Towards the development of an appropriate organisational development approach for optimising the capacity building of community-based organisations (CBOs) : a case study of 3 CBOs in the Western Cape

Yachkaschi, Schirin (2008-12)

Thesis (PhD (School of Public Management and Planning))—-Stellenbosch University, 2008.


The aim of the study is to develop an appropriate Organisational Development (OD) approach to optimise the capacity of Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) and promote Community and Civil Society Development. The following research question is examined: In what ways can OD be a suitable approach to build the capacity of CBOs and thus have an impact on Community and Civil Society Development? The study is motivated by current development challenges in South Africa1 and the role civil society can play to represent citizens’ interests in relation to state and market2. As part of civil society, CBOs are generally recognised as pivotal stakeholders in the South African development context3, but are in reality marginalised and unable to assert themselves in the development sector. Furthermore Development Theory shows that theorists have in the recent past increasingly advocated for ‘democratisation of development’, enabling previously marginalised people to participate in development processes and therefore gain power over these. Although not widely practised reality yet, ‘People centred’ and ‘Participatory development’ as bottom-up and endogenous versions of development are being promoted as sustainable development paradigms. They emphasise the importance of building capacity of civil-society organisations4. OD as an approach to development and capacity building collaborates with the goals of a people centred development and the strengthening of civil society organisations, and is “in line with several participative approaches to development”5. It is, however, relevant to cultivate a “new development practitioner”, who is competent to facilitate capacity-building processes, which will meaningfully impact at the grassroots level6. The study is guided by a postmodern philosophy and stems from a phenomenological as well as transformative approach by applying a Goethean phenomenology, Action Research, Grounded Theory, Complexity Theory and various qualitative research methodologies, such as case study work with three CBOs; and semi-structured interviews with CBOs, community leaders, OD practitioners and academics. Furthermore the research includes a sociological examination of the current development context and paradigms, and their impact in post Apartheid South Africa. During the research, findings were engaged with by a discussion forum. The research findings included the discussion of themes, which emerged through the Grounded Theory approach: ∗ CBO capacity, by examining how capacity is interpreted at a CBO level in relation to inherent capacities; ∗ Leadership, and the role of pioneer leaders in CBOs; and ∗ Relationships, within CBOs as well as with their broader environment. These themes were understood as relevant when aiming to develop CBO capacity as well as engaging with the broader capacity development sector. Further, principles and approaches for OD at a CBO level are proposed, which are ultimately related through their view of organisations as complex social systems, their emphasis on learning, and the critical examination of power asymmetries. It is intended that this study contributes to development practice concerning CBO development within and beyond South Africa. Ultimately the study aims to influence current development paradigms and contribute to an enabling development context and the building of a strong and proactive civil society.

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