Strengthening the capacity of youth-serving institutions is a critical step in providing employability programs that meet the needs of young people and improve their chances of finding a job or starting a successful enterprise. But what practices have proven most effective in training young entrepreneurs? How can you best measure a program’s impact? How can organizations leverage their expertise and resources through working in partnership?

Representatives from 11 youth-serving institutions in the West Bank, including universities and NGOs, were recently given an opportunity to explore and apply the answers to these questions to their work through the Youth Entrepreneurship Development (YED) initiative's Capacity Strengthening Process (CSP) in Ramallah, Palestine.

The YED program is implemented by the International Youth Foundation (IYF) in partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission to the West Bank and Gaza. Its goal: to strengthen the ability of youth-serving organizations to implement employability, entrepreneurship, and service learning programs for young Palestinians.

The capacity strengthening process starts with an in-depth, participatory assessment of each organization’s existing capacity. This informs a tailored capacity-strengthening plan that is discussed with and approved by the partner organizations. CSP participants benefit from a series of complementary activities, including interactive training sessions, site visits to YED-funded activities and other established programs, attendance at technical clinics to explore specific topics of interest, visits from guest speakers, and one-on-one coaching sessions. After completing this process, participating organizations are invited to submit proposals for youth employability, entrepreneurship, or service learning activities to be funded by YED. Those organizations that are awarded grants receive ongoing support as they apply the skills and knowledge they gained though the CSP process.

Feedback from participants on the CSP experience was extremely positive: 94 percent of participants found the process beneficial to their professional development. Baha Al Khatib, Project Coordinator for Juhoud for Community and Rural Development, reflected: “The topics presented and discussed during the program were very beneficial, both on a cognitive and practical level, for designing development programs. We hope to continue to work together to maximize this benefit.”

Participants also expressed how valuable this experience was for their organization’s development. Hasan Omar, General Manager of Palestine Information & Communications Technology Incubator (PICTI), one of the institutions that received YED funding in 2012, said: “The capacity-strengthening program and valuable training sessions are useful—not only for the YED project—but for other projects we undertake.”

Doa Wadi, Executive Director of the Business Women Forum - Palestine, also found the CSP to be beneficial in building the organization’s capacity and introducing new approaches. “The training was a great experience for our staff. They learned to do assessments of other ongoing projects within the organization. They were able to find gaps and fix errors others could not find. It also introduced us to the concept of service learning, a new topic for our organization which we look forward to implementing.”

YED plans to engage another 18 individuals from nine organizations in a second round of CSP during 2012.