Capacity building

Capacity building

What is meant by capacity building?

The ability of a country to follow sustainable development paths is determined to a large extent by the capacity of its people and its institutions as well as by its ecological and geographical conditions. Specifically, capacity-building encompasses the country's human, scientific, technological, organizational, institutional and resource capabilities. A fundamental goal of capacity-building is to enhance the ability to evaluate and address the crucial questions related to policy choices and modes of implementation among development options, based on an understanding of environmental potentials and limits and of needs as perceived by the people of the country concerned. As a result, the need to strengthen national capacities is shared by all countries.

Community capacity building, as both a concept and a strategy, has relevance to all communities and to society as a whole (as evidenced in discussions around 'social capital' and 'the third sector'). It is, however, most commonly applied to disadvantaged communities and population groups. This is belated acknowledgement that the profound economic restructuring and social change of the last decades of the 20th century has had a very uneven impact - benefiting some individuals and communities, while harming others. The promotion of community capacity building recognises that these continuing economic and social transformations will result in an increasingly divided society with even more deeply entrenched pockets of disadvantage in the 21st century - unless new and more effective interventions change the trajectory.

Key questions for this area

If you are teaching or studying in the area of capacity building, or are looking to add content to your unit, the following are some key questions that you should be able to answer and/or consider:

  • What is the difference between community and organisational capacity building, particularly in relation to sustainable development?
  • Which groups might benefit the most from capacity building?
  • What is the best approach to capacity building at a community level?

Useful resources 

If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, check out our resources for inspiration.

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