Online course in capacity development

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About the course

Capacity development has been emerging as a central approach within development for more than two decades. This approach has gradually shifted the focus of development practice from simple financial aid and technical cooperation towards a complex new paradigm that encourages and demands active involvement and ownership from the people and communities involved in aid programmes. The approach takes into account the broader political, social, and economic environment in which change takes place. Capacity development co-exists and is supported by older forms of development practice, and is a continuously shifting paradigm as experience informs policy, practice and theory.

To help you better understand and master this complex paradigm, this course introduces the key concepts, principles and values of capacity development. The main focus is on building practical skills for better design, planning, implementation and assessment of capacity development initiatives.

The course is delivered by Diplo Foundation in collaboration with LenCD.  Course materials are based on the Learning Network on Capacity Development (LenCD) Learning Package on Capacity Development, and were developed with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), LenCD, and Learn4Dev.


This course is conducted entirely online over a period of nine weeks. Reading materials and tools for online interaction are provided through an online classroom. The course is based on a collaborative approach to learning, involving a high level of interaction. Each week, participants read an assigned module text, adding questions and comments as hypertext entries. Lecturers, guest experts, and other participants read and respond to these entries, creating interaction based on the module text. During the week, participants complete additional online activities (e.g. further discussion via blogs or forums, group tasks, short assignments). At the end of the week, participants, lecturers, and guest experts meet online in a chat room to discuss the week’s topic.

Please note that due to the spread of course participants across time zones worldwide, scheduled online session times may not fall within working hours for all participants. Some participants may need to attend online sessions during the morning or evening hours.

This course requires a minimum of five to seven hours of study time per week. Before you apply, please consider carefully whether you can commit the necessary time in order to complete the course successfully

Successful participants will receive a certificate issued by DiploFoundation and LenCD.

Learning Objectives

Concept of capacity development

By the end of this course, participants should be able to:

  • Define and explain the concept of capacity development, with reference to different levels of implementation, types of capacity, and themes for application.
  • Explain the importance of context and culture for effective capacity development.
  • Describe how capacity development is related to the aid effectiveness agenda.

Practical skills

By the end of this course, participants should be able to do some or all of the following (based on their particular needs and interests):

  • Assess existing capacity and define capacity needs.
  • Assess change readiness.
  • Define the change process and map the changes required.
  • Map and influence stakeholders, when starting a capacity development project or programme.
  • Formulate capacity goals and objectives.
  • Formulate capacity indicators for different contexts and levels.
  • Design a capacity development approach, including selecting and adapting appropriate methods and tools.
  • Measure capacity outcomes and results for different levels and contexts.
  • Develop monitoring and evaluation processes that foster learning.
  • Work with incentives to stimulate change.
  • Establish partnerships and networks for scale-up.

Understanding and application

By the end of this course, participants should be able to:

  • Develop a capacity development strategy.
  • Analyse case studies of capacity development to identify best practices.
  • Assess and evaluate what others are suggesting/offering as capacity development interventions.
  • Negotiate or advocate for capacity development to be integrated effectively into programmes and projects.
  • Facilitate and promote shared understanding of capacity development concepts, and use of a common language to talk about capacity development.
  • Collaborate effectively online.

Course Outline

  1. Introduction to capacity development. Core concepts for capacity development: levels, types and themes; defining capacity and capacity development; the relevance of culture and context; building a shared understanding about the principles and values of capacity development.
  2. Assessing existing capacity and defining capacity needs. Who should do the assessment; framing the assessment; what to assess; choosing assessment frameworks and tools; helpful assessment questions and tools.
  3. Assessing change readiness, and mapping and influencing stakeholders. Why assess for change readiness, assessing and defining change readiness, finding and creating assessment tools, mapping and influencing stakeholders to get started: what, who, and how.
  4. Formulating capacity goals and objectives, and capacity indicators. Capacity goals and what they need to cover; focusing capacity goals, and entry levels; capacity objectives; the learning and change perspective;  why indicators are needed; who should define and use indicators; starting with baseline information; types of indicators; sequencing indicators over time;
  5. Designing a capacity development approach. Prerequisites to good design; getting started and deciding entry points; choice of interventions; sequencing.
  6. Measuring capacity outcomes and results. Who needs to be involved in measurement, and how; what needs to be measured and criteria for measurement; creating a measurement framework to fit the context; tools for measurement.
  7. Developing monitoring and evaluation (M&E) processes; and working with incentives to stimulate change. Benefits and characteristics of learning approaches that foster M&E; challenges; tools; types of incentives; internal and external incentives; developing an incentive structure.
  8. Review and wrap-up; establishing partnerships for scale-up. Reviewing the main concepts and course conclusions; who needs to be involved in partnerships for scale-up; steps in establishing partnerships; lessons learned.


A fee is charged for participation in the course, to cover the cost of tutoring and facilitation.  Information about fees is available from the Diplo Foundation website. A limited number of partial scholarships are available for applicants from developing countries. Please indicate in your motivation letter if you are requesting a scholarship.


For more information about the course and how to apply, please visit the course information page at Diplo Foundation or contact:

Anutruf, Ground Floor
Hriereb Street
Msida, MSD 1675, Malta

Tel: +356 21 333 323