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Institutional strengthening is about increasing the capacity or ability of institutions to perform their functions. There is a particular focus on improving governance.
In the area of the environmental, sustainability and development of under-developed regions, institutional strengthening often forms part of the thrust of aid packages and NGO focus. This focus is often on how the institution sets up its environmental, gender, sustainable development and related projects and development activities, finding where there might be weaknesses in networks, duplication of effort, impoverished understanding and implementation of legislation and policy and a need for better knowledge management and dissemination.
When assessing the application or outcomes of institutional strengthening, the researcher should be aware of the broad definition of "institution", to cover as wide a range as individuals, groups and communities through to NGOs, corporates and government bodies. Formality of formation is not a necessity; rather, a common objective to achieve pre-set outcomes is needed. Moreover, conceptually speaking an institution refers to the complex interplay of norms and behaviors that have become established and continued to be applied and adhered to over time. This means that abstract institutions such as "the law", "policymaking" and "cultural norms" all fall within the parameters of the institution.
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