featured resource

‘Capacity refers to the ability of an individual, group, organisation or system to deliver intended outcomes, while capacity building refers to improving the ability of the entity to perform.’ (Brown et al 20011)

There are a number of defining characteristics for capacity building (eg. Alaerts et al 19912, UNDP 19983) however, all agree that:

  • Capacity building is a process of change, it is about managing transformations.
  • Capacity building is a long-term process, not a once-off intervention (but there can be short-term results)
  • Capacity building is an internal (endogenous) process, meaning that change needs to be driven from within an individual and/or organisation to build a self-sustaining model.
  • Capacity building involves all stakeholders (across organisations and hierarchy)
  • Capacity building measures obstacles, progress and outcomes
  • Capacity building goes beyond improving the human resource capacity to encompass the organisational and institutional contexts.

Clearwater uses a model developed to define capacity in the Australian water context (Brown et al 20064), which illustrates the different aspects of capacity in four spheres:


1. Brown L, LaFond A and Macintyre K (2001) Measuring Capacity Building. University of North Carolina

2. Alaerts G, Blair T and Hartvelt F (ed) 1991. A Strategy for Water Sector Capacity Building, Proceedings of the UNDP Symposium, Delft, Netherlands, 3-5 June 1991.

3. United Nations Development Programme (1998) Capacity assessment and development; United Nations Development Programme: http://www.cbd.int/doc/pa/tools/Capacity%20assessment%20and%20development.pdf

4. Brown R, Mouritz M and Taylor A 2006. ‘Chapter 5: Institutional Capacity’, in T Wong (ed.), Australian Runoff Quality: A Guide to Water Sensitive Urban Design, Engineers Media, Crows Nest, NSW, pp. 5/1-5/20.