Institutional Strengthening

For 85 years, World Learning has strengthened institutions in more than 100 countries through exceptional education, exchange, and development programs.

From helping government ministries improve their management practices to training teachers to incorporate innovative techniques into their classrooms, the World Learning approach is comprehensive, systemic, and highly adaptive.

We do this work because organizations, regardless of their size or scope, are the backbone of international development, and they are constantly changing and evolving. It's not so much about addressing a problem, but understanding that all organizations have challenges to overcome so that they can effectively and efficiently accomplish their mission.

Click here to read our Theory of Change for Institutional Strengthening


Based on our experience managing dozens of projects designed to strengthen institutions across different sectors, and aligned with USAID Forward and Local Systems Framework principles, World Learning has developed its custom approach to working with local organizations to reliably and sustainably deliver results. Our model is built on the following principles:

  • Institutional strengthening efforts are designed and conducted to be fully participatory at every level of our partner organization—including executive leadership, staff, volunteers, clients, board members and beneficiaries. Our definition of active participation goes beyond traditional approaches - it encourages our partners to lead the agenda, be the voice in the process, and include underrepresented individuals, thereby developing a sense of ownership of the process and outcome.
  • We tailor our approach to our partners’ constraints, context, and interests. From the start, we collaboratively define the objectives, goals and process that drive the activities, customized to the ethos of partner organizations.
  • World Learning recognizes that solutions that only address superficial issues will not lead to meaningful improvements in performance. Our holistic approach to institutional strengthening takes into account both the internal and external environments of each partner organization. We explore underlying causes of issues, recognize ways to address them and delineate systemic changes that must be addressed to produce the desired results.
  • From change managers within the institution to individuals and teams undertaking activities, our approach focuses on transferrable skills and knowledge that allow partner organizations to initiate performance improvement activities during and - more importantly - after our partnership has concluded.
  • World Learning’s approach to institutional strengthening is characterized by a continual focus on producing quality outcomes that enable partners to achieve agreed upon results. This approach distinguishes between achieving immediate results and longer-term outcomes, which often lead to shifts in organizational culture toward continual improvement.
  • We promote learning by doing – where, through their active participation, partners have an opportunity to practice and reflect on what they are doing throughout the process.

We also draw upon USAID’s Human and Institutional Capacity Development (HICD) principles and practices to determine and address barriers to performance.

Many of our experts are Certified Performance Technologists (CPTs), a designation granted by the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI). World Learning creates strong teams of CPT’s, performance improvement professionals and subject matter experts by drawing on internal resources, close relationships with proven consultants, and extensive professional networks developed over decades. We also draw upon an array of capacity development tools, such as our proprietary Participatory Institutional Analysis (PIA), to provide programs with the necessary methodological flexibility and technical know-how to meet partner development needs.

World Learning has decades of experience working in organizational and individual performance improvement. We’ve applied USAID’s Human and Institutional Capacity Development principles to our work in Macedonia, Nicaragua, Kosovo, Georgia, Cyprus and specific projects with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Liberia to universities in Lebanon.