The purpose of this paper is to consider capacity development for healthcare in Fragile States and its roles, for example, in securing civil and political stability, as well as improved health, within the various contexts prevailing in fragile settings across the world. As a precursor to this, however, it is important to understand how, in rapidly changing environments, the role and contribution of different donors will have an impact in different ways. This paper sets out to interpret these issues, and what becomes apparent is the need to develop an understanding of the value base of donors, which we demonstrate through the development of a value-based framework. This highlights the separate motivations and choices made by donors, but what is apparent is that all remain within the positivist perspective perhaps for reasons of accountability and transparency. However, the emergence of new interpretations drawing on systems thinking, and followed by complexity theory more recently, in understanding contexts, suggests that the favouring of any one of these perspective can be counterproductive, without a consideration of the contexts in which they occur. In seeking an explanation of these environmental contexts, which also address the perspectives in use, we suggest the use of wider multi-ontology sense-making framework such as Cynefin. Through this approach, analytical insights can be given into the interpretation, decision and intervention processes available in these different and often changing environments, thus enabling greater coherence between donor values and recipient contexts. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.