Capacity building activities must be accompanied by effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms in order to facilitate learning.
Capacity building programmes must develop consistent monitoring mechanisms to facilitate continuous improvement and reporting and to track progress over time. Evaluation mechanisms can help determine the impact of such activities on the performance of participants and/or (their) organisations. Evaluation forms can help identify whether capacity building activities have helped raise awareness and improve knowledge of particular issues, as well as to identify areas where a knowledge gap remains. Evaluations should always be conducted at the end of a workshop delivered (see, for instance, the workshop evaluation template in the Annex of the Handbook), but capacity builders may also choose to conduct tests before, during and after the workshop itself, asking participants to answer a question before a portion of training takes place, and again after the training; this helps to measure learning.
It is important, however, that success and effectiveness are not defined by narrow benchmarks, but include a broader range of criteria linking those activities to broader peacebuilding processes. The success of capacity building activities (training, mentoring, workshops, and so forth) should also be measured over time. In the short-term, this evaluation can include some form of feedback survey at the end of each workshop or seminar. This short-term evaluation should then be complemented by several (staggered) follow-up communications with participants in order to determine whether new knowledge/practices have been successfully implemented by individual actors and/or even institutionalised at the organisational level.
Moreover, evaluation mechanisms can also support changes to capacity building activities where participants have identified particular problems regarding the content or methodology. Other formal or informal modes of feedback during the implementation of capacity building programmes can facilitate those programmes’ adaptation to local circumstances, context and participants in order to avoid adopting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
Enhancing learning practices should also be included as part of the capacity building curriculum in order to ensure that new knowledge and practices are retained by the organisation in question. In particular, practices that preserve institutional memory should be prioritised. A more effective knowledge management system can also strengthen the role of organisations in peace processes.
In sum, any assessment of the effectiveness of international capacity building activities thus needs to be set in context. In particular, they have simply not yet taken place on the scale – or yet over the timescales – necessary to inculcate transformative change in what are often still very weak states that are attempting to build these capacities from scratch. Where they have had an impact, it has been limited to the specific cohort or project concerned, in a piecemeal fashion, rather than across the sector as a whole.
Improve the monitoring and evaluation of capacity building activities in order to measure impact both in the short- and the medium-term, and to facilitate continuous improvement and effective learning amongst participants.