Best Starts Capacity Building: Countering History

Best Starts for Kids is investing in a number of capacity building efforts. This is a series to share what we mean by capacity building and why we think it is so important. Today we talk about our overall approach to capacity building. Future blog posts will go deeper into what this actually looks like.  


Let’s talk the what, why, and how of Best Starts for Kids capacity building. We are doing a lot of it with extensive internal coordination. So we are excited to share with you how all the dots connect. We also hope this blog series comes with a big dose of self-awareness. As a government initiative committed to equity, our efforts demand us to remember history and acknowledge power dynamics.  

What is capacity building?  

Capacity building is a process through which individuals, programs, organizations, and systems obtain resources and/or strengthen assets and capabilities to effectively and equitably provide services to children, youth, families and communities. 

Some examples of resources and assets include leadership development, program improvement, and organizational infrastructure, like financial management and human resources.  

Best Starts partner Iraqi Community Center of WA and their paired Capacity Builder

Best Starts believes that capacity building will only be successful if community based organizations have ownership in the design and decision making process of their specific capacity building effort. Rather than a top-down approach, we are using a capacity-building approach that recognizes power dynamics, listens and prioritizes our community partners. 

When all this happens, organizations are stronger and better equipped to succeed long-term. Concrete examples are further below!  

Why does capacity building matter?  

Bottom line: We want families to get services that are high quality and result in equitable outcomes, and live in communities where everyone thrives.  

Historically, small, culturally specific community-based organizations have not had access to the public or private funds it takes to build some aspects of capacity and infrastructure. (And King County has been a part of that!) Best Starts wants to counter these inequitable practices. As the County shifts how we prioritize our investments, we know it’s important to provide resources and supports to address this historical and systemic disadvantage–and to support the long-term sustainability of our partners and programs. 

We aim to center community experience, which often requires a trauma-informed approach to understand how racism and other trauma have impacted our funded partners and those they serve and reflect.  

Best Starts is also committed to the internal work of dismantling barriers and actively promoting more equitable internal practices.  

Best Starts wants long term impact for our partners. Our capacity building efforts are motivated by the desire for sustainability and positioning our partners for long term success. While we have made progress by making many of our investments 3 year commitments, we also need to be realistic and recognize that organizations need be set up for success far beyond when Best Starts funding may end. So we seek to help strengthen our partners organizational assets and follow their lead.   

An example of a capacity building training for Best Starts partners

How is Best Starts doing capacity building?  

Here is what this looks like:  

  • Capacity Building “consultants”
    • Through an RFP process, Best Starts now has consultants who are matched with organizations requesting specific support, ranging from legal to marketing. This relational approach provides 1:1 support for our funded partners.   
  • Capacity Building tailored to supporting partners joined by specific strategy areas
    • The strategy areas receiving tailored capacity building support include Community Designed Home-Based Services, Community Based Parenting and Peer Supports, and the Innovation Fund. We know that capacity building is not a “one size fits all.”
  • Technical Assistance for applying to funding opportunities
    • Best Starts provides support to organizations interested in applying for Best Starts funding, including determining whether a specific RFP was a good fit, shaping the story of their proposal, editing, and overall navigating the complicated process of applying for government funding.  
  • Data Support 
    • Data is a powerful tool. Too often it’s been used punitively against organizations and communities, but it can also help partners highlight and communicate their experiences and showcase their impact. We want partners to have the resources they need to participate in Best Starts evaluation and develop the data resources they need to achieve their own goals. From help tracking performance measures to creating surveys, we’re supporting partners in making data meaningful.  
  • Communities of Opportunity 
    • Support goes beyond grantmaking—strong organizations, strong partnerships and strategy, technical skills, and aligned values are all needed to develop communities where all can thrive. COO is piloting learning circles, workshops and coaching to support COO partners in this work—will share more about the plan to do so.  

So stay tuned as we spend time sharing more about each of these capacity building efforts more in depth! 

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