The 5C Framework recognises 5 core capabilities of an organisation:

  1. capability to commit and act
  2. capability to achieve development results
  3. capability to relate
  4. capability to adapt and self-renew
  5. capability to achieve coherence

Using these capabilities, you can identify a set of criteria that can be used to assess or discuss the current and desired capacity of an organisation. Let me give you an example. Under “capability to adapt and self-renew”, one of the criteria we chose to look at was the extent to which the leaders of the organisation promoted innovation, diversity, flexibility, and creativity.

What do you need to keep in mind if you want to use 5C in a participatory setting and as a learning exercise for the organisation that you are assessing?

1.     Process over product

Using these criteria, we developed a scoring sheet which we introduced during several group discussion sessions. Members of the organisation could score themselves how well they thought the organisation was performing. Does the score itself matter that much? No. People score differently depending on their knowledge, perceptions, but also culture. The most important part is that they reflect on why they give a certain score. Allow people to elaborate and share their reasoning behind the score.

2.     Adjust your standard

Ultimately, based on the initial scoring and reflection, we wanted the members of the organisation to come up with action points themselves; this to increase ownership of the process and to avoid making it a top-down advice. However, people found it difficult to come up with concrete action points. Did this mean that our exercise had been unsuccessful? No. Don’t expect people to come up with a full action plan after only one group discussion. “High level” reflections about the functioning and strategy of an organisation might not be daily (or even monthly) business for most people. The fact that they start reflecting about it, and jointly discuss this can already be considered valuable progress. Is it difficult to concretise steps even after several meetings? This might indicate that there is a need to work on building strategic capacity. 


3.     Spot the strengths

So, what if, based on the capacity assessment, it turns out that things are not going that well? Is there still hope? Yes, of course! Don’t only focus on the weaknesses. Spot the strengths. There are always positive things that can be emphasised. During the group discussions that we organised, we saw that the members were disciplined, motivated and hard-working. Use the strengths as a starting point for further development.


Discover your strengths and get closer to the desired capacity of your organisation by inviting MDF experts in your team. Get in touch with Nadine Bergmann, the writer of these tips. Or read more about how we can help you improve your organisation.