Capacity development: A keystone in the localization of global development

March 6, 2024
Malawi capacity development
In Malawi, Pact is strengthening the capacity of local communities and authorities to effectively manage natural resources. Credit: Brian Clark/Pact

For some time, the global development sector has widely agreed that the aid and programming we provide must be more responsive to and inclusive of local communities. Often referred to as the localization of development and humanitarian assistance, Pact has long embraced this perspective through our engaged communities approach. We believe that for our efforts to be truly sustainable, communities must be at the helm, leading and owning their own development. This is Pact’s cornerstone, and it is embedded in everything we do. 

One of the most important ways we do this is through capacity development. Pact has been strengthening groups and communities around the world for more than 50 years. This includes community-based organizations, civil society organizations, advocacy groups and government agencies. We help those we serve to craft development agendas, plan for change and take effective action. We view capacity development as an approach, a process and an outcome that is at the heart of localization. Learn more in this Q&A with Pact’s capacity development experts. 

Describe capacity development at Pact. 
Capacity development is, in essence, about supporting people, organizations and systems to be as effective as possible in taking charge of development in their own communities. With proven tools and methodologies, we support our partners to assess their capacities and build on existing strengths. Our capacity development work is intentional, goes beyond knowledge transfer, relies on co-creation and co-implementation, incorporates technology in creative ways, and agilely works within complex, adaptive systems.

Capacity development is about supporting people, organizations and systems to be as effective as possible in taking charge of their own development.

Why are localization and community engagement so important to sustainable development?
Localization is a critical pillar for sustainable development – our impact will never last if it requires our support and presence in perpetuity. It is often said in international development that we should be working ourselves out of a job, and at Pact we agree. In true partnership with local actors, we work to prepare communities to identify and tackle their own development challenges so that they are resilient and can thrive no matter what circumstances emerge in the future. In the long run, we strive for development programs that are wholly locally led and owned.

How are capacity development and localization connected?
In order for communities to sustainably lead their own development, they must have capacity that enables ownership and decision-making power. Pact’s capacity development programming focuses on shifting power, using an asset-based approach that ensures local actors are in the driver’s seat from the beginning. Pact works to elevate local voices in line with our guiding star of engaged communities, at all stages of our programming, which leaves communities prepared to effectively take on development challenges in the future. 

Capacity strengthening is and should be mutually beneficial.

How is USAID prioritizing localization?
USAID has made clear its commitment to localization. It is doing this by adapting its policies and programs, shifting power to local actors, channeling more of its funding directly to local partners and serving as a global advocate for localization. 

Implementing partners such as Pact have a key role to play, especially in supporting local organizations’ transition to direct USAID funding. In transitioning local partners to direct funding, our experience has shown that each phase of the journey benefits from customized co-created processes alongside joint problem solving. We recognize the importance of partners’ own ideas of how they would like to transition, as ownership is critical. We learn from our partners and we adapt, as capacity strengthening is and should be mutually beneficial.