Monitoring and Evaluating Capacity Building: Is it really that difficult?

Few doubt the importance of capacity building in the modern era, and few would deny that effective monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is needed to support this work. Nevertheless, the monitoring and evaluation of capacity building is as much a challenge now as it was two decades ago. This paper examines both theory and current practice, and discusses some of the key barriers to progress.

The paper is primarily concerned with capacity building within civil society organisations (CSOs), although many of the lessons apply equally to organisations in the commercial or state sectors. It is based on a literature review and interviews with a range of capacity building providers based in the North and South. The research did not include interviews with organisations that are primarily recipients of capacity building support.1

The paper begins by looking at some key concepts in both capacity building and M&E. It examines different ways of thinking about M&E, and describes a variety of different tools and approaches used to plan, monitor and evaluate capacity building work. It goes on to discuss M&E in relation to donors and provides an outline of current practice, based on the interviews. Finally, it highlights key areas for further discussion, and presents some conclusions based on the research.

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