Capacity development is at the centre of international development efforts – yet capacity development interventions often fall short of delivering the results expected of them.
Capacity is usually defined in relation to doing something. Skills, knowledge, attitudes, norms, processes, systems, policies, and laws are often all lumped together under the rubric of capacity. Each type of capacity enables an individual or organisation to carry out certain tasks in order to achieve a certain result. At OPM, we categorise capacity according to whether it relates to people, organisations, or the institutional environment.
The relational nature of capacity makes it a difficult thing to actually measure. This is the case because capacity can mean very different things depending on context, and because capacity does not exist in and of itself, but only in relation to a particular task or mandate. Furthermore, measuring capacity is difficult because we can only really see it when it is being used.
We have developed our problem-driven capacity assessment methodology to address the difficulties of measuring capacity. First, our methodology takes an organisation’s mandate as its starting point, and it then identifies capacity problems preventing the organisation from executing this mandate. Second, our methodology adopts a nuanced view of capacity, which goes beyond focusing on the skills of individuals. Third, our approach deploys a mix of methods that allows for a more nuanced measurement of capacity, without over-dependence on a small set of potentially unreliable proxies.