raymond_insudan_2016 Development Connect developed and applied numerous global capacity assessment methodologies across service delivery sectors and value chains (which mainstream topics like gender, climate change, nutrition, partnerships) around required capacities for new program design, project implementation, and uptake of specific strategies generated by development programs, the public or private sector.

The assessments establish a capacity baseline, identify key entry points where functional and technical capacities need to be developed, detect new areas for research, and can help spur (local) enterprise development. These assessments also provide (evidence based) data to convince resource organizations, investors, incubator funds and the likes to expand financial investment, especially for local organizational, enterprise development.

Capacity assessment is an analysis of desired capacities against existing capacities which generates an understanding of gaps in capacity assets and needs that can serve as input for formulating a capacity development response to develop new and enhance weak capacities while optimizing existing capacities that are already strong and well founded. It can also set the baseline for continuous monitoring, learning and evaluation of progress against relevant indicators, and create a solid foundation for long-term planning, implementation and sustainable results.

Institutional development (as well as organizational change and strengthening processes) often begins with conducting an institutional contextual analysis that focuses on social, political and institutional factors, as well as processes concerning the use of national and external resources in a given setting, the “change” landscape and the organization’s position in it and how all these have an impact on the research and implementation of initiatives. This is important as the nature of the legal framework, within which agricultural markets operate, has a fundamental effect on the functioning on labor markets and the agricultural marketing system.

For development, public and-or private sector programs the capacity assessment will be framed around the required capacities of the external environment, the organization and the individuals it consists of for the uptake of (as an example) the agricultural value chain development strategies generated by the program, focusing on constraints for scaling up. This includes for example also the capacity to identify key research and new (organizational) business opportunities. The main objective is to identify what capacity exists among stakeholders and partners that can be leveraged to support the program activities (and eventual scaling up) and to identify priority entry points where functional and technical capacities need to be developed.

The guideline Development Connect developed can be used when:

  • A program or value chain problem is encountered, identify and analyze the key dimensions and the types of (technical and functional) capacities that need to be strengthened to which capacity development interventions could be a solution;
  • Developing a capacity development response strategy for specific programs and or parts of value chain deliverables/activities.

The capacity assessment process involves a number of aspects of dialogue and engagement, focusing on identifying which individuals, institutions, and stakeholder groups need to be involved in the given research and-or development process: what role they have and what stake they have in bringing about a change. This step is devoted to engaging stakeholders on the critical questions of whose capacities and what capacities (functional and technical) need to be developed. This approach is focused on process and is meant to generate a sense of ownership of decisions and actions.

Here, it is vital to have commitment and full support of senior management in order to gain access to relevant resources in the forms of dedicated time and availability from specific people and essential documentation (data and information). The representation of the client/partner organization in the team is critical, as their presence not only reinforces ownership of the process, but also provides a direct link to officials and key staff members of the organization, and help to facilitate dialogues and data collection.

Before designing capacity assessment tools, the scope and assessment objectives need to be determined. Quantitative and qualitative methods (such as questionnaires, focus group discussions and key informant interviews) will be developed. Given the contextual demands of an assessment and the diversity of stakeholder groups, questions are to be contextualized.

Once stakeholder meetings have been conducted, and interviews (and questionnaires) have been completed the capacity assessment team will summarize and interpret the results. The process of analyzing the information collected from various sources and methodologies can be complex. In practice, during this process, ad hoc consultations and discussions with key stakeholders continue to occur. The capacity assessment team also considers further exploration in areas when additional information is required and-or when conflicting insights need to be interpreted before finalizing the analysis.

The assessment team summarizes and interprets its results. This starts with comparing the level of desired capacity against the level of existing capacity which helps to determine whether the level of existing capacity is sufficient or needs improvement. This in turn helps the team identify where to focus the initial capacity development response. When interpreting the assessment results, the team tries to discern patterns in capacity gaps. The assessment team may find that the data and information gathered from different sources provide conflicting insights, especially with self-assessments and qualitative data. Individual perceptions are influenced by many factors, and the same rankings may be interpreted differently by different people. It is therefore important to get a variety of perspectives and take into account different points of view when writing the (preliminarily) capacity assessment report. The report will reflect upon an integrated set of deliberate and sequenced actions, and build momentum for the capacity development process by outlining a combination of high-priority short-term initiatives and immediate quick-impact actions, as well as long-term activities that lead to the desired capacity development outcomes.

Development Connect offers a wide range of capacity assessment approaches and tools to its clients shaped by local contexts to address needs and demands, and will help formulate response strategies, recognizing that countries and partners dynamics are different. Development Connect draws on the strengths of multi-skilled experts, who apply coherent approaches providing support to its clients, which establishes shared goals and values, mobilizes energies, (political) interests and passions, and, perhaps most important, builds on, rather than displaces, existing local capacities and initiatives.

