Learning, Advocating, Training: Push yourself and reach your potential with supportive FAO Capacity Development resources

Do you need more guidance in Learning, Advocating, and Training?

The good news is that you can get it from FAO Capacity Development learning modules freely accessible on the FAO Capacity Development Portal:

These four Capacity Development learning modules :


FAO Learning Module 1 on Capacity Development - Basic Principles ("What we need to develop is people, not things", p. 13)


FAO Learning Module 2 on Capacity Development - Programming (Revised edition)


FAO Learning Module 3 on Capacity Development - Good Learning Practices


FAO Learning Module 4 on Capacity Development -Organization Analysis and Development

provide useful and insightful learning material for people engaged in Capacity Development activities at country level, as well as concrete information (rich with tools for practitioners) on how to implement FAO’s approach to CD.


The terms 'Capacity building' and 'Capacity development' (CD) are used in numerous contexts to describe a wide array of activities. In the most general terms, capacity consists of a party's ability to solve its problems and achieve its objectives, while CD aims to strengthen parties' ability to work together for their mutual benefit by providing them with the skills and tools they need to define problems and issues and formulate solutions (ability to solve problems is more important that the problem itself). 

The above cited FAO’s LEARNING MODULES (LM) FOR CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT define CD as a long-term process that builds gradually around target AUDIENCE needsCLEAR OBJECTIVES and PATTERNS to BE UNFOLD incrementally across three CD dimensions or levels where an endogenous STRENGTHENING of existing CAPACITIES and assets occurs.

According to the FAO’s CD methodology, CD has multiple-level approach, which takes place across three overlapping and interdependent levels:

  3. ENABLING ENVIRONMENT (the context in which individuals and organizations put their capabilities into action, and where CD processes take place).

Each of these three dimensions works interdependently with the others and influences the overall impact of a CD intervention. A multiple-level approach takes  into account the relationships between these dimensions and allows for the possibility that the root cause of weak capacity at one level may be found at a different level.

CD requires holistic perspective, analytical viewcontinuing assessment and follow-up, and well-crafted external support. While planning CD activities strategically, it is also important to take into account  appropriate TIMING, DURATION, and MODALITIES on the CD support. 

An FAO-specific tool for Assessing Capacities at the levels of Individuals, Organizations and Enabling environment could be very useful for the assessment purpose. 

In all cases, the assessment approach/process will help in defining a baseline of existing capacities for more:

  • conducive enabling environment,
  • effective programme instruments,
  • systematic knowledge and information exchange,
  • fostered coalition and networks.

Assessing CD processes is one of the key areas for learning based on well-defined CD objectives and needs, delivered activities, results and indicators. The assessment process per se is as important as the “product” of the assessment and should be seen as a learning and relationship building experience. CD assessment can help planning, design implementation, reflecting on outcomes of actions, moving better towards a vision and transformation, monitoring of future CD activities on an ongoing basis.


The definition of CD adopted in the FAO Corporate Strategy on Capacity Development is “process whereby people, organizations and society as a whole unleash, strengthen, create, adapt and maintain capacity over time”.  CD is a process of learning and change that countries lead to achieve their development goals. CD requires participatory capacity assessments to help put CD on the agenda and encourage dialogue with national stakeholders in a structured way.  

CD is not a technical process, quickly solved by transfer of knowledge, skills or organizational models. It needs long-term commitment based on trustful relationships and the willingness to co-create processes. This recognition drives the process of moving from small projects towards programmes, which provide the “space” for long-term engagement with a clear orientation towards intended outcomes and impacts.

There is often neither linearity nor predictability in the unfolding of CD processes, because CD emerges from the interplay of several factors and their interaction with the context. Against this backdrop, CD can be seen as an evolutionary process in which the strengthening of individual and organizational capacities influence one another and the enabling environment in a self-reinforcing loop. CD is a long-term process that builds gradually and incrementally across dimensions, and that requires continued follow-up and well-crafted external support.


  • CD does not stop when a project has ended: CD is an iterative process that requires long-term commitment, constant adjustment and follow-through, also to promote partnerships to strategically assist countries in completing the full extent of the delivered CD;
  • the emphasis should not be put on immediate outputs or on getting things done quickly but rather on longer-term efforts for institutionalizing changes and building the political will to sustain them;
  • apart from necessary functional, technical capacities required to unleash and enhance CD activities/processes, the success of these latter depends also on soft skills relevant to individual and organizational effectiveness. Soft skills are related to creativity, cross-cultural communication, incentives, encouragement, negotiation, advocacy, motivation, just to name a few;
  • institutional CD needs to keep up to speed with the evolving CD practices taking place in the international development community, that means to reflect the international debate as well as organisation’s perspective on CD;
  • the success of every CD activity depends upon how good the management of the processes built around this activity;
  • paying more attention on enhancing facilitative role will help catalyse learning and create networks among institutions and individuals to produce a lasting impact. Facilitative role should make it easier to individuals to unleash their learning within their institutional practicing processes on the job useful also to their peers within organisation. Facilitative role should catalyse learning and changes together with participants of CD processes (including local partners);
  • "an effective capacity building process must encourage participation by all those involved. Engaging stakeholder's who are directly affected by the situation allows for more effective decision-making, it also makes development work more transparent" (Wikipedia, Capacity Building). With knowledge shared and gained, interested parties should acquire ability to solve problems – that is more important that the problem itself;
  • to transform isolated good CD practices into an institutionalized corporate set of practices in which CD is firmly integrated within the work-flow of the Organization;

Experience Capitalization for Continuous Learning FAO free e-learning course  introduces the methodology and process of experience capitalization. It gives you guidance and tools to help you plan and implement your own experience capitalization process, and ensure its efficiency and effectiveness.

Capitalisation d’expériences pour un apprentissage continu


  • ability to interact on an equal footing with people/parties;
  • ability to help parties identify their priorities;
  • ability to engage personally and to satisfy personal knowledge needs;
  • ability to listen, to be questioned and probed;
  • ability to negotiate the most appropriate and realistic options;
  • solid technical competences and management skills; 
  • commitment and involvement in the development and implementation of improved, enriched, enhanced activities and programmes enabling continuous learning and knowledge sharing. 


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