Getting results from capacity development without getting caught in a straitjacket

Heather Baser
Year of publication: 

Many country partners and development agencies see themselves in a straitjacket when trying to define and measure the results of their capacity development activities. This difficulty has also been highlighted in many international discussions on capacity development and is raised again in the Perspectives Notes recently prepared for the Cairo Workshop on Capacity Development: from Concepts to Implementation scheduled for March 28-29 2011.

This straightjacket arises from the tensions between, on the one hand, approaches to project management that are based on results-based management (RBM) and which stress pre-defined, measurable outputs and indicators, and, on the other hand, the recognition that capacity development, especially when concerned with complex change processes, requires more iterative and flexible approaches to project design and implementation that give greater emphasis to the process of change and less to the attainment of pre-determined outputs.

The challenge remains to find ways to define and measure results in the context of capacity development work that takes account of this tension. The purpose of this note is to open up a dialogue on this tension and to invite stakeholders to share knowledge and lessons of experience on moving forward.

Under the auspices of LenCD and with support from the Development Cooperation Directorate of the OECD, Heather Baser ( will take the lead on these consultations and prepare a perspectives/issues paper for the Cairo meeting, which will also make suggestions on the way forward.