Capacity assessment

Capacity assessment
ITCILO's methodological approach to assess the capacity of learning service providers

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1. What is institutional capacity development?


Capacity development is a core function of the United Nations Development System. Many UN organizations, MDBs and IFIs emphasize the importance of capacity development in their strategies to contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and for several of them, capacity development is their primary mandate. 


The United Nations Development Group (UNDG) bundles these efforts and advocates for a common approach to capacity development that provides guidance in the formulation of capacity development strategies at agency level and for United Nations Country Teams.


The ILO has taken up the notion of capacity development outlined by UNDG within its particular tripartite context. The ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization specifically calls for technical cooperation, wherever necessary, to help, enhance the institutional capacity of member States, as well as representative organizations of employers and workers, to facilitate meaningful and coherent social policy and sustainable development. Capacity-development efforts should also equip constituents to participate more effectively in the UN “Delivering as One” framework. 


Capacity development can involve technical capacities and functional capacities and it can be implemented in several ways.  


Capacity development is best achieved through learning by doing, fostering relationships and partnerships, supporting research and knowledge sharing, participation in communities of practice, South-South learning initiatives, on-the-job training, and other learning techniques that empower individuals and institutions to take charge of development challenges.


In line with common UN approach, capacity development is understood as a process through which individuals, organizations and societies obtain, strengthen, and maintain the capabilities to set and achieve their own development objectives over time.

Capacity development is conceived as a long-term investment whose benefits and impact might only become apparent in the medium and long run.  

The ILO wide strategy for institutional capacity development released in 2019 goes on to distinguish “three mutually reinforcing and interdependent levels of capacity development:

  1. Individual
  2. Organizational
  3. Resulting from the enabling environment

Three levels for capacity development support


The ILO capacity development strategy gives particular attention to coordinated action at all three levels through a dynamic cycle of interventions based on constituents’ evolving needs (The ‘triple helix’).


The triple helix


The ILO capacity development strategy also highlights the fact that capacity development is not a linear process but occurs in loops or iterations that require continuous and participatory analysis of the results, with information fed back into the planning of new programmes and activities. 


ITCILO's capacity development portfolio


The ITCILO is the capacity development arm of the ILO and thus plays a central role in the implementation of the capacity development strategy of the organization. ITCILO's advisory services are pegged at the level of institutional capacity development.  

2. Our strategy


The analytical framework guiding ITCILO advisory service on sustainable institutional performance take inspiration from the Balanced Scorecard approach, a widely used strategy framework to balance financial and non-financial objectives in organizational sustainability strategies.


Three interlinked but distinct dimensions for sustainable institutional performance are distinguished:

Development dimension


Relates to the capacity of the entity to contribute to the increased performance of a critical mass of stakeholders.

Result areas:

  • Outreach 
  • Impact
Finance dimension


Relates to the capacity of the entity to generate the revenue required to recoup investment costs and recover its operational costs.

Result areas:

  • Income
  • Costs
Governance dimension


Relates to the capacity of the entity to operate according to standards deemed acceptable by market stakeholders.

Result areas:

  • Operational efficiency
  • Effectiveness of external oversight mechanisms

Result areas



Sustainability is defined as ‘endurance over time’ by maintaining dynamic balance between non-financial and financial performance dimensions.

3. Focus on digital transformation


The institutional digital readiness of our institutional beneficiaries will be assessed against six parameters for digital transformation

Levers of digital transformation



The success of the digital transformation of an organization can be achieved when the six parameters for digital transformation are evenly considered.

4. Implementation roadmap

Profiling the organization against the matrix of a sustainable institutional performance. This process involves a desk review of documents, interviews with key informants and digital surveys. 

The strategy-level and operational level practices of the institution are compared with good practice of other capacity development service providers in the industry. Focus is laid on performance aspects considered critical for institutional sustainability. Benchmarking usually involves desk research and interview with key informants.  

The draft findings, conclusions and recommendations flowing from the sustainability snapshot and benchmarking are reviewed in consultation with the clients’ internal and external stakeholders.

The stakeholder feedback will inform the compilation of a draft report with a set of recommendations. The draft report will be reviewed together with the institution prior to final submission.

Research instruments


ITCILO capacity assessment combine quantitative and qualitative research methods:

  • Desk research
  • Digital surveys
  • Interviews with key informants
  • Stakeholder consultations

The digital survey instruments are standardized and automated, collecting data about strategic and operational practices, and assessing the respondent against the conditions set for capacity development service providers meeting the requirements for learning service providers outside the formal education system set by the International Standards Organization (ISO) along the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. 

PDCA cycle