The Organizational Capacity Model

The organizational capacity model explains performance in terms of the ability and efficiency of institutions. In this model, it is useful to distinguish between MIs that are oriented towards operational activities and others that focus to a greater extent on normative activities. In practice, most organizations have both normative and operative functions, but some organizations like the World Bank concentrate more on the operative side of the spectrum, whereas the UN agencies generally tend to emphasize the normative side.

This issue is at the core of a book by Helge Ole Bergesen and Leiv Lunde (1999) entitled Dynamos or Dynosaurs: Multilateral Institutions at the Turn of the Century. They start by distinguishing between two models of organization, the action organization and the political organization. Then they classify the functions of MIs in a continuum from normative to operative, arguing that in principle MIs can be established '(...) either to influence the perceptions and norms of relevant actors within a given set of issues, leaving actual implementation to them, or to carry action itself into the field following decisions by participating governments (or other actors)'.25

Organizations on either side of the normative—operative continuum do something, although the projects are very different in nature.

24 See Buiter and Fries 2002, 19-20, 23.

25 Bergesen and Lunde 1999, 3.

In both cases, one can distinguish between:

• Design capabilities: Developing the project concept, choosing among numerous design alternatives, analyzing the feasibility and risks or writing the project documentation;

• Investment capabilities: Identifying profitable projects, choosing financial instruments and structures or mitigating risks;

• Production capabilities: Implementing the project or overcoming problems;

• Linkage capabilities: Personnel selection, networking, establishing collaborations with other institutions or coordination.

Organizational capacity is relevant not only for the headquarters, but also for country offices and any other organization with a significant role in the project. Country offices are essential for effective project implementation, as projects cannot be managed remotely from places like London, New York and Washington, DC. The number of personnel in country offices varies from a few individuals to more than one hundred. The offices are often headed by foreigners, but increasingly rely on local managers and experts. In project documentation, the involvement of local professionals is regularly emphasized as a key factor for success.

The knowledge of local conditions is a critical factor in the success of projects. In the past, there was a tendency to involve mostly foreign experts and to underrate the education and abilities of locals. To reduce the dependence on foreign expertise, significant resources have been dedicated in recent years for training. The countries need local professionals with experience on the international stage. Training such experts requires more than a few workshops to develop the necessary skills. However, sending locals for prolonged stays and studies abroad can add to brain drain, as some may choose to stay abroad after their studies or training.

Geographic, linguistic and economic constraints can limit the efficient use of technologies and human resources. For example, long distances and inadequate infrastructure create a difficult working environment. Modern technologies, such as the Internet, email and online collaboration help to overcome these barriers. Some MIs use the Internet to introduce and promote information on their operations in the countries by maintaining special websites, but their content is generally limited and largely remains inaccessible for the public.

Reflecting increasing concerns about corruption and organizational effectiveness, MIs have tried to tighten financial and implementation control over projects. Progress reports, project reviews and financial audits are prepared at regular intervals. In some cases, these are paper exercises without effect, but it can happen that an independent auditor will undertake a thorough audit. The review documents and audits are usually not accessible to the public.

A frequent criticism of MIs has been that significant amounts of money are spent on reports, which include recommendations that are not implemented. There is a widespread perception that there is an imbalance between payments for reports, usually to foreign consultants, and funding of sustainable energy, including engineering work and equipment. Bulk of the advice given often gets ignored. This perception has been echoed by an NGO in these words:

A significant portion of the funds allocated by donor nations and international financial institutions has been spent on scientific research, analytical reports, the organization of numerous meetings, payments to foreign consultants and local support staff, and so on. The result of this kind of assistance, more often than not, has consisted more of the development of general recommendations, programs, and concepts than in concrete help to solve environmental problems.26

Research is necessary to create a strategy and to choose appropriate methods of implementation. Likewise, workshops are useful for capacity building; and reports can be essential for monitoring as well as for exchange of information and experience. The challenge is to balance research and capacity building with spending on the installation of equipment and other direct ways of promoting sustainable energy. It is of little use to make feasibility studies, carry out a comprehensive preparatory phase, leaving behind truckloads of folders, if these efforts are not followed up by projects where concrete results and improvements are visible.

MIs recognize that there is room for improvement of organizational capacity. For example, in one country evaluation, the World Bank admitted that it '(...) lacked a comprehensive, long-term approach to capacity building (...)'27 and that '(...) its early operations neglected environmental sustainability'.28 In order to improve the capacity-building activities supported by MIs, it should not rely on occasional weekend seminars with shifting groups of participants. Rather, it should be oriented towards selected groups of people that are trained, tested and certified in particular EE fields. Subsequently, these professionals need to be given an opportunity to use their newly gained knowledge. Funding should be available for

26 Kuratov et al. 2002, 17.

27 World Bank 2002a, 32.

28 Ibid.

projects they develop, for instance, through the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme. Alternatively, there should be a plan to involve these experts in projects that accompany or follow the training programmes. The objective is to prevent trained experts ending up working in fields unrelated to their training because of a lack of finance or project opportunities.

The organizational capacity of MIs is often affected by the legacy of the work ethic prevailing under the socialist system, where everyone, except the members of the nomenclature, received the same wage, regardless of performance. Organizations today are still suffering from the fact that for several generations, everyone was used to merging into an anonymous working class, where individuals were best served not to stand out and not to show too much initiative. It will take time to reverse this culture, but MIs can start to change the work ethic in their organizations. Incentive structures are needed to motivate staff and to encourage an open and cooperative approach to other stakeholders, in particular NGOs and other civil society organizations (see the following section 'the stakeholder interaction model').

To improve the accountability and transparency of MI operations, important documents, including independent evaluations, should be available to public, preferably on the Internet. This would increase public acceptance and credibility of MIs, and reduce the scope for doubt and suspicion caused by insufficient information and by over-reliance on materials that have the purpose of public relations and promoting the image of the organization.

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