SCOs contribute to development by designing, implementing and assessing programs. Often, they also engage fact-finding, policy advocacy, and networking to achieve change.
Some SCOs provide services in such areas as health, education, livelihood generation, human security, and natural resource management. Others work in policy reform (including compliance monitoring of existing policies or laws); organizational capacity development; or institutional renewal. Still others provide training; conduct development-focused research; mobilize resources (financial and human); or make targeted investments (sometimes in the form of grants). Highly effective SCOs usually apply several of these approaches to achieve mission.