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Participatory capacity development assessment and planning

Capacity assessment should be participatory in order to agree capacity strengths and weaknesses so as to implement effective health programmes.

Capacity assessment should consider the needs of the health programme as a whole, and where possible should look at all sectors implementing complementary activities, including ministries of health, NGOs and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). CSOs often play an important role in health programme implementation; for example, in the implementation of HIV prevention services for Key Populations.

UNDP's offer

UNDP has tools to assess ministries of health, tools for large organizations such as international NGOs or networks, as well as tools to support capacity development processes for CSOs. Once needs are identified, UNDP supports the identification of capacity development activities, baselines and targets to form the basis of the capacity development plan.
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In 2017 UNDP facilitated capacity development and sustainable transition plans for national health entities including; i) ministries of health; ii) national aids councils; iii) civil society organizations (CSOs); iv) health procurement bodies; and v) health governance mechanisms. In early 2018 comprehensive capacity development plans were in place in 9 countries, one example is Afghanistan, where plans are in place for both the Ministry of Public Health and different CSOs. UNDP has also supported the development of plans for combined Adolescent Girls and Young Women and Key Populations programmes as well as strategic capacities for CSOs working in health and HIV.


1. Plan the assessment

Identify how the assessment will be conducted, including whether it will be conducted with or without support from an external facilitator; the type of information gathering method such as group meetings, workshops, one-on-one assessment meetings; and which organizations will be involved.

2. Confirm the scope of capacities to be assessed.

3. Review existing documentary evidence.

Review and capture existing documentary evidence of current capacity from previous assessments, strategy documents and audit reports.

4. Conduct the assessment.

Capture capacity strengths, needs, and recommendations for each capacity.

5. Verify the assessment.

Review and confirm initial findings from further discussions with relevant partners and stakeholders.

6. Draft an assessment report if required.

To consolidate the assessment results and develop draft conclusions.

Key Considerations

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

Consider an alternative term for “assessment”.

The term assessment often suggests an appraisal by an outside group to analyse risk; even though a capacity assessment is meant to be inclusive and owned by the organization being assessed. An alternate word to describe the capacity assessment (diagnosis, self-check, etc.) should be considered if this negative connotation exists.

Using the term “need” instead of “gap” or “weakness”.

The term “capacity gap” may sound negative; therefore it is worth considering using “capacity need”, which sounds more positive.

Focus on capacity strengths as well as weaknesses.

Besides offering a more balanced and less threatening viewpoint, it is important to acknowledge an organization’s achievements.

Carrying out a facilitated assessment or a self-assessment.

A decision about who will conduct the assessment is important. A self-assessment is appropriate when skills are available; an external or facilitated assessment may be necessary if skills are unavailable or may help to offer an independent perspective.

Rapid or in-depth assessment?

A capacity assessment should not become a major exercise. 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. It is important to consider the results required, the time available and plan accordingly. However, it is important to still invest in stakeholder engagement at all stages to ensure national ownership.
The capacity assessment process described here is not intended to replace the Principal Recipient assessment performed by the GF. 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.

Key resources

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