Building Organisational Capability for Development Management

Building Organisational Capability for Effective Development Management

Date : Jul 4 , 2024 | By: Nupur Mahajan,Featured

Development management is a hot topic in India, and for good reason. The increasing capital inflow into the social sector, fuelled by corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds and philanthropic grants, calls for greater efficiency and effectiveness in the sector. But are the organisations capable enough to meet the demands that are set on them? Various reports, including the ones from the Bridgespan Group and the India Leaders for Social Sector (ILSS), highlight core challenges in terms of organisational capability building in the social sector in India. Some of these challenges include insufficient funds for building effective talent infrastructure, lack of effective processes towards talent acquisition, a clear succession path for the employees, and, most importantly, a lack of focus on building leadership capabilities. As an organisation grows, the dangers of culture dilution start surfacing and the borrowed systems and processes from the corporate world do not suffice any more. Analyses, presented in reports, like those mentioned above, highlight significant opportunity areas in leadership development, talent management, succession planning, and focused investment in learning and development. There are significant barriers to organisational capability building in the sector, including limited funding, limited leadership bandwidth, and governance challenges. So what will it require for these organisations to meet the increasing demands of delivering complex initiatives and showcasing impact? The answer lies in building organisational capability.

But what does organisational capability building mean?

Organisational capability is the combination of people’s knowledge, skills, and mindsets that is required for an organisation, collectively, to deliver its vision and operating strategies. Organisational capability building, therefore, encompasses several key aspects, starting with establishing strong organisational processes and practices around strategic planning, resource mobilisation, monitoring and evaluation, performance management, etc., in order to align the initiatives of an organisation to its vision and mission. It also includes compliance with laws and regulations, and integrating sustainable practices into an organisation’s operations and programs. Weaving creative marketing and branding stories, along with targeted fundraising through grants and partnerships help ensure financial sustainability for the organisation. Embracing digital transformation further supplements organisations to align better with the ever-evolving world of data. People form an essential component of any organisation and a dedicated focus on talent management helps foster a supportive and inclusive culture where employees feel valued, nurtured, and motivated. This, when coupled with continuous learning and development through ongoing training opportunities, further encourages an environment of innovation and growth. While working on initiating interventions to build organisational capability, keeping in mind the above aspects, we must not underestimate the role of an effective governing board that helps to ensure oversight, accountability, and strategic guidance.

Addressing challenges in organisational development practices

Addressing challenges in organisational development practices

The challenges in organisational capability development in the sector, highlighted at the beginning of this article, present a huge opportunity for organisations to invest in their capability development. Addressing this challenge also underscores the need for building organisations and leaders who prioritise and acknowledge the importance of investing in their capability development. This calls for comprehensive training programs to help develop current and future leaders and investing in their professional development, along with creating a supportive work environment to foster overall growth and innovation for all. Investment in leadership can yield transformative results and by cultivating a culture of continuous learning, organisations can ensure their people remain motivated and equipped to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

The need for social sector leaders to engage with peers and learn from experienced philanthropists has been proactively addressed by ILSS. We run programs that not only help enhance leadership and operational capabilities in the sector, we also ensure placements of our vibrant alumni in the sector. Our alumni have found places in positions such as managers, CEOs, and advisory and governing board members. Additionally, ILSS empowers social sector leaders through rigorous learning experiences focused on fundraising and network expansion. One of our marquee programs targets women leaders in mid-to-senior positions, catalysing their impact within their organisations. Furthermore, ILSS strengthens sector leadership by helping build and fortify effective boards, ensuring strategic guidance and sustainability for organisations. Each of these programs collectively ensures addressing the needs of organisational capability building in the social sector. In this context, another area of critical importance is people practices. The ILSS People Practices Program is specifically designed to support organisations in developing robust people policies, implementing effective systems, and cultivating strong management practices.

Emphasising a sustainable, people-first strategy ensures resilience and adaptability. In the book ‘ILSS Alumni Chronicles’, Vinita Saraf, founder and managing trustee of Ek Tara, who is also an alum of the second cohort of The ILSS People Practices Program, says: ‘I come from a non-social sector background, and so do the senior people who work with me. There were no structures in HR, and honestly, I did not even understand its value. The efficiency in the mid-level team was going down. I needed to revamp and restructure my HR team, and the program helped comprehensively’.

Through the Program, Vinita has been able to significantly improve Ek Tara’s operations and problem solving strategies. She now has a team that she feels ‘thinks, works, behaves and lives up’ to her dreams for Ek Tara and makes it their dream. She hopes to see the organisation stand independently without the supervision from founders or senior management, soon.


Development sector leadership and organisational capability building is a transdisciplinary endeavour. It is imperative for development sector organisations to proactively adopt effective organisational development strategies and practices, in order to meet the growing demands of the sector and respond to its complexities. By investing in strong practices, managing people effectively, and fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation, organisations can ensure that they are building their resilience and are becoming adaptable to meet their current challenges as well as getting ready for the future.


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