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Global Development Solutions


With Dr. Kelly Krawczyk (Auburn University) and Dr. Felicia Tuggle (Auburn University)


This research project examines current capacity-building activities for civil society organizations (CSOs) in Liberia and utilizes a participatory action research approach to develop a context-based nonprofit management education (NME) curriculum that will better meet Liberian civil society’s capacity-building needs. Our action research methodology facilitates: a) a demand-side approach to CSO-donor relations (Edwards, Hulme, & Wallace, 1999); b) bottom-up accountability (Ebrahim, 2003, 2005); and c) a NME curriculum for Liberian CSOs that is sustainable, locally owned, and that explicitly targets the country context (Doornbos, 2006; Sanyal, 2006). This project therefore addresses three important barriers to capacity-building in civil society that inhibit sustainable development:

  • Supply-side donor-CSO relationships: Supply-side donor-CSO relationships stymie capacity-building in that CSOs act as mere implementers of donor programs without local ownership, as opposed to the ideal demand-side donor-CSO relationships where CSOs have the autonomy, resources, and capacity to develop programs that meet local needs (Edwards et al., 1999).

  • Upward accountability: While crucial in supporting the capacity of local organizations, international funding streams are disproportionally influential (Lewis, 1998; Swidler, 2009). The tendency towards upwards accountability to donors thus limits capacity-building of local CSOs, as opposed to an ideal downwards accountability to beneficiaries (Ebrahim, 2003).

  • Western-based NME models: Western-based NME models are not applicable in the Global South and lack local ownership (Mirabella, Gemelli, Malcolm, & Berger, 2007; Mirabella, Hvenmark, & Larsson, 2015). Indeed, Western managerial culture (Jordan Smith, 2003; Roberts, Jones, & Fröhling, 2005) and a disconnect between the capacity of INGOs and local grassroots organizations (Appe & Schnable, 2019; Eade, 2007) characterize current capacity-building practices.


This proposed study addresses these three challenges, and is part of broader interdisciplinary research project with three long-term goals:

  1. Analytical: To understand trends in donor funding to civil society for capacity-building, comparing donors’ priorities with the actual needs of CSOs in Liberia.

  2. Normative: To advocate for a) demand-side versus supply side donor-CSOs relations, b) downwards versus upwards accountability, and c) contextually appropriate models that facilitate local ownership for capacity-building in the third sector. 

  3. Applied: To develop a replicable process to engage local CSO networks in developing tailored capacity-building programs and NME curricula designed to address the actual needs of local CSOs in non-Western contexts.

Research Outputs and Grants

•    Weber, P. C., Krawczyk, K., Ezeonu, B. & Tuggle, F. (2023). Developing Context-Specific Capacity Building Training for Civil Society Organizations: Insights from Action Research. Nonprofit Policy Forum (OnlineFirst). 


Krawczyk, K. (PI), King, B. (CO-PI), Tuggle, F. (CO-PI), & Weber, P. C. (CO-PI). (Submitted: January 2022). Measuring the Impact of Civil Society on Political Participation in Liberia. Auburn University, Research Support Program (RSP), Office of Vice President for Research and Economic Development. Auburn University, $45,999.50.

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