Sustainable Capacity Building for Program Managers


The United States and its allies continue to struggle with how to design and deliver programs that achieve their intended outcome in the short term and provide lasting impacts in the long term. SCG has learned from engaging with policymakers, planners, and program managers that inflexible funding authorities, urgent security and front office priorities, programmatic stovepipes, and uneven donor and interagency coordination hamper sustainable strategic capacity building. Many planners and program managers have never been trained on program design or provided with the proper tools to implement a sustainable and strategic capacity building approach.


To address these gaps, SCG has developed both a conceptual approach for sustainable capacity building and tools to help program managers and planners think differently about how they build capacity overseas. Through workshops and advising, SCG helps build the capacity of government capacity builders to assess, design, implement, monitor, and evaluate sustainable capacity building programs that can better achieve their intended outcomes and impact. Although modules can be tailored to the specific needs of the interagency or of regional or functional offices, the following include some of the concepts and topics SCG’s program has addressed:

  • The Sustainable Capacity Building Model: 3 principles, 6 conditions, and 40 guiding questions. This model serves as an overlay to existing planning and program design processes to help program managers think creatively about how to design and implement innovative programming.
  • Sustainable Capacity Building Matrices: These address each step of the program design and implementation process, with a decision-making flow chart to prompt program managers to think creatively and to engage with interagency and other donor counterparts at each step of the process.
  • Applying Concepts to Practice: SCG has designed exercises to enable program managers to apply the sustainable capacity building approach and tools in a simulated scenario.

A few examples of exercises and modules include:

  • Countering Violent Extremism scenario in a post-Assad Syria with interagency and other donor counterparts to design a long term coordinated program to address the recurrence of violence and build societal resilience.
  • Security Sector Reform scenario in a post-authoritarian transition country to address reform of military and police forces and institutions to enhance the provision of security and the legitimacy of the new democratic government.
  • Defense Sector Reform scenario in a Security Governance Initiative country to design programming that links new training and equipment with institutionalized policies and practices to improve defense sector effectiveness, accountability, and transparency.
  • Monitoring & Evaluation: Program Design and M&E scenario for coordinated security assistance in North Africa. SCG led this workshop for the German Federal Foreign Office for European donors in support of their SSR+G initiative.  


Strategic Capacity Group (SCG) is a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the ability of the United States and its partners to build strategic security sector capacity both at home and abroad. SCG assists donor and recipient governments to assess institutional capacity, identify gaps, develop and implement solutions, and improve the sustainability and impact of reform.

SCG teaches planners and program managers to think outside of the box

SCG teaches planners and program managers to think outside of the box