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Organizational Strengthening: The IDF



Local organizations are the true drivers of social change. Their unique insight into their communities combined with their localized knowledge means that they are best positioned to end the impact of the water and HIV/AIDS crises in their communities. Because of this, Organizational Strengthening (OS) is a key part of our mission (you can read more about it here). Ultimately, we want our partners to be strong enough operationally, financially and programmatically to continue the work long after their partnership with Blood:Water concludes. So, our OS program aims to position resources of various kinds so that partners identify priorities and invest in their organizational development goals.

man and woman look at a board at an idf assessment workshop

Organizational Strengthening in Action: The IDF Toolkit

To give us a more complete understanding of how we work with our partners to determine goals for their 2-year grant cycle, our Africa Partnerships team gave us a rundown of the Institutional Development Framework  (IDF) Process. The IDF is a trusted organizational assessment tool used by civil society organizations globally for over 20 years. What sets the IDF apart from other assessment tools is that it requires a diverse cross-selection of staff to participate in the process of speaking into the health of the organization. 

These are the 6 key domains of an organization that are reviewed during the IDF process. These enable partners to take stock of where they are currently and identify strengths and opportunities for growth within each, by exploring people, policies, processes and systems that relate to its functions.

  1. Oversight: Explores all aspects of  board governance, mission and direction setting for the organization.

  2. Management Resources: considers the various mechanisms intended to lead, manage and coordinate organization operations to execute on mission. 

  3. Human Resources: Looks at the policies and systems for staff recruitment, management and development.

  4. Financial Resources: Explores the financial health of the organization by a review of systems, policies, vulnerabilities and risks. 

  5. External Resources: Takes into account how the organization relates with and engages with external stakeholders. This includes public relationships, communications, advocacy and feedback processes. 

  6. Technical Resources: Looks more specifically at the organizations’ knowledge and incorporation of best practices in WASH and HIV/AIDS for high quality and evidence-based community programming

Putting the Assessment Into Practice

The entire IDF  assessment process takes place during a 3-day workshop.  However it’s important to note that there are preliminary remote policy reviews, interviews and surveys that are conducted in preparation for the assessment workshop itself.  This ensures that all staff have an opportunity to speak into the process, even if they are not among the representative group selected for the workshop portion.  Curious about how the assessment is actually conducted? Here’s a brief breakdown:

staff members work together during the idf assessment workshop

Day 1-2: 

Meeting at a neutral location in a workshop style set-up, (including a representation of staff from every department and at least one board member) the OD specialist facilitates a 2 day discussion reviewing each domain using the IDF Matrix, a tool that guides the organizational review against best practices to identify a stage of development for each section assessed. In other words, the IDF scores each area reviewed on a  stage of development which then is plotted on a chart generating a profile of the organization’s strengths and growth opportunities. The process centers around consensus building at all parts of the review, so that the profile generated reflects what the entire team owns and affirms is an accurate representation of their organization overall. 

Day 3:

Now that the organization has agreed upon their profile, and the strengths and weaknesses it documents, they must decide what their top priorities of investment are to take forward.  Through interactive activities built into the toolkit and facilitated by the OD specialist, the group identifies their highest priority areas of strengthening that they want to commit to investing time and resources into through the grant cycle with Blood:Water. The three highest priority areas are selected for a two-year long improvement plan that Blood:Water provides funding towards.

Beyond the IDF Assessment Workshop:

A team of Change Champions are selected by the group to be the small team mandated to hold the organization accountable to implement the Improvement Plan over the next 2 years. They determine the pace at which the organization will work on solutions and how they will use Blood:Water OS funding to accomplish them. A few examples of what partners have used their OS funding for are things like training, workshops, mentorship, coaching, software, technology, and surveys.

The IDF Process is fully partner driven – strengthening priorities, identifying solutions to address them, and determining funding use is fully within the hands and decision making of the partners. Throughout the rest of the grant cycle, we check in to see how they are doing with their goals and if there are any ways we can provide support in helping them process their journey along the way. 

organizational strengthening training with the idf toolkit

How the IDF Process Has Impacted Blood:Water’s Partners

The numbers show the impact of the IDF process. Since Blood:Water began using the IDF tool with its partners:

  • 41 organizational policies have been developed or updated where our partners found need. For example: board development manuals and policies for financial management, human resources and resource mobilization strategies

  • 22 systems have been deployed to improve operations and programs. This includes software for project management for community health workers, financial accounting, and tablets for mobile electronic data collection. 

  • 211 board and staff members have been trained for skills development in change management, supportive supervision,  communication,  HIV/AIDS, and other topics spanning the 6-domains of organizational health. 

  • All 4 of our current partners are engaged in individual leadership coaching to support their personal leadership goals and create a cascade of leadership development in their organizations for years to come.

The IDF Assessment is just one of the tools we use, both to help us understand how we can better serve our partners, and also for our partners to get a better picture of the ways they can grow as an organization.

Without our partners, we could not effectively reach the people affected by the HIV/AIDS and water crises. But together, we are able to provide sustainable health solutions that will impact families for generations.


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