Capability building is how we transfer design expertise to the teams we work with. It relies on empowering organisations for long term change, which can be done in many different ways.

And although capability building is often part of the work we do, as a service design practice we never took the time to really design for it. We’ve now spent time doing what we do best: designing and iterating a new approach to provide organisations with the tools and knowledge to make change happen.

We want to share our toolkit to help you transfer capabilities in different project conditions.

What is capability building?

Empowered organisations create change, and we’re always looking for ways to support organisations through that transformation in a sustainable way.

We aim to build internal capabilities in the organisations we work with so they can use a human-centred approach in future projects, giving them the tools and knowledge to scale change across the organisation long after we’ve left.

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.

Benjamin Franklin

At its core, capability building is the transferring of skills and knowledge to organisations that want to embed new ways of working to achieve better outcomes. In our case, this means providing the tools, resources and capabilities around human-centred design to the organisations and places we work with every day. This is our approach, but capability building can include any skills, processes, tools, and systems an organisation needs to achieve its goals.

To effectively build capabilities, we start by understanding an organisations motivations. This way we can support learning through doing, making sure staff know how to independently apply the same way of thinking to collaboration with other teams, future projects and partnerships.

We do this through a phased approach. Starting off by having staff shadow us, we do check-ins as the project continues and co-lead until teams feel comfortable to have full ownership; making sure by the time we leave, teams feel confident in activities and processes to run them without us.

1. Each organisation is unique

The first step is understanding an organisation’s current capabilities and their motivation for creating change. This allows us to carefully design an individual approach designed to support learning and development where it’s needed most.

2. Learning through doing

Involving staff in every step of the process as they explore these new ways of working means they can really understand and learn how we do things. Empowering learning through a hands-on approach makes sure we step away from the traditional “I’ll do it for you” model, instead we design and innovate together.

3. Providing the tools to succeed

Our main goal through capability building is always to support and teach. As we guide staff through learning and doing, they begin to develop the tools and knowledge they need to apply everything they’ve learnt to future projects.

Introducing our capability building toolkit

Although capability building is something we really focus on, it’s not always easy. As we work with organisations and places, we need to prepare for challenges that may come up along the way.

We designed a toolkit that gives guidance on different ways to overcome some of the barriers that may appear. We initially created this toolkit internally for our designers to share their learnings on how to build design capabilities in organisations, considering different project conditions and challenges. We often have different approaches, so this tool aims to help teams through:

  • finding tools for capability transfer
  • establishing the right level of capability building under different project conditions
  • understanding what tools can be most effective under different project conditions
  • learning how to mitigate different project conditions and challenges
  • sharing experience and adding new tools

Core values to guide us

We follow a set of core values as we integrate and work with our partners to keep us grounded when focusing on capability building. Every step of the way, we make sure we’re coming back to these three values:

With empathy

As we’re working with staff, it’s important that everyone feels listened to and valued. We aim to understand each person, where they’re at in their role and their hopes for the next few months.

To do this we use tools that create relationships, such as user manuals and tools focusing on their individual learning goals, and focus on people as individuals and not solely the organisation. We create activities that allow staff to reflect on their own personal goals, making the content and exercises relevant to their roles.

Strengths-based approach

Capability building is not about scrapping everything and starting from nothing. We build on what exists and what’s working well. We understand and encourage staff to take their previous learnings and interests into each project. It’s important to recognise where people are at and that it’s different for each individual taking part in the project.

Ask open questions

We see ourselves as mentors that help teams find answers to questions. When we trial new tools we support staff to do the activity themselves, rather than doing it for them.

Sharing this toolkit openly gives our friends and partners tools and resources they can use to truly adapt to 21st-century mindsets and create new, local platforms for change.

As always, this toolkit is always open to iteration and we welcome all feedback.

Get in touch

We’re always happy to answer any questions you have about FutureGov and discuss how we can work together.

Contact us