DFID Research Strategy 2008-2013. Working Paper Series: Capacity Building


This Working Paper on Capacity Building is one of a series of 10 papers published alongside DFID's Research Strategy 2008-2013. It presents the case for DFID-funded research on Capacity Building - drawing on the responses given during a global consultation that DFID convened in 2007 about its future research.

The concept of capacity building has received a great deal of attention over the last few years. Some of the work has focused on definitions; other studies have tried to map different interventions; and some have explored different approaches and their achievements.

Capacity building is a complex notion - it involves individual and organisational learning which builds social capital and trust, develops knowledge, skills and attitudes and when successful creates an organisational culture which enables organisations to set objectives, achieve results, solve problems and create adaptive procedures which enable it to survive in the long term.

DFID defines research capacity as \"the ability of individuals, organisations and systems to undertake and disseminate high quality research effectively and efficiently\". There is, in addition to the three levels in the definition, the 'institutional' context in which capacity building takes place. This covers the incentives, the economic, political and regulatory context and the resource base on which the context is built.

The field is vast. An ODI study revealed 49 organisations which put 'strengthening southern research capacity ' in their mission statement or key objectives. Because of the definitional problem (where does 'capacity building' end and actual 'research' begin?), the expenditure figures by donors on capacity building are imprecise. There is no agreed definition for capacity building, resulting in different emphasis in other funding agencies' ambitions and approach (Work to date on capacity building).

A significant percentage of DFID's £120 million budget on centrally-commissioned research in 2006-2007 was spent on capacity building. However, an ODI study into spending on capacity development within the context of research places the Netherlands, Sweden and IDRC in the top three bilateral donors. Budgets ranged from DSIG/NUFFIC (the Netherlands) spending US$140 million in 2005 to IDRC's funding more than US$20 million each year. We estimate that DFID spent at least as much as this out of its £120 million. The ODI Report also notes that the biggest spend, by multiple funders, was in health, agriculture and economic research. They add that there was a 'significantly lower investment in the humanities and non-economic social sciences.


DFID, London, UK, 18 pp.

DFID Research Strategy 2008-2013. Working Paper Series: Capacity Building

Published 1 January 2008