Capacity Building Institutes: A Promising Practice for Collaboration

Capacity-building institutes (CBIs) bring together individuals from a variety of stakeholder groups to explore problems around a specific topic area and come up with potential solutions that increase the capacity of stakeholders to solve identified problems. The DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center at the University of Washington in Seattle has hosted dozens of CBIs focused on increasing the success of individuals with disabilities in college and careers and improving the accessibility of information technology (IT). These meetings employ practices to ensure engagement of all participants.

Some of the practices that make CBIs collaborative are described below.

  • Invite representatives from a variety of stakeholder groups to the CBI to ensure that multiple perspectives are presented and that there is a wide range of expertise among participants.
  • Draw speakers from the audience. This is a way for participants to hear from a variety of perspectives and continue to engage with speakers throughout the event.
  • Include brainstorming and discussion sessions during the meeting. Some discussions can be in small groups and others can engage the entire group. Notetakers should capture participant ideas for proceedings and for reference in developing action plans or disseminating information.
  • Ensure that meetings are accessible. Be sure that speakers verbalize information presented in visual format and use a microphone. Those asking questions from the audience should use a microphone or speakers should repeat their questions into the microphone before responding.
  • When appropriate, include a session to help participants develop an action plan for steps they will take after the meeting.
  • After the meeting, develop proceedings that summarize presentations and discussions that took place at the CBI. Post the document on a website and otherwise disseminate so that a larger audience can benefit from what took place at the meeting.

DO-IT’s CBIs are a promising practice in organizing collaborative meetings because of the way that they bring together stakeholder groups, engage participants, spur action, and share information with a large audience.

You can find more information about DO-IT CBIs at Capacity Building Institutes. For specific guidelines on conducting a CBI on your campus, in your region, nationwide, or internationally, see Building Capacity for a Welcoming and Accessible Postsecondary Institution.