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Community Capacity building, also referred to as capacity development, is a conceptual approach to development that focuses on understanding the obstacles that inhibit people, governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations from realizing their developmental goals while enhancing the abilities that will allow them to achieve measurable and sustainable results.
The term community capacity building emerged in the lexicon of international development during the 1990s. Today, "community capacity building" is included in the programs of most international organizations that work in development, the World Bank (World Bank), The United Nations (UN) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Oxfam International. Wide usage of the term has resulted in controversy over its true meaning. Community capacity building often refers to strengthening the skills, competencies and abilities of people and communities in developing societies so they can overcome the causes of their exclusion and suffering.
Organizational capacity building is used by NGOs to guide their internal development and activities.
The organizations interpret community capacity building in their own ways and focus on it rather than promoting one-way development in developing nations. Fundraising, training centers, learning centers and consultants are all some forms of capacity building. To prevent international aid for development from becoming perpetual dependency, developing nations are adopting strategies provided by the organizations in the form of capacity building. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was one of the forerunners in developing an understanding of community capacity building or development. Since the early 70s the UNDP offered guidance for its staff and governments on what was considered "institution building." In 1991, the term evolved to be "community capacity building." The UNDP defines capacity building as a long-term continual process of development that involves all stakeholders; including ministries, local authorities, non-governmental organizations, professionals, community members, academics and more. Capacity building uses a country's human, scientific, technological, organizational, and institutional and resource capabilities. The goal of capacity building is to tackle problems related to policy and methods of development, while considering the potential, limits and needs of the people of the country concerned. The UNDP outlines that capacity building takes place on an individual level, an institutional level and the societal level.
The World Customs Organization - an intergovernmental organization (IO) that develops standards for governing the movement of people and commodities, defines capacity building as "activities which strengthen the knowledge, abilities, skills and behaviour of individuals and improve institutional structures and processes such that the organization can efficiently meet its mission and goals in a sustainable way."It is, however, important to put into consideration the principles that govern community capacity building.
Oxfam International – a globally recognized NGO, defines Community capacity building in terms of its own principals. OXFAM believes that community capacity building is an approach to development based on the fundamental concept that people all have an equal share of the world's resources and they have the right to be "authors of their own development and denial of such right is at the heart of poverty and suffering."
Organizational capacity building - another form of capacity building that is focused on developing capacity within organizations like NGOs. It refers to the process of enhancing an organization's abilities to perform specific activities. An Organizational capacity building approach is used by NGOs to develop internally so they can better fulfil their defined mission. Allan Kaplan, a leading NGO scholar argues that to be effective facilitators of capacity building in developing areas, NGOs must participate in organizational capacity building first. Steps to building organizational capacity include:
Kaplan argues that NGOs who focus on developing a conceptual framework, an organizational attitude, vision and strategy are more adept at being self-reflective and critical, two qualities that enable more effective capacity building.
The term "community capacity building" has evolved from past terms such as institutional building and organizational development. In the 1950s and 1960s these terms referred to community development that focused on enhancing the technological and self-help capacities of individuals in rural areas. In the 1970s, following a series of reports on international development an emphasis was put on building capacity for technical skills in rural areas, and also in the administrative sectors of developing countries. In the 1980s the concept of institutional development expanded even more. Institutional development was viewed as a long-term process of building up a developing country's government, public and private sector institutions, and NGOs.
Though precursors to capacity building existed before the 1990s, they were not powerful forces in international development like "capacity building" became during the 1990s.
The emergence of capacity building as a leading developmental concept in the 1990s occurred due to a confluence of factors:
Reports like the CVA and ideas like those of Freire from earlier decades emphasized that "no one could develop anyone else" and development had to be participatory. These arguments questioned the effectiveness of "service delivery programs" for achieving sustainable development, thus leading the way for a new emphasis on "capacity building".
