Capacity Development as the Model for Development Aid Organizations


  • Stefan Kühl

    1. is professor of organizational sociology at the University of Bielefeld (Department of Sociology, Post Box 100131, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany; e-mail: and a consultant for Metaplan, an international consulting firm based in Hamburg, Paris and Princeton, NJ. In the field of development he works as an organizational analyst for different development organizations and is doing research on the evaluation of development projects, budget financing and the paradoxes of development organizations.
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  • This article is based on an analysis of the relevant literature, which would not have been possible without the strong commitment of Pia Raffler to this research. The comments of the journal's anonymous referees are also gratefully acknowledged.


Sociological studies of organizational fashions tend to focus on commercial firms. This article looks at the Capacity Development concept that is globally applied as a model in governmentally supported development assistance organizations. The organizations themselves adopt the concept, asserting that an increase in ‘capacities’ in developing countries will contribute to a higher success rate for projects. This article argues that a primary function of concepts such as Capacity Development is to meet the legitimacy requirements of development assistance organizations. The more the effectiveness of these organizations is criticized or challenged, the more they feel the need to defend themselves by developing new — and hopefully more effective — concepts.