Making policies work

Dossier: Capacity, change and performance


Capacity development – defined as the process whereby people, organisations and society as a whole unleash, strengthen, create, adapt and maintain capacity over time (OECD/DAC 2006) – has been an elusive challenge.

It has been on the agenda of development policy makers since the 1990’s and a series of comprehensive field studies have been conducted to unravel its secrets and to improve its effectiveness, for example Baser and Morgan (2008), Fowler and Ubels (2010) and IOB (2011). These have helped us to better understand the notion of capacity and the relation between capacity and performance.

One of the outcomes emerging from the study by Baser and Morgan was the 5Cs framework. This framework can help bring capacity into perspective, this capacity framework used centres around 5 capabilities (‘5Cs’) that together contribute to an organisation’s ability to create social value. Another outcome of this work has been research in the area of technical assistance.

This dossier summarises ECDPM’s various related work streams in the area of capacity development and technical assistance.

In this dossier:

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Book ‘Capacity development beyond aid’ – 15 years of

Capacity-Development-Beyond-Aid-150x212 Capacity development beyond aid
Heinz Greijn, Volker Hauck, Tony Land and Jan Ubels, June 2015

La version française est disponible ici. is a resource portal for the practice of capacity development and the home of the journal, published two to three times a year. Building on the topics covered in the journal, the portal aims to facilitate access to a broad range of related online resources that practitioners can draw on for their own work. These include the latest research findings, analytical frameworks, policy debates, practical experiences and toolkits.

To mark its 15th year of publication, and in recognition of significant developments, has recently published a special edition, entitled ‘Capacity development beyond aid‘. was established in 1999, at a time when the international donor community was courting a new and appealing concept – that of ‘capacity building’ and later ‘capacity development’. Few disagreed about its importance, but many questioned its theoretical underpinnings and operational value.

The special edition explores these questions, in the firm belief that capacity development is as relevant today as it has ever been and that it already plays a critical role in transforming societies beyond aid.

For more information, please visit

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Blog ‘What have we learned about capacity development so far?’

Photo-by-UNAMID-Flickr-150x150 What have we learned about capacity development so far?
Paul Engel, ECDPM Talking Points blog, 5 December 2014

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Bringing the invisible into perspective: reference document for using the 5Cs framework

ECDPM-5Cs-Framework Bringing the invisible into perspective
Reference document for using the 5Cs framework to plan, monitor and evaluate capacity and results of capacity development processes
Niels Keijzer, Geert Phlix, Alan Fowler and Eunike Spierings, December 2014

Many organisations are currently experimenting with the 5 capabilities framework as a basis for their approach to capacity. As a result, its translation into a practical methodology is still emerging.

This reference document describes a comprehensive approach to use the 5Cs framework for planning, monitoring and evaluation of capacity and the results of capacity development processes. The document has been written for development practitioners in Southern organisations and planning, monitoring and evaluation professionals with whom they collaborate. It explains a 5Cs perspective that can be practically translated and applied in context and organisation-specific ways.

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Evaluation of the Dutch support to capacity development: Facilitating resourcefulness

Netherlands-Ministry-of-Foreign-Affairs-Syntehsis-Evaluation-Capacity-Development-150x213 Facilitating Resourcefulness
Synthesis report of the evaluation of Dutch support to capacity development
Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In 2009, the Policy and Operations Evaluation Department (IOB) of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched a major learning-oriented evaluation of Dutch support for capacity development in 17 countries in various sectors. One key element in the methodology used for this evaluation was the 5Cs framework and ECDPM was part of the External Reference Group of this evaluation.

The results of the evaluation are summarised in the report ‘Facilitating Resourcefulness’ and were discussed during a conference with Dutch development partners. This resulted in recommendations concerning support to capacity development. The evaluation included 26 case studies, some of which are available here.

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Capacity, Change and Performance study

Capacity-Change-Performance-ECDPM-PMB-21-150x213 Capacity, Change and Performance – Key findings and conclusions
Tony Land and Volker Hauck, ECDPM Policy Management Brief 21, December 2008

Capacity, Change and Performance – Study report
Heather Baser and Peter Morgan, ECDPM Discussion Paper 59b, April 2008

Capacity Development: Between Planned Interventions and Emergent Processes
Tony Land, Volker Hauck and Heather Baser, ECDPM Policy Management Brief 22, March 2009

In 2009, ECDPM completed a five-year research programme entitled ‘Capacity, Change and Performance’. The research provides fresh perspectives on the topic of capacity and its development. It does so by highlighting endogenous perspectives: how capacity develops from within, rather than focusing on what outsiders do to induce it.

For more information about the study and for an overview of the different papers that were produced in the context of the study, please visit the ‘Capacity, Change and Performance study’ web page.

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Technical assistance

From 1995 up to 2007, ECDPM has published a range of papers on technical assistance. The overall objective of our work was to better understand what approaches to the provision of TA personnel have worked best and why, and to identify the implications for international development agencies, partner country representatives and field practitioners.

Key learnings from our work are summarised in the two papers presented below. To see all our work in this area, please visit our web page on technical assistance.

Aid-Effectiveness-Technical-Assistance-PMB-20-150x212 Aid effectiveness and the provision of TA personnel: Improving practice
Tony Land, Volker Hauck and Heather Baser, ECDPM Policy Management Brief 20, November 2007

Joint evaluation study of provision of technical assistance personnel: What can we learn from promising experiences?
Tony Land, ECDPM Discussion Paper 78, September 2007

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Further reading

Learning-Sustainability-Wals-Corcoran-150x213 Building Resilient Communities: Where Disaster Management and Facilitating Innovation Meet
Karen Engel and Paul Engel in ‘Learning for sustainability in times of accelerating change’, edited by Arjen Wals and Peter Corcoran, 2012

Capacity-Development-Practice-SNV-Netherlands-150x213 The Multi-faceted Nature of Capacity: Two Leading Frameworks
Alan Fowler and Jan Ubels in ‘Capacity Development in Practice’, edited by Jan Ubels, Naa-Aku Acquaye-Baddoo and Alan Fowler, 2010

ECDPM-Discussion-Paper-103-Democratic-Owernship-Capacity-150x213 Fostering Democratic Ownership: A Capacity Development Perspective
Volker Hauck and Tony Land, ECDPM Discussion Paper 103, February 2011

ECDPM-DP58E-Monitoring-Evaluating-Capacity-Performance-150x213 A Balanced Approach to Monitoring and Evaluating Capacity and Performance: A Proposal for a Framework
Paul Engel, Niels Keijzer and Tony Land, ECDPM Discussion Paper 58e, December 2007

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