• Areas of Expertise

    Building organizational capacity

Dating to our first projects in wartime Europe, Lutheran World Relief has worked with local partner organizations to develop and implement our relief and development programs.

Our accompaniment approach grows out of the conviction that local organizations, such as farmer cooperatives or NGOs, are best positioned to act on behalf of their communities, due to their understanding of local context, their connections to civil society and government authorities, and the role they play in ensuring sustainability after a project concludes.

Because of the crucial role our local partners play in the success of our programming, Lutheran World Relief prioritizes building their organizational capacities. We equip local organizations with the tools, knowledge and skills that make them more effective as institutions, relevant to those they serve and capable of leading social change efforts.

Our approach to organizational capacity development

Lutheran World Relief maximizes the impact of local partner organizations by jointly assessing their strengths and weaknesses and designing strategies for greater accountability, transparency and sustainability. Our approach, informed by decades of experience, tailors time and resource investments to partners’ needs and local operating environments. Through collaborative training and workshops in conjunction with follow-up coaching and mentoring, we enable partners to appropriate new learning and immediately put knowledge into practice.

  • Capacity assessment & action planning
  • Governance & accountability capacity
  • Operational capacity
  • Technical capacity

LWR works with our partner to conduct an assessment of areas such as organizational aspirations, structure and governance, human resources, financial management, resource mobilization, monitoring and evaluation to jointly identify strengths and areas for improvement. This leads to an action plan reflecting the identified needs and the goals for performance improvement to achieve the local organization’s mission.

An explicit learning component is embedded in the action plan through frequent monitoring of targeted capacity areas to inform course correction as needed, and ultimately measure the effectiveness of project activities during the life of a project. Common monitoring tools track progress on technical, programmatic and financial management. LWR’s exit strategy is built into this process, through the identification and targeting of key capacities and pathways towards sustainability, for focus in each capacity building area of the action plan.

In order to foster sustainable organizations that benefit from internal and external credibility, legitimacy and member cohesion, Lutheran World Relief promotes good governance and accountability capacity. Trainings and ongoing mentorship with organizational leaders and members ensure that roles, responsibilities and rules are clear.

In many cases, LWR facilitates the formation or formal recognition of organizations through legal registration, membership in relevant coalitions and other channels. We also support planning processes that are inclusive and encourage sound strategic and business practices. Where appropriate, the approach also focuses on strengthening partners to represent and advocate for their members at national or international levels, as well as other strategic institutions and networks, including government and financial service providers.


Lutheran World Relief supports partner organization operational capacity by focusing on financial and administrative management and provision of infrastructure when needed. Tailored trainings and ongoing mentorship with staff, leaders and members enhance groups’ financial and functional literacy. Our project finance staff are sometimes embedded in the partner organization to provide ongoing support to systems and mentoring that allow permanent staff or leadership to learn on the job. To accompany learned skills, software or other infrastructure is sometimes provided to support partner organization operations. 

For smaller or younger partner organizations that need time to develop and effectively follow sophisticated accounting and financial management systems, LWR takes an early hands-on role to ensure proper financial management. Project activities then serve as a platform for partner staff to “learn by doing” with oversight from LWR staff. Regular feedback loops and compliance tools and manuals support the grading and “graduation” of partners according to their operational strength.

Lutheran World Relief supports partner organization technical capacity through training and coaching on targeted areas essential for program implementation and to improve core business function, such as production or processing of cocoa. For agricultural programs, embedded extension workers enable partner organizations to deliver front-end services to their members. Large-scale efforts to build disaster risk reduction capacity through early warning systems, evacuation routes and other means illustrate the reach and depth of Lutheran World Relief's approach throughout local communities.

Lutheran World Relief utilizes evidence and its experiences to create technical resources that can be useful to our local partners as well as to the broader development community. In particular we have created a series of technical manuals, tool kits and other resources to support partner organization capacity in cocoa and coffee particularly. Under our Learning for Gender Integration initiative, several partner organizations have benefited from training and ongoing mentoring to improve gender inclusiveness. Our Design, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (DMEL)  framework provides a structure and tools for partner organizations to use to systematically collect, analyze and report out on project progress.


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