Informal Capacity Building

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The article discusses informal capacity building. The article provides a definition and explains the need for informal capacity building. For a related article, see also Formal Capacity Building.

Definition and Relevance


See also: Informal capacity building definition

Informal capacity building is defined as the creation of structures and networks which allow access to information on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) and builds understanding of ICZM in stakeholders who would not seek education and training in ICZM through formal routes.

These structures and networks also create significant extra capacity for knowledge increase amongst ICZM practitioners themselves.

Informal Capacity Building involves Awareness Raising by incorporating ICZM issues into onsite coastal interpretation


Informal capacity building is very important because it serves to create a critical mass of understanding amongst stakeholders outside the immediate community of ICZM practitioners. It creates broad access for stakeholders that cannot be achieved through the Formal Capacity Building route


The large number of competing human activities in the Coastal zone coupled with its biological productivity, biodiversity and vulnerability, has given rise to the recognition amongst managers and educators involved in coastal issues that integrated management of this area is long overdue.

In recent decades many areas of the world have been working towards this goal, but examples of good practices are still restricted to small areas of the coast in most countries. Experience has shown that in many political cultures around the globe one of the most important aspects of ICZM is the involvement of multiple stakeholders in the process. Many of the most successful examples of ICZM highlight the involvement of local stakeholders as a key factor in their success.

However, the majority of people who should be involved (key stakeholders) are not specialists in ICZM, neither do they have the time or motivation to undertake formal study/training in this area. It is in raising awareness amongst these individuals and groups that informal capacity has its role.

More than awareness raising

Informal capacity is frequently described in terms of raising environmental awareness, but its role is much wider than that, as many potential participants in ICZM have little understanding of what is implied by this term, and when pushed, it is surprising how many people struggle to define the concept of sustainability. Informal capacity is required to achieve this wider public education role in raising awareness.

Types of Informal Capacity

Informal capacity building is closely associated with knowledge management and interpretation, so it may be described in terms of creating two types of capacity:

1. Vehicles for dissemination

2. Interpretation of the key messages

Vehicles for dissemination

Vehicles for dissemination are many and varied, perhaps only limited by the imagination, and may include:

  • Informal networks of individuals
  • Forum meetings
  • Surgeries
  • Newsletters
  • Presence at fairs and festivals
  • Permanent and temporary displays
  • Activities for children and adults
  • Workshops
  • Web sites and blogs
  • Local radio and TV, newspaper articles, etc.

These vehicles are the component parts of the normal societal communication networks, but to use them effectively requires skills that may be limited in an ICZM initiative and developing this capability is informal capacity building.

Interpretation of the key messages

Interpretation of the key messages is an often neglected area of capacity building. The dry and often difficult language of academic debate is too often presented without digestion or explanation. For genuine inclusivity, stakeholders must feel that they understand the process to which they are devoting valuable time.

Some projects have produced useful handbooks or toolkits to facilitate participation, and these are extremely useful, but even in these, key concepts are often presented without explanation or digestion. Interpretation is not an easy process to achieve successfully, and developing this capability may also be termed informal capacity building.

Related articles

The Capacity Building Concept
Formal Capacity Building


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Rejoice Mabudafhasi. The role of knowledge management and information sharing in capacity building for sustainable development—an example from South Africa. Ocean & Coastal Management 45 (2002) 695–707

K.C. Tran. Public perception of development issues: Public awareness can contribute to sustainable development of a small island. Ocean & Coastal Management 49 (2006) 367–383

M. David Mo!at. Emerging lessons from Eastern Africa on capacity building for Coastal Management. Ocean & Coastal Management 42 (1999) 991-997

A.T. White, P. Christie, H. D’Agnes, K. Lowry, N. Milne. Designing ICM projects for sustainability: Lessons from the Philippines and Indonesia Ocean & Coastal Management 48 (2005) 271–296

The main author of this article is Morris, Steve
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Morris, Steve (2020): Informal Capacity Building. Available from [accessed on 17-10-2021]