Understanding the process of community capacity building: a case study of two programs in Yunnan province, China

Juan Manuel Moreno, Lori Noguchi, Marie Harder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent decades, development discourse has increasingly acknowledged the importance of participation and ownership of development programs at the local level. As the discourse has advanced, terms such as community-driven development and community capacity building have become widely used and have attracted significant funding. Yet, despite the prominent place community capacity building has come to occupy in both discourse and practice, relatively little attention has been given to the process of capacity building at the level of the community, particularly as it is understood by key protagonists. In this paper, the authors present a descriptive case study of two community building programs in Yunnan, China, examining how capacity is understood by the key protagonists at the level of individuals, institutions and communities, and which particular capacities are identified as built at each level. The authors show that while there are expected differences in the perceptions of the capacity building process and outcomes at different levels, there are also clear overlaps, and that capacities develop simultaneously at different levels, in an interactive and mutually-reinforcing manner. The results suggest that the interconnection across levels may be very important to study further. This study helps fill a gap in the community capacity building literature and contributes insights that could improve the effectiveness of community building projects. In addition, it provides insight into the specific case of capacity building in China, where literature has tended to focus on institutional capacity and relationships between civil society organizations and the government rather than process and outcomes at the community level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-137
Number of pages16
JournalWorld Development
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/


  • China
  • Yunnan
  • community capacity-building
  • process
  • development


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