An Introduction to Building Community Capacity
Cornelia Butler Flora and Vicki Luther
Capacity building is the process whereby a community increases its well-being based on the assets--human, social, physical, and enviromrnental--that are there. It enhances the ability of a community to access and creatively combine outside resources with existing resources and build toward a shared group vision.
In capacity building, which can be contrasted with technical assistance traditionally used for community development, the change agent is a facilitator and educator. In technical assistance, the change agent is an advisor or consultant, who maintains professional distance, protecting the territory, providing answers and the agenda for the right answers. Capacity building focuses on process, while the technical assistance model focuses on the task. However, it is wrong to think that capacity building is only process oriented; its point is to facilitate tasks within the community, and to help the community develop the ability to decide which tasks are most important in achieving the shared vision, as well as how to discern the different ways these tasks can be addressed. Technical assistance gives the answer. Capacity building gives the ability to identify alternative solutions, to select from them, and learn from their implementation.
The basis of change for capacity building is that people can identify and solve problems collectively. For technical assistance, the model is that science provides a means to solve problems. Capacity building does not deny science, but sees it as a tool that can be used for a variety of needs.
The core problem addressed in capacity building is the ability of people to take collective action, which involves a focus on the community as a whole. The technical assistance model means the core problem addressed is harnessing science to solve human problems. The emphasis there is on the individual and the material ( J. Flora et al. 1992; Christenson 1989).