In the UNDP's 2008–2013 "strategic plan for development" capacity building is the "organization's core contribution to development." The UNDP promotes a capacity building approach to development in the 166 countries it is active in. The UNDP focuses on building capacity on an institutional level and offers a 5–step process for systematic capacity building. The steps are:
The UNDP integrates this capacity building system into its work on reaching the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs). The UNDP focuses on building capacity at the institutional level because it believes that "institutions are at the heart of human development, and that when they are able to perform better, sustain that performance over time, and manage 'shocks' to the system, they can contribute more meaningfully to the achievement of national human development goals." 
One of the most fundamental ideas associated with capacity building is the idea of building the capacities of governments in developing countries so they are able to handle the problems associated with environmental, economic and social transformations. Developing a government's capacity whether at the local, regional or national level will allow for better governance that can lead to sustainable development and democracy. To avoid authoritarianism in developing nations, a focus has been placed on developing the abilities and skills of both national and local governments so power can be diffused across a state. Capacity building in governments often involves providing the tools to help governments best fulfil their responsibilities. These include building up a government's ability to budget, collect revenue, create and implement laws, promote civic engagement, be transparent and accountable and fight corruption. Below are examples of capacity building in governments of developing countries:
The capacity building approach is used at many levels throughout, including local, regional, national and international levels. Capacity building can be used to reorganize and capacitate governments or individuals. International donors like USAID, often include capacity building as a form of assistance for developing governments or NGOs working in developing areas. Historically this has been through a US contractor identifying an in-country NGO and supporting its financial, M&E and technical systems towards the goals of that USAID intervention. The NGO's capacity is developed as a sub-implementer of the donor. However many NGOs participate in a form of capacity building that is aimed toward individuals and the building of local capacity. In a recent report commissioned by UNAIDS and the Global Fund, Review of TA to CSO funded by the Global Fund the individual NGOs voiced their needs and preference for broader capacity development inputs by donors and governments. For individuals and in-country NGO, capacity building may relate to leadership development, advocacy skills, training/speaking abilities, technical skills, organizing skills, and other areas of personal and professional development. One of the most difficult problems with building capacity on a local level is the lack of higher education facilities in developing countries. Between 2–5 percent of Africans have been to tertiary school. Another difficulty is ongoing brain drain that takes place in developing countries. Often, young people who develop skills and capacities that can allow for sustainable development leave their local origins. Damtew Teferra of Boston College's Center for African Higher Education argues that local capacity builders are needed now more than ever and increased resources should be provided for programs that focus on developing local expertise and skills. The development sector, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa has many decades of 'international technical advisors' working with and mentoring government officials and national non-government organisations. In health service delivery, whether maternal care or HIV related, community organisations have been started and often grew through the strength of their staff and commitment to be national and even regional leaders in their technical fields. Whilst higher education is still an under-served demand, there are significant resources of experienced staff. More recent donor initiatives, including The Global Fund's Community Systems Strengthening and the US PEPFAR Technical Assistance to the New Partners Initiative begin to address the organisational capacity needs and stronger skills to be recognised as part of the national response to health needs in a country. To complete the capacity development cycle, the Global Fund and UNAIDS Technical Support Facility and the TA teams for CSO funded by the New Partners Initiative are staffed and managed by residents and nationals of those same developing countries.
Below are some examples of NGOs and programs that utilize the term "capacity building" to describe their activities on a local scale:
The first example depicts capacity building as tool to deliver individuals the skills they need to work effectively in civil society. In the case of Mercy Ships, the capacity building is delivering the capacity for individuals to be stakeholders and participants in certain defined activities, such as health care.
Societal development in poorer nations is often contingent upon the efficiency of organizations working within that nation. Organizational capacity building focuses on developing the capacities of organizations, specifically NGOs, so they are better equipped to accomplish the missions they have set out to fulfil. Failures in development can often be traced back to an organization's inability to deliver on the service promises it has pledged to keep. Capacity building in NGOs often involves building up skills and abilities, such as decision making, policy-formulation, appraisal, and learning. It is not uncommon for donors in the global north to fund capacity building for NGOs themselves. For organizations, capacity building may relate to almost any aspect of its work: improved governance, leadership, mission and strategy, administration (including human resources, financial management, and legal matters), program development and implementation, fund-raising and income generation, diversity, partnerships and collaboration, evaluation, advocacy and policy change, marketing, positioning, planning. Capacity building in NGOS is a way to strengthen an organization so that it can perform the specific mission it has set out to do and thus survive as an organization. It is also an ongoing process that incites organizations to continually reflect on their work, organization, and leadership and ensure that they are fulfilling the mission and goals they originally set out to do. Alan Kaplan, an international development practitioner, asserts that capacity development of organizations involves the build-up of an organization's tangible and intangible assets. He argues that for an NGO to work efficiently and effectively in developing country they must first focus on developing their organization. Kaplan argues that capacity building in organizations should first focus on intangible qualities such as:
Though he asserts that intangible qualities are of utmost importance – Kaplan says that tangible qualities such as skills, training and material resources are also imperative.
