2. Participatory capacity development assessment and planning process.

Stage 2: Participatory capacity development assessment and planning process with national stakeholders and partners.

The purpose of conducting the capacity assessment is to identify agreed capacity assets and needs. Once needs are identified, capacity development activities, targets, baselines, and recommendations can be established to form the basis of the capacity development plan.  


  1. Plan the assessment identify how the assessment will be conducted, including whether the assessment will be conducted with or without facilitation support; the type of information gathering method such as group meetings, workshops, one-on-one assessment meetings; and which organisations will be involved etc.
  2. Confirm the scope of capacities review and update specific skills and capacities to be assessed within each functional area.
  3. Review existing documentary evidence review and capture current documentary evidence of capacity assets and needs through previous assessments, strategy documents, audit reports, and initial stakeholder discussions.
  4. Conduct the assessment capture capacity assets, needs, and recommendations for each capacity, including a scoring of current and target capacity levels.
  5. Verify the assessment review and confirm initial findings from discussions in each functional area with relevant partners and stakeholders.
  6. Draft an assessment report to consolidate the assessment results, and develop draft conclusions within and across the functional areas.

Key Considerations

The following points should be considered when conducting a capacity assessment.

  • Consider an alternative term for ‘assessment’ the term assessment often has a connotation of an evaluation, audit or appraisal by an outside or independent party to analyse risk, though a capacity assessment is meant to be inclusive and owned by the organisation being assessed.  An alternate name to the capacity ‘assessment’ (analysis, investigation, determination, baseline, estimate, diagnosis, self-check, etc.) should be considered if this negative connotation exists.
  • Using the term ‘gap’ or ‘need’ the term ‘capacity gap’ may have a negative or pejorative connotation, therefore consider using ‘capacity need’, which identifies the same thing, but with a more positive and constructive connotation.
  • Focus on capacity strengths as well as weaknesses Besides offering a more balanced and less threatening viewpoint, capacity strengths can be leveraged in capacity development.
  • Conducting an external, facilitated assessment or a self-assessment A decision regarding who will conduct the assessment is important during the planning stage.  A self-assessment is appropriate when skills are available; an external or facilitated assessment may be necessary if skills are unavailable, or may be appropriate to gain an independent perspective. An expert in planning and conducting a capacity assessment can provide strong support in saving effort and time if capacity development experience is lacking.  Such a person can play a role at the start to plan and structure the assessment, or an on-going role to facilitate the assessment process.
  • Time allocation a capacity assessment effort should not become a major exercise, or an end in itself.  A ‘rapid assessment’ can be done, albeit with limited scope and depth, within a few days, though a thorough assessment can take a month.  A ‘rapid assessment’ approach might be considered when the focus of the assessment is very clear, or when there are constraints in terms of time or capacity.  Consider the results required, the time available and plan accordingly. However although many stages of the capacity development process can be simplified it is important to still invest in stakeholder engagement at all stages__ in particular with the design and planning of the assessment, to ensure national ownership.
  • The role of partners and stakeholders The breadth and scope of a capacity assessment will help to define which partners and stakeholders should be involved in the assessment process; at a minimum, they should participate in the assessment verification and review process (Stage 4).
  • Relation to the Global Fund assessment The capacity assessment process described here is not intended to replace the Principal Recipient assessment performed by the GF, though it focuses on the same functional scope of capacities.  The Global Fund assessment identifies capacity gaps from a viewpoint of risk to itself, while this assessment identifies capacity needs from a viewpoint of defining plans for improvement.
  • Duplication of effort should be avoided in conducting a capacity assessment. While the Global Fund does not normally share full LFA assessment reports, summaries should be requested from the Global Fund FPM to help inform the capacity assessment.  
  • Defining target capacity levels In the assessment process, both current and desired capacity levels are captured; the target capacity should focus on both the minimum requirements to be met by the Global Fund, and the wider health systems strengthening needs.
  • Follow-on capacity assessments a capacity assessment provides a ‘snapshot in time’ that should be measured against a future capacity assessment to note capacity improvements; therefore the assessment process should be clearly viewed as something to be revisited in the future.

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) often play an important role in program implementation. One important area where national or local CSOs are particularly valuable is in the implementation of HIV prevention services to Key Populations.  In addition to the technical capacities to provide these services they also require functional capacities, in particular if they are currently  or planning in the future  to carry out the SR of PR role. A tool to support the capacity development process for CSOs and SRs is available here.