Capacity Assessment Framework

The overall objective of a capacity assessment is to conduct an analysis of current capacities against desired future capacities. It generates an understanding of capacity assets and needs which in turn leads to the formulation of capacity development strategies as to make value chain actors, producers or other stakeholders capable to effectively and efficiently perform functions, solve problems, and set and achieve objectives. Capacity assessments can serve a number of different purposes, they can:

  • Identify capacity gaps along program activities, service delivery sector and value chains;
  • Foster a discussion around priorities for actions in the context of specific objectives (through the formulation of theories of change and impact pathways);
  • Identify opportunities for investments and leverage capacity development activities with partners;
  • Provide a starting point for the design of capacity development responses;
  • Establish baselines and indicators for capturing learning, and measuring, monitoring and evaluating progress in capacity development;
  • Support comparative analyses across programs and specific value chains.

It is important that (a member of) the capacity development team participates in processes when value chain (or service delivery) Situational Analysis and Partnership Landscaping are being conducted and when Theories of Change (ToCs) and Impact Pathways (IPs), that visualize potential roadmaps of how development/change could occur, are being developed. This is because information derived from these processes feed into the capacity assessment process. Similarly, the capacity assessment findings will feed information to the before-mentioned processes.

The Capacity Assessment Framework provides guidance on functional capacities. These are the generic capacities required to formulate, implement and review policies, strategies, programmes and projects regardless of the subject area of the service delivery sector and-or value chain. However, capacity assessment tools can be expanded to include technical capacities as required. Their selection is left to the specific needs to be expressed by the stakeholders concerned in step 1.

Below is a Three-Step Approach presented which was developed for UNDP, the Ethiopian Government and CGIAR respectively. This approach was subsequently applied in Livestock and Fish program countries globally, in water, waste management, energy service delivery sectors for partnership development and value chain work like in Nepal in the tea, cardamon, non-timber forest product sectors.

Good preparation is essential for a successful capacity assessment. At this stage, the initiative of undertaking an assessment is normally considered following a request and consultations with the promoters of the assessment (e.g. government officials and/or development partners). In order to tailor the assessment to the functions that an agency is mandated to perform with the corresponding capacity requirements, preliminary research and analysis is necessary to define the opportunity, feasibility and scope of the assessment.

The enabling environment for local governments and municipalities to provide effective and efficient services, especially to the poor, is complex. Decentralization processes, demand-led and pro-poor approaches to development and changing roles of the public sector, creates an environment where the capacity to collaborate with an ever increasing diversity of stakeholders becomes pivotal. Especially involving communities and informal service providers is a complex and challenging process for local governments. It is therefore imperative to understand the influence of the enabling environment on the capacity of local governments and municipalities to perform. An analysis of the enabling environment in terms of laws, policies, regulations, procedures, partnerships models and regulations, culture and believe systems, is therefore useful.

Development Connect developed matrices for the most common (service delivery, gender, partnerships, value chain) functions performed which include the most critical questions to ensure that all relevant elements are considered. This preliminary set of considerations should allow the (pre) identification of the main policy, legal and institutional issues and function-related capacity challenges that may need to be addressed by the assessment.

An assessment will typically involve a range of stakeholders that can champion, lead or inform the assessment process, provide political and administrative oversight, assist in designing the assessment, conduct research and participate in the assessment, analyze and disseminate the results and set priorities for follow-up action. Stakeholder involvement is a key element for successful implementation while promoting transparency and strengthening ownership and accountability, and establishing systems linkages with other public sector, civil society organizations, private sector.

Depending on the scope and scale of the assessment, an appropriate and tailored work plan should be devised that takes into account the following considerations:

  • Who should be a part of the assessment team?
  • Who should participate in the assessment?
  • Where will the assessment be conducted?
  • How will the assessment be conducted? (steps/tasks of the assessment and their sequence; human and financial resources needed for each step/task; person(s) responsible for each step/task; timeline for each step/task
  • How will the results be used??

A Three-Step Approach

three_step

Three specific steps are set to systematically and rigorously, yet flexible and adaptable, facilitate a capacity assessment process:

Step 1: Engage Stakeholders and Design a Capacity Assessment

step1  The concept of research for development implies that a change must take place. It is the underlying supposition of this need for change which informs capacity assessment processes. The capacity (needs) assessment process involves a number of aspects of dialogue and engagement, focusing on identifying which individuals, institutions, and stakeholder groups need to be involved in the given research and-or development process: what role they have and what stake they have in bringing about a change. This step is devoted to engaging stakeholders on the critical questions of whose capacities and what capacities (functional and technical) need to be developed.