Another aspect of organizational capacity building is an organization's capacity to reassess, reexamine and change according to what is most needed and what will be the most effective.
Since the arrival of community capacity building as such a dominant subject in international aid, donors and practitioners have struggled to determine a concise mechanism for determining the effectiveness of capacity building initiatives. In 2007, David Watson, developed specific criteria for effective evaluation and monitoring of capacity building. Watson complained that the traditional method of monitoring NGOs that is based primarily on a linear results-based framework is not enough for capacity building. He argues that evaluating capacity building NGOS should be based on a combination of monitoring the results of their activities and also a more open flexible way of monitoring that also takes into consideration, self-improvement and cooperation. Watson observed 18 case studies of capacity building evaluations and concluded that certain specific themes were visible:
In 2007, USAID published a report on its approach to monitoring and evaluating capacity building. According to the report, USAID monitors: program objectives, the links between projects and activities of an organization and its objectives, a program or organization's measurable indicators, data collection, and progress reports. USAID evaluates: why objectives were achieved, or why they were not, the overall contributions of projects, it examines qualifiable results that are more difficult to measure, it looks at unintended results or consequences, it looks at reports on lessons learned. USAID uses two types of "indicators" for progress. "output indicators" and "outcome indicators." Output indicators measure immediate changes or results such as the number of people trained. Outcome indicators measure the impact, such as laws changed due to trained advocates.
Community capacity building is much more than training and includes the following:
It also interfaces with some work by the New Institutional Economics association led notably by the 1994 Nobel prize winner Douglass North. It tries to lay out the essential organizational and institutional prerequisites for economic and social progress ( See the paper by North, Wallis and Weingast) modestly entitled 'A conceptual framework for interpreting recorded human history', NBER working paper 12795, (www.nber.org/papers/w12795).
Community capacity building is defined as the "process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in the fast-changing world." (Ann Philbin, Capacity Building in Social Justice Organizations Ford Foundation, 1996)
Community capacity building is the elements that give fluidity, flexibility and functionality of a program/organization to adapt to changing needs of the population that is served.
Infrastructure development has been considered "Economic Capacity Building" because it increases the capacity of any developed or developing society to improve trade, employment, economic development and quality of life. It is also true that where institutional capacity is limited, infrastructure development is probably constrained. Currently the United States infrastructure is rated D or worse by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). This may be an indication that the Institutional Capacity of the USA is constrained and will impact future quality of life issues.
Opportunity Management may be defined as "a process to identify business and community development opportunities that could be implemented to sustain or improve the local economy,". When driving capacity building initiatives, opportunity management may help to target resources. The opportunity management process will firstly help identify the opportunity for improvement - a challenge that will be addressed by the capacity building initiative. Likewise, criteria will be developed and applied to proposed capacity building initiatives evaluate the effectiveness of the alternatives, and select an option for the driving phase. During the driving phase of the capacity building initiative, leads are assigned, accountability is established, action plans are developed, and project management may be utilized. Once the driving stage has reached fruition, constant monitoring of the capacity building initiative is required to make a decision to:
If it determined in the monitoring phase that the initiative is not meeting the objectives outlined in the criteria of the evaluating and prioritizing stage, then the initiative will either need to be reworked - often requiring additional resources, or killed - meaning the end of the initiative. Following opportunity management guidelines, it is often effective to end or rework an initiative before excessive resources are waisted on a strategy that has proven not to work.