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Adaptation Metrics

Developing actor-process metrics of adaptation focuses on the competence to achieve reductions in current and future vulnerability.
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Developing actor-process metrics of adaptation focuses on the competence to achieve reductions in current and future vulnerability. The critical objectives in developing such metrics include:

  • Agree on a framework for describing the many parts of adaptive competence.
  • Develop experience, and from that experience guidance, on how exercises to document adaptive competence might be conducted
  • Consider ways in which metrics might be compared among similar situations and stressors (e.g. flood plain management) and across regions and sectors (e.g., in country profiles)

Whilst further work has developed around ‘adaptive capacity’ indicators and resilience, there are also lessons from application of indicators in environmental assessment and in development generally to support decision-making (see Fussel, 2010: pp9-17)


The UNDP published the Capacity Assessment Methodology in 2008 including the supporting Capacity Assessment Tool (CAT).

Summary from the Practice Note

Capacity is defined as “the ability of individuals, organisations and societies to perform functions, solve problems and set and achieve objectives in a sustainable manner”. Capacity development is the process through which individuals, organizations and societies obtain, strengthen and maintain the capabilities to set and achieve their own development objectives over time.

UNDP figure 1 from the Practice Note

Capacity assessment is an analysis of desired future capacities against current capacities. It focuses on the gap between them, and most important, the resulting capacity response strategies – how the improvements will occur and how much such will cost to undertake.

The UNDP’s capacity assessment Framework is composed of 1) points of entry or level at which an assessment occurs; 2) core issues selected by the assessment team; and 3) functional capacities within a sector/theme.

1) Point of entry

The enabling environment point of entry is also known as the societal or institutional context that can facilitate or constrain the development of capacity. These are the policies, rules, norms, priorities within and across sectors (but not necessarily synonymous with the country level). The organisation as point of entry focuses on the internal workings of an organisation, however, findings of an assessment of the enabling environment will be important information. The individual as point of entry may identify programme champions or change agents, but not usually carried out because such appraisals are the responsibility environment and organisational levels. More commonly, capacity assessments are demanded at the organisational level, but always the assessment can zoom in or out to the other levels.

2) Core issues

Along the points of entry, several core issues can be explored. UNDP commonly encounters the following core development challenges/issues: institutional development, leadership, knowledge and mutual accountability, providing a comprehensive set of issues from which a capacity assessment team may choose. Each of these core issues is further divided into a number of key elements. For example, institutional development focuses on 1) mission and strategy; 2) business processes; 3) human resource management; and 4) information and communications technology.

3) Functional capacities

Within any capacity level (enabling environment, organisation, individual) and across all core issues are functional capacities that are necessary for successful creation and management of policies, legislations, strategies and programmes: 1) engage with stakeholders; 2)assess a situation and define a vision or mandate; 3) formulate policies and strategies; 4) budget, manage and implement; and 5) monitor and evaluate. The assessment team should determine at the outset which functional capacities are to be included (one or more functional capacities can serve as the primary driver).

Guidance for the CAT from the User Guide

The framework is a point of departure for a capacity assessment – it is flexible and needs to be adapted to suit local needs, including selection of point of entry, core issue(s) and cross-cutting functional capacities to be addressed.

Select cross-section(s). For an organisational assessment, the team may narrow the focus by selecting few core issues, but may require additional detail for the functional capacities. Assessment could go into more detail by e.g. further subdivide functional capacities, or breaking down questions into sub questions or formulating additional questions.

In the tool documentation (page 9) follow the instructions.

Note that:

  • Desired capacities need to be defined in advance of the assessment as they do not emerge
  • Indicators are needed to monitor progress of a capacity development response. Regardless of the type of indicators selected, baseline and target metrics should be defined.

Fussel, H.-M. (2010). Development and climate change: review and quantitative analysis of indices of climate change exposure, adaptive capacity, sensitivity, and impacts. (Available online at http://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=US2012415798).

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