Rational

This approach is focused on process and is meant to generate a sense of ownership of decisions and actions. It is vital to have commitment and full support of program managers and-or value chain/project coordinator in order to gain access to relevant resources in the forms of dedicated time and availability from specific people and essential documentation (data and information). The representation of the client/partner organization in the team is critical, as their presence not only reinforces ownership of the process, but also provides a direct link to officials and key staff members of the organization, and help to facilitate dialogues and data collection. Before conducting a capacity assessment tools, the scope and assessment objectives need to be determined. Quantitative and qualitative methods (such as questionnaires, focus group discussions and key informant interviews) may be developed.

Key Activities

  • Define the objectives and scope of the capacity assessment (e.g. either at the institutional, organizational and-or at the individual levels);
  • Extensive pre-assessment review of relevant documents, including legislation, policies, regulatory frameworks, institutional arrangements and coordination mechanisms – situate the review within national policy and development plans and where possible draw on existing national or sector capacity assessments and capacity development strategies;
  • Organize a scoping mission. Meet with the focal person or team from the client/partner organization and-or an external local consultant, if applicable. Decisions will be made how the capacity assessment will be conducted (where, when, with whom). A work plan detailing what needs to be done, by whom, when and what resources are required will be designed and will clarify objectives, identify relevant technical and functional capacities and core issues to be assessed. Commitment is sought for the support to the assessment process;
  • Design (and manage the adaptation of) capacity assessment tools like the sample interview matrices, questionnaire, rating matrix and template for capacity assessment worksheets to the specific context at hand;
  • Prepare a detailed agenda including list of partners and/or persons to meet during the capacity assessment.

Step 2: Conduct capacity assessment in-country

step2During the assessment, inputs will be collected either quantitatively or qualitatively. Since both have pros and cons, a capacity assessment should ideally generate both a quantitative ranking of capacity and qualitative information.

Rational

During this step quantitative and qualitative methods (such as questionnaires, focus group discussions and key informant interviews) will be applied to dive deeper into findings derived from the desk review and to gather new information. As part of the on-going stakeholder engagement it is important to conduct a validation meeting to corroborate preliminary findings and to provide an opportunity to share additional contributions or correct/adjust earlier provided information.

Key Activities

  • Validate plan made in step one with regards to the partners and/or people to be visited etc.;
  • Check availability/presence of assessment worksheets, interview guides and-or other supporting tools;
  • Ensure the implementation of the assessment, including quantitative and qualitative data collection; carefully consider the planning of data collection (questionnaires and focus group discussions need to be completed before in-depth semi-structured interviews take place so their findings can be used, in addition to the desk review findings, to determine the relevant interview questions);
  • Organize feedback meeting to share how the data collection went, initial thoughts on preliminary findings and the next steps of the process.

Step 3: Interpret and Analyze Information and Write (Preliminarily) Capacity Assessment Report

step3Once stakeholder meetings have been conducted, and interviews (and questionnaires) have been completed the capacity assessment team led by Development Connect will summarize and interpret the results. The process of analyzing the information collected from various sources and methodologies can be complex. In practice, during this process, ad hoc consultations and discussions with key stakeholders may continue to occur. The capacity assessment team may also consider further exploration in areas when additional information is required and-or when conflicting insights need to be interpreted before finalizing the analysis.

Rational

The assessment team will summarize and interpret its results. This starts with comparing the level of desired capacity against the level of existing capacity. This helps determine whether the level of existing capacity is sufficient or needs improvement and in turn helps the team identify where to focus the initial capacity development response. When interpreting the assessment results, the team tries to discern patterns in capacity gaps. The assessment team may find that the data and information gathered from different sources provide conflicting insights, especially with self-assessments and qualitative data. Individual perceptions are influenced by many factors, and the same rankings may be interpreted differently by different people. It is therefore important to get a variety of perspectives and take into account different points of view when writing the (preliminarily) capacity assessment report. The report will reflect upon an integrated set of deliberate and sequenced actions, attempting to build momentum for the capacity development process by outlining a combination of high-priority short-term initiatives and immediate quick-impact actions, as well as long-term activities that lead to the desired capacity development outcomes.

Key Activities

  • Analyze data and triangulate findings; get additional information or seek clarification in case of doubts or contradictory view points;
  • Draft the (preliminarily) capacity assessment report covering core issues which are mutually reinforcing; addressing more than one level of capacity and; combining short- to medium-term initiatives (one year or longer) with quick-impact activities (less than one year);
  • Validate the initial analysis with the assessment team/partners e.g. whether it will be feasible (technically and operationally) to implement it;
  • Select and prioritize proposed capacity development interventions and;
  • Seek endorsement for required (human and financial) resources to implement (initial) activities;
  • Outline the base of local experts and consultants regional, national and local educational and training institutes and service providers that may be able to assist delivery of interventions