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About Us
   Background to SEII
   Video Intro to SEII
   SEII Partners

What is SEI?
   SEI & Population Health
   Closing the Distance

   Central-West Ontario
   Thunder Bay

   Design Studio (videos)
   Tool Box
      Deep Distancing
         Street Youth
         Street Youth Chart
      Peer Problem Solving
      Sudbury Example
      Journey Metaphor
      Sculpturing Change
         Gallery Tour
   Case Studies
      CTD in Sudbury
      CTD in Kingston
      CTD in Thunder Bay
      CTD in Peel-Halton
      CTD in Central West Ont
   Literature Review


Overview: Capacity Assessment

The Social and Economic Inclusion Initiative (SEII) is a project of the Social Planning Network of Ontario (SPNO). Created in 1991, the SPNO is a province-wide network of more than twenty community-based social planning councils providing research, policy analysis, community education and community development supports on issues of social and economic development to their local/regional areas.

Strategic Goal and Objectives of the SEII--Closing the Distance Projects

Early in 2002, the SPNO partnered with the Population and Public Health Branch (PPHB) of Health Canada - Ontario and Nunavut Region to assist the PPHB in operationalizing its two-year Strategic Goal:

"To demonstrate how communities can mobilize and develop healthy public policies and practices that foster social and economic inclusion, and thereby, improve the conditions needed for good health."

Following a series of roundtable consultations organized and hosted by local social planning councils across the province, the SEII was developed, approved and funded for the period October 2002 through March 2004 to achieve the following objectives:

  1. creating communities of interest and generating project proposals on community mobilization and healthy public policy development from a social inclusion perspective (Phase 1, October 2002 through March 2003); and
  2. implementing, documenting, and disseminating learning from the projects (Phase 2, April 2003 through March 2004).

Five Regional Projects

During the funded period of the SEII, the SPNO provided Central Support to local/regional projects in:
  • Sudbury working with Aboriginal and Francophone children and families.
  • Kingston working with the homeless population.
  • Thunder Bay working with isolated youth.CT
  • Peel-Halton working on diversity competence in human service organizations.
  • Central West Ontario (Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge-North Dumfries,
  • Brant-Haldimand-Norfolk Counties) working with youth and seniors in rural and urban communities.

Case Studies

There is much learning to be gleaned from the Project experience in these five regions. Documentation of this learning by SPNO Central Support began during the Project. The new Public Health Agency of Canada - Ontario Region provided funding assistance during the summer of 2004 to finalize this research and to complete the case studies that are in this document.

The five Case Studies that follow are presented in two parts. The first section of each Case Study is a narrative of the origin, development and on the ground experience of each local/regional Project. The second section applies a Capacity-building Framework to analyze and assess the learnings from each Project in terms of how to create and sustain the capacity to do successful work on social and economic inclusion at the community level. This Framework is described in the following section of this introduction.

A Capacity-Building Analytic Framework

SPNO chose to look at capacity-building because we were interested in the sustainability of these Projects. Sustainability is normally thought of as securing a funding source to continue the project. This is the mantra of many 'project' funders - "How will you find the funding to sustain this project when your project funding ends?"

The SPNO sees sustainability in terms of the organization's capacity to sustain the initiative, without being prescriptive about how that may occur. It may be continued funding from the same source, or another kind of project funding, or other kinds of contributions of community resources, or the adoption of the program, or activities, or ways of thinking (in this case social inclusion) by other community partners. We are informed in our thinking about this by the writing of Allan Kaplan of the Community Development Resource Association (Centre for Developmental Practice) based in South Africa.

He describes two models of development. In one model, resources are 'delivered' to a community, and sustainability is about how to ensure the delivery or 'supply' of resources after the initial funder withdraws. In the second model resourcefulness is 'facilitated'. How this will occur is dependent on local circumstances. Kaplan says that:

In this paradigm is the recognition that development is an innate and natural process found in all living things - therefore we intervene into development processes, which already exist. Whether the intervention is into the life of an individual, organization or community, it is critical to realize that the process of development is already well established and needs to be treated with respect. The most fundamental challenge facing the practitioner is to understand the development process into which she or he is intervening. This means 'reading' this situation to understand where it has come from, how it has changed along the way and what the next development challenge is likely to be.

(The Developing of Capacity. Allan Kaplan, Community Development Resource Association, Cape Town, South Africa.)

The organizational capacity that underpins the ability to 'facilitate resourcefulness' and develop sustainability is based, Kaplan says, on six elements - a shared conceptual framework; an organizational attitude of being able to have influence upon your circumstances; vision and strategy; defined organizational structures and processes; individual skills, abilities and competencies, and material resources. All of these, argues Kaplan, in this sequential "hierarchy of importance", underpin the capacity for sustainable development.

Organizational capacity is defined by CDRA (Allan Kaplan, The Developing of Capacity CDRA. 1999) as:

"A number of elements which must be present and coherent for an organization to be said to have capacity or to be effective. These are the following arranged sequentially in a hierarchy of importance:

  • A conceptual framework, which reflects the organization's understanding of the world. This is a coherent frame of reference, a set of concepts that allows the organization to make sense of the world around it, to locate itself within that world, and to make decisions in relation to it. This framework is not a particular ideology or theory, it is not necessarily correct and it is not impervious to critique and change. It is not a fragile thing, but a robust attempt to keep pace conceptually with the organizational and contextual developments and challenges facing the organization.
  • An organizational attitude, which incorporates the confidence to act in and on the world in a way that the organization believes can be effective and have an impact, and an acceptance of responsibility for the social and physical conditions 'out there'. Put another way it has to shift from 'playing the victim' to exerting some control, to believing in its own capacity to affect its circumstances.
  • Clear organizational vision and strategy comes from, and requires clarity of understanding and a sense of confidence and responsibility in order to be developed.
  • Defined and differentiated organizational structures and procedures are possible once vision and strategy are defined.
  • Relevant individual skills, abilities and competencies can be developed next. Unless organizational capacity has been developed sufficiently to harness training and the acquisition of new skills, training courses do not 'take' and skills do not adhere.
  • Sufficient and appropriate material resources

In the accompanying case studies, we have used Kaplan's Capacity-Building Analytic Framework to generate important learnings about how to do and sustain community practice on social and economic inclusion.

© Social Planning Network of Ontario