OSCAR: An Innovative Capacity Development Tool

Developing and implementing activities while adhering to strong organizational standards can be a challenge for any organization, regardless of size. As Dr. Alexandra Emilien, Deputy Chief of Party for the USAID-funded, MSH-led Health Leadership Project (HLP) indicates, “The management of an organization can be complex, particularly among those looking to thrive while developing the institutional capacity to receive and absorb direct donor funding—a situation that can be even more challenging in a resource-constrained environment such as in Haiti.”

This is the challenge that the Centre de Formation et d’Encadrement Technique (CFET) and Group Croissance (GC), the two local partner organizations under the HLP project, face to meet USAID’s technical and financial standards to receive direct funding from the Agency and eventually to support the Ministry of Public Health and Population while being less reliant on external funding.

To overcome this issue, in 2019 HLP adopted an innovative approach to institutional capacity building by piloting a new MSH-developed tool that synthesizes USAID’s Non-US Organization Pre Award Survey and Organization Capacity Assessment (OCA) tools while evaluating critical sustainability factors. The Organizational Synthesis of Capacity Assessments for Award Readiness (OSCAR) tool is a comprehensive instrument designed to provide a general overview of organizational capacity and a specific read of an organization’s ability to receive and absorb direct donor funding. The tool is applied using an evidence-based participatory process to regularly assess CFET and GC’s capacity, using a four-point score, along a broad range of performance parameters that are organized under seven domains, including governance and legal structure, financial and program management, and organizational management and sustainability.

The process started in September 2019, and the tool has demonstrated its ability to help organizations grow, identify weaknesses, and overcome them. Both organizations started with an overall score of 2 out of 4, with weaknesses identified across all organizational domains. With MSH’s technical support, both organizations have developed action plans and received technical assistance through regular coaching and working sessions to address the challenges. In only 12 months, the majority of the biggest issues were addressed, including those within the governance and legal structure, financial management and internal control, human resources, and the procurement system.

The follow-up evaluation that took place in September 2020 showed an increase in the overall score of both organizations from 2 to 3. Both partners were satisfied with their improvements and will continue the capacity building process through OSCAR to achieve the highest score of 4 and succeed with the formal USAID evaluation. As indicated by Mrs. Marlene Gay, CEO of CFET, “This tool will help us address ambiguities we had with the previous OCA, the graphs help us see immediately our stage of development and the tool is well organized.”

MSH will continue to provide its technical support to both GC and CFET to ensure that these local partners become direct recipients of USAID funds and guarantors of the project results during years 3–5.