The third session of the Organisational Development (OD) Community of Practice took place on 30 November with a focus on needs assessments. The recently launched Organisational Development Community of Practice offers a space for foundation staff from EFC members to share experience, knowledge and support, and to pose questions and raise concerns about organisational development, both within their own organisations and in relation to their grantees.

Sevda Kilicalp, Policy and Incubation Manager at the EFC, opened the session, mentioning that there is no right way to assess a grantee partner’s organisational development needs despite commonly shared principles, such as ownership of the process, across the funding community and that the event aimed to showcase a wide range of approaches, varying in their degrees of flexibility, and structuredness and to shed light on critical choices made in this process and their possible consequences for grant maker-grantee relationship

Adriana Craciun, Senior Adviser – Organisational Development and Capacity Building at the Oak Foundation, set the scene by giving an overview of needs assessments. She began by stating that the Oak Foundation approaches needs assessments as a process, through which organisations should be should be going through rather than tick boxes in order to collect data on organisational capacities. She noted that the aim of these needs assessments is not only to uncover challenges, but also identify the strengths of organisations.

These assessments are instead carried out by members of the team with the assistance of an external facilitator. Adriana presented these insights in order to define what is meant by a needs assessment. When discussing the tools that are used, she explained that they are standardised but also customised to answer the question that the organisation has around data development. In fact, rather than the tool, the assessment discussion is always more important but is based upon the tool.

When detailing the good practices of needs assessments, she highlighted that the participation of everyone is recommended. This is because the opinions around the strategy, the effectiveness of the strategy, or the effectiveness of the structure of the organisation can vary between the different levels of staff in an organisation. The wider level of participation allows for a more holistic view of the organisation at hand.