A Guide to Building Sustainable Organizations from the Inside Out

ABCD Institute

Author +
Deborah Puntenney

Year: 2000

An Organizational Capacity Building Toolbox from the Chicago Foundation for Women

The SHOW-21 program was designed to expand on the work of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute of Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research and apply its principles and practices to organizational settings. Kretzmann and McKnight’s work on asset-based community development has heretofore been used as a set of strategies for building neighborhoods or geographic communities. CFW recognized that the ideas and tools for building healthy localities articulated in their work could be applied to organizational settings. On the one hand, the foundation believed the emphasis on discovering and mobilizing internal assets and capacities could provide an appropriate new orientation for nonprofit organizations operating in a universe where traditional avenues of support are contracting. On the other hand, the foundation believed the lessons learned in community settings could not only be applied to organizational settings, but also provide organizations with new ways of understanding themselves as members of the community. Blending these two
perspectives provided the underlying framework for the SHOW-21 program.

SHOW-21 is an innovative example of how successful capacity building can be undertaken among nonprofit organizations. More than a program, SHOW-21 is a process that encourages and supports the internalization of an assets focus, the critical exploration of how organizations can more effectively mobilize their many assets and capacities, and the broadening of the relationship base that contributes to organizational sustainability. The SHOW-21 process is based on the assumption that sustainability can be achieved when organizations recognize and understand the full measure of their assets and capacities and then build upon them, generating strong relationships among the internal and external components of the organization’s milieu.