A Tool to Build Management Capacity: ISD Certification


So you have an innovative solution and you want to partner on a proposal, but when you approach a client, they ask about your capacity to manage the project. You scratch your head and think, “Well, we have the technical skills to implement the project, and after being in business for several years we have the infrastructure to support the project, but how are we going to demonstrate this capacity to the client?” This is a question that presents challenges for both implementers and potential clients.

Demonstrating technical capacity can be shown through past performance on previous projects, project evaluations and/or testimonials. But demonstrating that your organization has the management acumen – including policies, procedures, systems and trained personnel – is more challenging and the process is far from standardized. Even if you have successfully managed previous projects, your potential client may not accept this at face value. Often, you must provide detailed information to the client or undergo a pre-award assessment for each project, which may differ by project and client, even when clients are members of the same organization. Consequently, additional resources must be spent responding to inconsistent due diligence requests as your organization is continually asked to “prove” itself.

KANAVA International believes that a streamlined vetting process is a missing piece in the international development landscape. Such a process would provide an efficient way to build sustainable management capacity, enhance the ability of organizations to deliver services, and offer an easy way to demonstrate this capacity. To address this challenge, we have developed the Impact Strengthening Development (ISD) Certification Program, which provides organizations with a systematic methodology and benchmarking tool that builds their capacity to enhance their management expertise and readily demonstrates their level of management capacity to any client or investor. It is a practical, innovative, multi-level program that provides assurances of an organization’s management sophistication, mitigates risks to USAID and other funding sources, and offers organizations a transparent roadmap for sustainable growth and development. The ISD Certification is being developed as an open system, accessible to all and leveraging industry best practices. Our vision for ISD is that it be recognized by multiple donors and multinational companies; the certifying body be an independent non-profit entity; and that the system is supported by third party vendors and training institutes around the world.

The certification program includes standards and an assessment tool, although it also allows for the use of other assessment tools while holding organizations accountable to the ISD standards. The assessment can be done as a self-assessment, jointly with the target organization, or through a third party. Once the assessment is completed, a gap analysis is conducted and the capacity building plan can be developed under the ISD framework, so that not only is the organization empowered to be more effective, accountable, and compliant, it is simultaneously working towards ISDTM certification.

The target organization can undertake this activity on its own or under an existing development project. Self-empowerment is central to the ISD certification process as the organization itself determines its own direction by:

  • Deciding what level of certification it seeks – Organizations can choose which certification level to seek. They can work towards the certification level they are closest to achieving, or they can decide to invest extra resources to achieve a higher level of certification to differentiate themselves from others in their community.
  • Determining priority areas to work on – The certification program creates a roadmap for the organization to prioritize its efforts. When working under an existing development project, this may be used in discussion with the prime contractor to request assistance in areas it determines as priorities, rather than those established by the prime.

The world is rich with creative and innovative thinkers and organizations that want to solve problems. Through ISD certification, KANAVA believes the vetting process for donors and clients can be streamlined and organizations can build themselves into stronger entities to deliver services and solutions more effectively and create a more sustainable environment for economic growth. At the international development community level, adoption of ISD certification will create an integrated, systematic way to build, strengthen, and demonstrate management capacity – the backbone of organizations – allowing certified organizations the operational space to focus on their technical expertise and thus to heighten their impact on their communities.

Matthew Tyson