Evaluating Community Capacity Building

Capacity building is becoming central to community energy planning. Practitioners, non-profits and governments alike are increasingly adopting strategies to develop local capacity – the ability for communities to come together, learn, deliberate, make decisions and carry out stated objectives. This blog post offers a brief overview of how such initiatives can be monitored and evaluated.

‘Capacity’ is the ability of individuals, organizations, institutions and communities to come together, learn, deliberate, make decisions and carry out stated objectives (Communities, 2014). Additionally, capacity is also characterized (Society, 2017) by the ability to

  • Anticipate, respond and influence change,
  • Attract, absorb and allocate resources,
  • Plan, develop and deploy policy interventions,
  • Adaptive and reflexive self-governance.

 Capacity building (United Nations Development Programme, 2006), therefore, is empowering individuals, institutions or communities to self-govern towards achieving anticipated outcomes, while also improving their potential to respond to emerging challenges and opportunities. (See Fig below)

Knowledge mobilization by itself may not be sufficient to prepare communities to respond adequately to unanticipated opportunities and challenges.


A review of frameworks for building capacity in communities is beyond the scope of this prime, but interested readers can follow the Bibliography for more information.

Programs and activities designed to intervene in communities can be evaluated on the basis of Logic Model, also known as the M&E framework,  originally developed for use in projects funded by USAID and UN (Frankel & Gage, 2016).

Logics model for evaluating capacity building activities, adapted in part from [Frankel & Gage, 2016 
Changes along any of these dimensions represents a change in the ‘capacity’ of a community in response to capacity building activities. As an example, consider a project that seeks to build the capacity for community energy managers to plan and implement residential energy retrofit programs. The results can be assessed by mapping the components of capacity before and after capacity building interventions using the following performance indicators adapted from (Hill, 2001) (Frankel & Gage, 2016) (Communities, 2014)(Horton et al., 2003)(United Nations Development Programme, 2006) –

  • Inputs – Has there been an increase in resources allocated to the retrofit project?
    • New funding allocated internally or secured externally?
    • New staff, departments, administrators, locations?
    • New legislative or administrative mandates handed to tackle objectives?
    • New technical assistance, tools, instruments, data, monitoring, evaluation and verification protocols?
  • Process – Has there been a significant change in activities carried out to achieve residential energy retrofits?
    • New strategic partnerships, networks and alliances forged?
    • New actors, networks and configurations added to existing program?
    • Change in stakeholders, representatives, partners, donors through problem identification, diagnosis and solution development phases?
    • New protocols, guidelines, staff trainings, frameworks incorporated or developed?
    • New governance models tested?
  • Outputs – Immediate results from executing program activities
    • New documentation, implementation plans developed?
    • Increase in retrofit participants? Reduction in dropouts? Change in survey respondent priorities?
    • Engaging unconventional participants, like social housing or low-income families?
    • Widely shared understanding, clarity and vision for project goals across organization?
    • Consistent tangible progress towards goals?
  • Outcomes – Near-term effects of program within the sector
    • Self-reported increase organizational readiness towards leveraging emerging opportunities for public and private investments in energy efficiency?
    • Increase in communities successfully implementing LIC model for financing retrofits?
    • Increase in self-reported ability to assess and cope with external changes?
    • Residential sector’s ability to move from planning to implementation?
    • How many homes have achieved net-zero designation?
    • Energy saved?
    • GHG emissions recovered?
  • Impacts – Broader long term societal effects.
    • Long term impacts on public health, climate change, labor, employment, job creation, civil society, etc.
    • Are we building a better future?
Key takeaways
  • Capacity building can help communities respond to unanticipated challenges and opportunities through innovative responses.
  • While benefits of capacity building are somewhat understood, measuring the impacts of capacity building can prove to be challenging.
  • Measuring community capacity before and after capacity building activities can serve as a starting point for measuring the impacts of the capacity building interventions.
  • For best results with community energy planning, this evaluation tool should be used on an ongoing basis built into capacity building activities itself to reflect changing needs and priorities over time.

Communities, R. (2014). Measuring Community Capacity Building (A Workbook-in-Progress for Rural Communities). The Aspen Institute, 396.

Frankel, N., & Gage, A. (2016). M&E Fundamentals: A Self-Guided Mini-Course. Igarss 2014. http://doi.org/10.1007/s13398-014-0173-7.2

Horton, D., Alexaki, A., Bennett-lartey, S., Brice, K. N., Campilan, D., Carden, F., … Duong, L. T. (2003). Evaluating Capacity Development: Experiences from Research and Development Organizations around the World.

Society, A. (2017). A Capacity-Building Framework : A Search for Concept and Purpose Author ( s ): Beth Walter Honadle Source : Public Administration Review , Vol . 41 , No . 5 ( Sep . – Oct ., 1981 ), pp . 575-580 Published by : Wiley on behalf of the American Society for P, 41(5), 575–580.

United Nations Development Programme. (2006). Capacity Development: a Undp Primer. http://doi.org/978-92-9253-032-7


Date Published: June 30, 2017
Written by: Abhi
Category: Blog