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Findings Friday | 3 Steps for Building Capacity through Collaboration

August 22, 2013
| by Editor |

New research from The University of Texas at Arlington presents three ways to overcome common barriers that nonprofits face when building capacity to address community needs.

The latest issue of the quarterly Journal of Community Practice investigates the role of nonprofit organizations in building community health. As the editors emphasize, “Community health reflects a broad swath of issues… from poverty to disparities in morbidity to environmental concerns, violence in homes, neighborhoods and communities, unemployment, food insecurity, and poor nutrition, among many others.” To address and resolve these interrelated issues, nonprofits hold the responsibility of service delivery, providing a platform for mobilizing participationbuilding capacity, and advocating on their constituents' behalf.

In the same issue of the Journal, Karabi C. Bezboruah of The University of Texas at Arlington provides a framework for doing just that: improving community and individual health and syndemic factors through collaborative efforts. Nonprofit organizations are in the perfect stead for catalyzing positive change from the ground up.

Following six nonprofits, a public health office, and the lead community organizer, Bezboruah studies a health-focused community development process in a suburban Texas community. This study is particuarly relevant as it concurs with a recent emphasis on “poverty’s new home” in the suburbs and the ill-preparedness of those areas to support the influx of impoverished families.

Bezboruah offers three conclusions to overcome the nearly universal barriers of exclusion of low-income individuals, stake-holders’ misaligned ideologies and approaches, and public apathy. And they're not all that different from previous community-based participatory initiatives. 

Grassroots identification of the problem: Allowing the service beneficiaries to identify the needs of their community will translate to more appropriately informed results as potential solutions and the organizational processes develop.

Identification of community specific solutions through collaborative discussions: With the leadership of a facilitator and the inclusion of all stake-holders — community members, service providers, public officials, and beneficiaries — in the development of goals and objectives, consensus can be achieved, creating more holistic solutions to the community-identified issues.

Building public buy-in: Advocacy is an essential piece of nonprofits’ responsibility in their communities (and even more broadly for more universal issues). Through the “use of community resources to educate the public and generate opinion about the critical problems faced by the community,” awareness and support can be built among stake-holders and the general public alike.

Tommy Pearce is Communications Coordinator at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.

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