Photo by Charlie David Martinez for CRS

The Middle East-North Africa Civil Society Organizations Training and Organizational Development Response (MENTOR) Project

Using its comprehensive capacity strengthening approach, CRS’ MENTOR project worked in close collaboration with two leading local partners in Lebanon and Tunisia to build capacity as civil society leaders. Through these agencies, MENTOR then contributed to the development and growth of nascent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to advocate more effectively for their respective causes of social change.


Official name of project: The Middle East-North Africa Civil Society Organizations Training and Organizational Development Response (MENTOR) project

Project years: 2012-2015

Countries: Lebanon, Tunisia

Value of project: $2.5 million

Names of donor and partners: Donor: The US-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Partners:  St. Joseph University, Mentor Unit (Lebanon), and the Tunisian Association for Management and Social Stability (TAMSS, Tunisia)


MENTOR’s goal is to strengthen civil society’s ability to help the poor and address social injustice by supporting large and nascent NGOs, and strengthening networks to leverage effective social change.


Across the region, nascent and emerging NGOs work and advocate for meaningful and sustainable social justice. From nutrition to women’s right to vote and political participation, these organizations are critical for the region’s economic and social development. However, they often do not have the support to create, sustain and grow effectively as an organization. Civil society is key to alleviating poverty and injustice, but is often overlooked. MENTOR sought to invest in multiple layers of civil society so that they in turn could be empowered institutions to affect change. 


MENTOR worked with partners to:

  • Assess participating organizations’ levels of capacity.
  • Develop materials and trainings for customized capacity strengthening to each CSO.
  • Accompany through coaching to integrate learning and provide $5,000 in small grants to qualifying CSOs.

Organizational assessments

MENTOR began with organizational capacity assessments for the participating CSOs. These assessments measured financial, managerial, advocacy and other organizational capacities. When compared, they revealed a net change in capacity attributable in CSOs from the beginning, mid-point and end of their participation in MENTOR.

Reaching the project’s second round, however, it was determined that a deeper, more elaborate assessment should be done.  This assessment took a closer look at the effectiveness of the change in capacity, and ultimately the impact the MENTOR project had on communities. 

The beneficiary impact assessment began in November 2014 with the new group of MENTOR CSOs. So far, focus group discussions have taken place with the beneficiaries served by a sample of Tunisian CSOs from MENTOR. Similar focus group discussions with the beneficiary community of the newly selected Lebanese CSOs will soon take place.

Capacity strengthening

A key element of the project was its efforts to strengthen the knowledge, skills and attitudes of staff to develop organizational systems meant to ensure that institutional know-how is passed on to future staff, and in turn, to support an organization’s long term sustainability.

MENTOR involved two rounds of capacity building, each with a different group of nascent CSOs. The first round was led by CRS with the country lead partners between January 2013 and September 2014. The MENTOR project moved into the second round of organizational capacity building in October 2014. In this round, the country lead partners are managing the program, receiving support from CRS. The lead training partners are the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) and the Tunisian Association for Management and Social Stability (TAMSS).

The MENTOR team also engaged in significant shadowing, coaching and mentoring to ensure that the content of training was integrated into participants’ everyday work. 


  • The capacity strengthening model has had a cascading effect. CRS works with one leading partner in each of the two countries. That partner then works with groups of nascent NGOs to address various challenges in local civil society. Those NGOs work closely with the communities they serve and for which they advocate.
  • The transformation that the two leading partners have experienced has been significant both at the institutional and personal level. The institutional performance indicators and the staff personal testimonies are a testament of the value of CRS’ approach to local capacity strengthening and the highly qualified colleagues our agency can count on at the country program level.
  • In a unique religious and political landscape that characterizes the Middle East, CRS, a faith-based Catholic organization, has proven to be a prime, respected and highly sought after provider and facilitator of local capacity strengthening.
  • In the future, the project may have great potential for scalability across the region.

Success Stories

Lead partners: Significant improvements in financial and managerial assessment scores, as a result of capacity strengthening initiatives led by CRS.



First Assessment

Mid-point Ass.































Nascent NGOs: Financial and managerial assessment scores