4 February 2022

Exploring the different levels of Organisational Development support

The first webinar of 2022 for the Organisational Development (OD) Community of Practice took place on the 26 January focussing on the various levels at which OD support can be provided. Daniel Spiers, Philea, welcomed participants and gave an introduction to the topic, referring back to the first OD event in the summer of 2021, and specifically a presentation given by Rick James, INTRAC. Rick had highlighted the spectrum of purpose when considering OD support, and although this requires a more nuanced conversation, Daniel explained that it is important to remember the organisational strengthening on one side: meaning assisting grantees in better managing of funds. On the other hand, OD support can assist in maintaining the sustainability but also autonomy of a grantee. To finish of the introduction, Daniel referred to the three levels that support can be provided: the individual, organisational and societal/sectoral. This lay the groundwork for the webinar’s presentations but also discussions amongst participants.

Fabio Almeida, Organisational Network Effectiveness Manager, Laudes Foundation, gave a presentation of OD at the foundation which is incorporated into its overall grant making strategy. Specifically, OD is one of the two types of core support grants which is offered to grantees. Whilst presenting the decision tree, Fabio explained that around 80% of OD grants are blended with general operating support or project support. This highlighted the integral nature of OD support in Laudes Foundation’s overall grant making operations. After this, he went on to discuss the partner profiles of OD grants. To help explain this, he referred to the “lifecycle of an organisation” model which details the different stages a grantee can find themselves in. Importantly, OD support is required at every stage of an organisation. Fabio went on to give examples, starting with the fact that in the beginning or “pioneer” phase, an organisation is much more opportunity driven but is, in turn, marred by weak governance and a lack of policies and procedures. On the other end of the model in the renewal/death phase, issues can arise in terms of low internal innovation and internal conflict.

Fabio went on to explain that despite the various different profiles of partners that can exist according to the phase that they are in, the decision to provide an OD grant is instead dependent on the goal set with the grant/partner. One example is looking at the impact that an OD grant would give. Briefly discussing the OD needs assessments of partners, Fabio detailed that there are indeed assessment tools to support this process but that these are not mandatory. He explained that it is up to the discretion of the programme managers as to whether they use these tools or instead use a previous OD diagnosis conducted by a partner. Finalising his presentation, Fabio explained the organisational development cycle of Laudes Foundation. He then ended by showing the participants the pro bono “non-profit builder” service which is offered by the foundation.

Andrew Holland, Director, Stiftung Mercator Schweiz, gave the second presentation on how OD support from the foundation is used to help strengthen the civil society sector. After explaining the old OD model of the organisation, that would provide support at the project level, Andrew explained how it has now (after consideration) moved to the systemic level with a collaborative approach. What Stiftung Mercator Schweiz now does, is effectively combine support at the individual, organisational and what they call “ecosystem level.” His presentation looked at two prototypes which were held, along with an explanation of the approach. This approach looks at the ecosystem in a specific field, for example democracy, and then looks at all the key players and stakeholders on all levels. After then creating a Theory of Change and a goal for the particular ecosystem, NGOs are then identified which already are or could be key in further developing the respective ecosystem. Andrew highlighted the belief of the foundation that individual competence building, organisational development and peer learning all come together, thus combining the different levels of OD support in a holistic manner.

On explaining the two prototypes, the first one looked at the topic of digital transformation. A conference was held in Switzerland on the Digital Transformation of NGOs and Andrew explained that it became apparent that it had not really arrived in the NGO sector in the country. As a result of this, tailor made workshops were offered to NGOs on specific topics, such as social media and other digital tools. Then the NGOs were invited to do a maturity check with a specialised organisation and realised soon after that a standardised process does not work here. Another learning was that a transversal topic would be more appropriate. Therefore, the other prototype focussed on the theme of agility. This consisted of a two-day crash course led by an external moderator tailored for NGOs. After this, the NGOs could decide whether this was a topic applicable to them and then apply for an OD grant. The proposal could also receive coaching from an external coach. Peer learning formats were adopted for the process, which included workgroups and publications. Many learnings also came out of this prototype, namely that the proposals were realistic and that the peer learnings had to be fun. Andrew finished his presentation by looking at the road ahead, including the launch of a survey which will look at the non-profit lifecycle which will be carried out with other foundations.

After the presentations, a short Q&A session was held that opened up the floor to any questions for Fabio and Andrew. Participants were then split into breakout rooms, where they could look further at the lifecycle of an organisation model and discuss how this affects the type of OD support that they provide, depending on which phase the grantee is.  Following this they were further split off into pairs where they could discuss how they found the session and any learnings they may have had.

The next Organisational Development Community of Practice session will take place on 29 March.


Daniel Spiers
Programme Manager – Peer-Exchanges & Knowledge