Capacity development

Men carrying water

Capacity development is the process through which individuals, organizations and societies obtain, strengthen and maintain the capabilities to set and achieve their own development objectives over time.

Capacity is about growth: growth of the individual in knowledge, skills and experience. Growth of the group that surrounds this individual as these skills and knowledge are passed on. And from this individual and group, growth of a society and nation. 

Capacity development is about supporting growth – within individuals, groups and across societies as a whole. Within CADRI our mission is to offer support however and wherever it is most needed – to people on the ground as well as to national and international agencies. We are always guided in our support by what we have learned in practice about capacity development.

From the development community worldwide agreement is emerging that capacity cannot be separated from sustainable human development: capacity is development. There is also growing understanding that capacity must be viewed from three distinct but related perspectives:

  1. Individual: the skills and knowledge vested in individuals, communities and groups.
  2. Organizational: the internal policies, systems and strategies that enable an organization to operate and to achieve its goals. 
  3. Enabling environment: the wider society within which individuals and organizations function. 

Capacity development in practice

While we now recognize capacity development as critical to overall human development, how capacity emerges, how we develop and evaluate it, and (most importantly) how we sustain it is much less clear. Our support may require a mix of interventions and must recognize what individuals or organizations are already good at – such recognition will ensure any new development will build upon existing capacity. 

Within the DRR community, experience of how to support a country’s own efforts to develop capacity already exists, but needs to be shared more widely. CADRI plays an important part in spreading this knowledge. We map initiatives, develop materials and bring people together to encourage the exchange of skills and information. 

Five steps to further develop capacity in practice have been identified:

  1. Engage stakeholders in capacity development: Local participation is essential – who has the necessary resources, expertise and influence?
  2. Assess capacity assets and needs: Who needs what and why? Ask these questions before putting any development plan into action. 
  3. Formulate a capacity development response: Whoever took part in the original assessment should be actively involved – at a group, community, regional or national level. 
  4. Implement a capacity development response: This must be an integral part of programme planning, and is best delivered via already established systems. 
  5. Evaluate capacity development: To support effective “learning from doing”, implementation must be flexible and needs to be monitored. 

Capacity development must be locally driven 

The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) encourages countries to develop their own DRR strategies: to mobilize political support, set priorities, and locate necessary resources nationally and internationally. Such national strategies offer a blueprint to develop regional, local and community plans that will translate broad objectives into specific action on the ground.  

Capacity development involves the whole society

Developing DRR capacity demands that a whole society – political institutions, civil society, academia and the private sector – work together towards a common goal. Many different perspectives are needed to determine capacity and meet needs: from those affected by or vulnerable to disaster, as well as from those with the expertise to help them.

An enabling environment is essential 

Countries are more likely to use and develop existing capacity where there is a strong political commitment to do so. Organizations supported by policy and law are more likely to deliver to expected standards. Communities supported by their local authorities are better able to become self-reliant. 

Capacity development goes beyond the classroom 

Training and learning will continue to be integral to capacity development, whether alone or (better) as part of a broader strategy. On the job training, mentoring, and simulations all build technical skills, expand critical thinking and sharpen problem solving. And learning can take place via informal networks and communities of practice, as well as in the traditional workshop or classroom. 


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CADRI Bulletin 2017

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