the community development movement is to profit from its mistakes and tensions, it will require a tough ongoing analysis that reports objectively, that takes into account issues of responsibility, accountability and integrity. That assessment will have to deal with the challenges of organizing and advocacy, alliances with other community based groups, the question of production versus the management of production, the role of the large intermediaries, matters of leadership, the extent of community accountability and the limitations of CDCs themselves. The Community Development Corporations deserve better treatment from their funders and boosters. They need the truth about the movement, their potential and their options.

If the enormous accomplishments of community development are to be perpetuated, we will need a body of observers, evaluators and critics who will put the lie to the good old public relations myth that only good news, even if untrue, is the sure path to success.

As a corollary to the honest assessment that Eisenberg seeks, foundations need to work through how other nonprofit groups fit into a coordinated path of holistic success -- groups that need capacity building and replication in child development, youth development, public school innovation, job training and retention, community and economic development, community banking and community equity policing.

The established foundations with these interests and any new economy information technology philanthropies that may be evolving in sympathetic directions need to hold a summit on long term complementary commitments and funding -- to grassroots replicators and technical assistance intermediaries.

If capacity building and replication are to be to scale, surely such private foundations need to match resources with the public sector. This will not be easy. Public sector funding tends to be narrow, categorical and committed to "demonstrations," without line-item commitments to building the capacities of grassroots implementors and replicating them. But there are some exceptions -- like the funding over time by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the Center for Community Change and the Development Training Institute to enhance the capacities of community development corporations. Or like the channeling of public resources by HUD through the private, nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the Enterprise Foundation. The latter match private resources, all targeted to economic development, capacity building and replication by community development corporations.

In the best scenario, a group of established and new foundations would create core principles, backed with money, for systematic, long term capacity building and replication to scale -- multiple solution principles that could operate without public monies -- but that would incorporate public income streams at local, state and federal levels whenever the appropriate public sector power holders at the time share the vision. Simultaneously, a communicating what works movement would seek to increase the longrun likelihood that voters and public sector institutions would support capacity building and replicate to scale.

At present, knowledge has converged with prosperity. What better time to start?

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