Programming Essentials, Monitoring & Evaluation
Related Tools

Capacity development

Last edited: October 31, 2010

This content is available in


Capacity development is the process through which individuals, organizations and societies obtain, strengthen and maintain the capabilities to set and achieve their own development objectives over time. (UNDP, 2009) Capacity development is essential for making a sustainable contribution to addressing violence against women and girls. While often equated with training only, the concept of capacity development entails much broader components and considerations, such as:

Fostering a common vision and operating framework (laws, policies, protocols);

Building a critical mass of human resources (through targeted recruitment of staff with the right experience and skills, training and other supports);

Installing the appropriate infrastructure, such as equipment and supplies to facilitate implementation;

Developing or expanding partnerships to maximize the resources and effectiveness of interventions by bringing together the strengths and assets of different stakeholders;

Improving the knowledge base and ongoing learning through monitoring and evaluation of interventions; and,

Increasing technical and financial resources.

Key Elements:
  • Conducting needs assessments at community levels and among various stakeholders, including in the areas of knowledge, attitudes, behaviours and practices related to violence against women and gender equality in general; mapping of existing responses to violence against women (services, resources, organizations); skills, protocols, policies and infrastructure related to key sectors and specific areas of expertise needed for an appropriate response; data available on prevalence and incidence of the specific forms of violence being addressing, as well as assessing service data collection, monitoring and reporting systems; and other inputs necessary to effectively implement laws and policies to determine existing strengths and identify gaps.

  • Developing tailored capacity development plans for different stakeholders according to their roles and the policy or programme’s intended beneficiary population. For example, duty-bearers (those directly responsible for implementing the law); education and school staff; employers and the private sector; men; adolescents; media staff and journalists; or rights-holders (women and girls).

  • Assessing institutional strengths and weaknesses related to multi-sectoral cooperation arrangements and referral systems for the implementation of policies and protocols to determine what support is needed.

  • Using system-wide approaches, so that initiatives that focus on one aspect of capacity development, such as training of service providers, are designed and implemented within the wider needs and approaches outlined for the sector, such as improving the implementation of policies and protocols.

  • Enabling the direct exchange among stakeholders and practitioners, from government and non-government, from local and national levels and across South-South and North-South, to share relevant experiences, promising and good practices, lessons learned, tools and other resources.

  • Supporting a critical mass of women within government decision-making positions, and strengthening institutions or bodies focused on women (i.e. women’s machineries) which are responsible for addressing violence against women, are often under-resourced and do not benefit from the training and professional development opportunities available to other institutions.


Areas related to addressing violence against women that are commonly identified in need of strengthening include:
  • Data collection and analysis systems;

  • Sectoral and inter-sectoral regulations and protocols;

  • Frontline responses through coordinated service delivery systems (in health, security and justice), shelters and safe spaces;

  • Staff knowledge on women’s human rights and gender-based violence across sectors;

  • Public outreach and legal literacy to empower girls and women;

  • Specialized women’s centres;

  • Community-based models;

  • Securing budgets/gender-responsive approaches;

  • Monitoring and evaluation; and,

  • Adapting and upscaling successful and promising strategies based on evidence available from promising practice and models.


Lessons Learned:
  • Efforts to achieve structural and policy changes will not be effective without outlining the roles and responsibilities of individuals and institutions with an official mandate to respond; allocation of adequate funds; and installation of systematized monitoring mechanisms. Garnering the support of leadership is essential to fostering ownership and sustaining efforts for continued change.

  • Incentives for staff are an important motivating force. These can include improving the workspace, the working conditions and the work itself, and building-in time during the workday for sharing and learning.

  • Interventions often focus on the supply of services rather than the demand. There should be a comprehensive approach to capacity development which considers strengthening both supply (i.e. information and services) and demand (women’s empowerment, knowledge of legal rights and where to access services) in order to maximize the impact of violence prevention and response efforts.

  • Capacity development investments have tended to focus primarily on training without other necessary and complementary interventions (such as strengthening multisectoral referrals, infrastructure and systems, data collection, ongoing monitoring for improvements and partnerships and collaboration with women’s groups and civil society organizations, and other key elements).

  • The design and development of training curriculum and processes often ignore expertise in educational psychology and adult learning. It is also common for technical experts and not skilled and trained facilitators to deliver the training. Successful training requires a first and foremost a sound and consistent methodology and skilled trainers.

  • Different knowledge and skills are required by different people, of different functions and specialization levels, at different stages of implementation. Capacity development plans should tailor interventions accordingly and ensure that the right individuals are receiving the right inputs vis-à-vis their roles and where they are in the roll-out of the programme.

  • The slow pace of developing sustainable capacity is often at odds with the pressure to demonstrate progress quickly to beneficiaries and donors. However, experience has shown the value of investing in the institutions, staff and processes that can lead to lasting social change. (UNDP, 2009)

Resources: A Gateway for Capacity Development. (European Centre for Development Policy Management, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and United Nations Development Programme). Available in English, French and Spanish.

Capacity Development Website (United Nations Development Programme). Available in English.

Capacity Development Resource Center (World Bank). Available in English.

Capacity Building for Gender, Diversity and Equality (International NGO Training and Research Centre).  Available in English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Capacity Building Approaches (Impact Alliance).  Available in English, with select resources in French and Spanish.