FAO Capacity Development

Monitoring capacity development

What does it mean?

Monitoring capacity development (CD) means tracking changes in capacities both during and after a project or an intervention in order to improve its impact and sustainability. It is an ongoing process by which stakeholders obtain regular feedback on the progress being made towards achieving their capacity goals and objectives. Therefore, it is essential for accountability (i.e. reporting results for resources partners) and also to provide space for continuous learning. 

Tracking capacity changes is quite challenging as it involves aspects that are often difficult to capture such as changes in individual behavior and knowledge, or in organizational performance. However, it is important to track these changes across the three CD dimensions and for both types of capacities (e.g. technical and functional).

In order to track CD results, it is important to define what to measure and how to measure it.

How to define what to measure?

The foundations for monitoring are laid at the planning stage of an intervention. To define what and whose capacities are to be developed through the intervention or project, it is necessary to have a baseline assessment on existing capacities and gaps. The capacity assessment process is a useful methodology to establish such a baseline, and thus to define effective CD-specific objectives and results of an intervention.

Defining what to measure is usually done during the formulation of a CD project or intervention. Following the logical framework approach (LFA), CD should be embedded in each level of the results chain, especially from Activities to Outcomes (see figure below).

Defining CD objectives and activities:

Besides making them SMART (i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented and time-bound), the objectives of a CD intervention need to be carefully defined across the three CD dimensions (individuals, organizations, enabling environment) and to address both technical and functional capacities. 

When designing activities to reach the targeted CD objectives, it is important to recognize that trainings are not the only way to enhance capacities (see “How to design CD interventions“).

Defining CD results:

An important consideration in formulating results (outputs and outcomes) is to take into account both the product (i.e. “what” result is to be achieved) and the process (i.e. “how” the result will be achieved).

At the individual level, an output should take into account changes in technical and managerial skills, competencies, knowledge, attitudes or values; and it should also describe the process of acquisition of these skills and competencies. For instance, the output could describe the process of knowledge acquisition through a learning initiative (e.g. training, coaching, study tour).

At the organization level, an output should describe the steps that are taken to improve the functioning and performance of organizations. For instance, it will take into account changes in mandates, responsibilities, leadership, coordination, organizational priorities, processes and procedures, human and financial resources or knowledge information sharing, etc.

At the enabling environment level, an output should look into the institutional set-up of a country, power structures, legal, policy and political frameworks, or the overall efficiency of the policy instruments, etc. For instance, an output could describe the participatory nature of conducting policy reviews or policy development (e.g. policy needs assessment jointly designed).



Outputs (immediate results)

Outcome (medium-term results)


Individuals acquire new skills and knowledge

 e.g. Workshop participants able to produce data on food security

Individuals apply new skills and knowledge

 e.g. Workshop participants apply new techniques systematically and sustainably


Organizations’ capacity to perform and deliver is strengthened

 e.g. Visions, mandates and priorities reviewed and defined

Organizations perform better

  e.g. National data unit produces high quality information on food security

Enabling environment

Actions are taken to enhance political will and develop and implement policies

 e.g. Participatory processes to reform policy framework established

Policies are implemented with strong political commitment and stakeholder participation

 e.g. Policy frameworks are nationally implemented

For further examples:

Tool 16a Capacity-related outcomes in food security and nutrition at country level

Tool 16b Capacity-related outputs in food security and nutrition at country level

Defining Indicators:

Indicators show progress towards achieving determined objectives and results. They allow us to answer the question “How do we know whether or not what we planned has happened?”

Quantitative and qualitative indicators should be combined to effectively measure the perceptions of the different target groups involved in CD interventions.




For outputs

For outcomes


e.g. Number of food producers with newly acquired knowledge by date x

e.g. Proportion of food producers applying knowledge to increase food production by date x


e.g. Number of information systems established by date x

e.g. Effective and regular information sharing mechanisms in place by date x

Enabling environment

e.g. New sector policy formulated by date x

e.g. Quality of new policy adopted or implemented by date x

For further examples:

Tool 16c Capacity-related indicators in food security and nutrition at country level

How to monitor and evaluate? 

Participatory approaches are key to monitor and evaluate CD interventions. This means not only to agree on the methods of measurement, but also to involve national/local actors in expressing their views about changes and reasons for such changes. This is crucial to encourage learning and strengthen stakeholders’ ownership and commitment.

When collecting evidence on CD results for monitoring and for evaluation, it is important to remember that these may show up as intended or unintended results and they could be both positive and negative.

A combination of various tools can be used to monitor progress towards CD results in a participatory way. The following are a few selected ones.

Suggested tools:

Monitoring and evaluation framework

A framework which includes key questions to map out the project results at all CD dimensions

Monitoring and Evaluation plan

A monitoring plan is used to plan and manage data collection and can include plans for data analysis, reporting and use.

KAP survey


KAP surveys assess the impact of knowledge and learning activities on an individual’s behaviour and practices in response to a specific intervention. It can be also adapted to assess the changes in the practices of an organization.

Most Significant Change (MSC)


MSC is a participatory storytelling technique to capture expected and unexpected outcomes of a project or programme. This approach actively involves stakeholders in searching for significant outcomes, interpreting them and deciding what type of change is valuable and needs to be recorded.

Outcome mapping

Outcome mapping is a participatory methodology that can be used to develop a vision, identify strategies to move towards that vision and monitor the process in a qualitative way while respecting the ownership of the local/ national partners. It focuses on changes in behaviour, practices, relationships, actions and activities in the people, groups and organizations.

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