Measuring capacity

What is the measure of capacity? This paper on Measuring Capacity attempts to help development practitioners unbundle this question.

First, by defining the starting point: an institution’s ability to perform, sustain performance over time, and manage change and shocks; second, by offering programmatic responses that can drive improvement in these areas; and third, by presenting a framework for capturing the resulting change.

"The strength of institutions is central to the achievement of national development goals. Increasingly, development programs aim to strengthen various aspects of national capacities so that they are better able to fulfill their mandates and contribute to achievement of national goals. It has been difficult, however, to draw an accurate picture of the contribution of these programs to the strengthening of institutions, let alone to achievement of development goals. A key obstacle to measuring the change in capacity has been the ambiguity of what the results of capacity development are. This paper hopes to offer a common language with which to articulate results and a common framework in which to capture them." (UNDP, 2010, p1)


UNDP capacity measurement framework

  1. Results Chain Approach to Measuring Capacity
  2. UNDP Capacity Measurement Framework

Measuring change in institutional performance, stability and adaptability

  1. Institutional Performance
  2. Institutional Stability
  3. Institutional Adaptability

Measuring programmatic responses based on capacity development core issues  

  1. Institutional Arrangements.Leadership
  2. Leadership
  3. Knowledge
  4. Accountability

Programming implications

  • annex i: examples of impacts, outcomes, outputs and indicators
  • annex ii: glossary
  • annex iii: additional resources 


UNDP (2010). Measuring Capacity. In Capacity Development. UNDP. Retrieved from

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