Methodologies for assessing the capacity needs in ICZM

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This article has been extracted from the European Action Plan on Capacity Building for ICZM in Europe


The purpose of this article is to familiarize the reader with some methodologies, approaches and experiences in conducting capacity assessment.

These experiences have been extracted from different programmes at the international and national levels and all documentation is in the public domain.

The reader will be able to compare approaches and extract experiences from different parts of the world, since the concept of Capacity Assessment transcend boundaries and show many commonalities in their application.

This article includes the review of one methodology at the international level; one training course on needs assessment, and one case study of capacity needs assessment

Easy-access reference materials (all from public sources) are included for further consultation

Major steps in capacity building

There are major premises with respect to capacity assessment and needs assessments, as shown in the following graphic:

Graphic 1: Major steps in capacity building

Though this may sound like common sense, unfortunately, in the majority of cases, this criterion has not been applied. Capacity assessment and needs assessments go hand in hand. This will be illustrated through the following examples.

Methodologies, approaches and experiences

Three different cases have been chosen to provide the reader with as much exposure as possible to current approaches on the subject.

  • The United Nations, Train-Sea-Coast Programme at the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea
  • The On-line Learning Module on NEEDS ASSESSMENT TRAINING, prepared and deliver by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA Coastal Services Center, USA
  • The WIOMSA – Coastal Resources Center, University of Rhode Island: A CAPACITY NEEDS ASSESSMENT


The TRAIN-X methodology, used by the TSC Programme and by various other training programmes in the UN system, is based on the systems approach. The course development process consists of three principal activities: 1) Analysis of Training Needs; 2) Development of Training; and 3) Evaluation of Training; with feedback between them. With regards to the analysis of training needs, it consists of three separate but interrelated analytical tasks (see graphic below).

Graphic 2: Analytical tasks of the Training Needs Analysis (TNA)

Major characteristics of this approach can be summarized as follows:

  • In the TRAIN-X methodology, analysis of training needs (TNA) is considered as the foundation of any course development initiative
  • If any mistake is made during the TNA, it will impinge on the other 6 course development phases that follow. Corrections should be made before advancing in the course development process
  • Though the methodology is labor-intensive, the results have proven excellent
  • The TRAIN-X methodology is used by the Train.Sea-Coast Programme and other UN training programmes in more than 100 countries worldwide. This methodology ensures that the highest pedagogical and technical standards are attained. Train-X international standards are considered a seal of quality and effectiveness in the development, delivery and adaptation of high quality training courses
  • People trained using this methodology vary from traffic air controllers to coastal managers, to personnel in postal services

The NOAA Coastal Services Center, On-line Learning Module on NEEDS ASSESSMENT TRAINING

(Updated July 2007)

The purpose of this on-line learning module is to familiarize the user with the terminology, tools, and methods of needs assessments.

The training modules cover the following objectives:

  • Discuss what a needs assessment is and when and why to conduct one
  • Identify the steps in planning a needs assessment
  • Demonstrate how to characterize an audience
  • Select an appropriate method for data collection
  • Understand how to use questions appropriately
  • Identify considerations for analyzing and managing data
  • List the benefits of conducting a needs assessment

Key Feature: the 12 steps in a needs assessment

In the NOAA approach, conducting a needs assessment is a twelve-step process encompassing planning, data gathering, and analysis. The following are the 12 steps:

  1. Confirm the Issues and Audience
  2. Establish the Planning Team
  3. Establish the Goals and Objectives
  4. Characterize Your Audience
  5. Conduct Information and Literature Search
  6. Select Your Data Collection Methods
  7. Determine Your Sampling Scheme
  8. Design and Pilot the Collection Instrument
  9. Gather and Report Data
  10. Analyze Data
  11. Manage Data
  12. Synthesize Data and Create Report

Summary comments

From an instructional design perspective, this is an excellent learning module. The subject content is easy to follow and to understand; it has an enormous value both for the beginners as well as for the training specialists. It provides an abundant suite of links and references for those who are interested to further learn on TNA or apply this tool within the training component.

Coastal Resources Center, University of Rhode Island - A CAPACITY NEEDS ASSESSMENT

(January-September 2000)

The purpose of this needs assessment was to:

  • Catalogue of on-going coastal management capacity- building activities and training in the WIO region
  • Identify gaps in skills, knowledge and attitudes of the ICM practitioner
  • Identify potential partner institutions at the national and regional level
  • Present a broad framework for increasing coastal management capacity in the WIO region


  • Review of ICM literature on the ICM capacity-building efforts and initiatives in the WIO
  • At each site, the team conducted interviews with key informants (Individual practitioners and donors)
  • At each site, the team held mini-workshops for prospective course participants
  • At the site visits, interviews and workshops, the core competency matrix was used to measure capacity of the individuals
  • The team used an individual survey to measure individual capacity. Survey respondents rated themselves according to how they perceived their skills in the four core competency areas, namely: project program management, professional skills, ICM practice and technical background
  • Government offices, NGOs and academic institutions were also provided with copies of the survey to distribute to the target audience. In total, over 100 surveys were distributed in the region and 75 surveys returned.
  • One-day workshops were conducted in Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. This training reached 40 practitioners in the region

Findings of the needs analysis

  • Existing Capacity
    • Training backgrounds and years of experience in the field
    • Core competencies
  • Areas to Enhance
  • Priority Training Areas
    • Project and ecosystems evaluation
    • Integration of sectors
    • Communication
    • Community participation
    • Valuation of resources
  • Current Sources for Training of Practitioners
  • Options for Delivering Training in the Region
    • A two-week course held in one host country
    • One-week training in each country
    • One-tear learning by doing, sandwich course(meeting for a week at a time for 4-5 occasions)
  • Non-training Methods for Capacity Building
  • Challenges in Course Implementation

Training recommended

On the basis of the needs analysis and the findings the following training was recommended:

  • Basic introductory short courses and longer degree courses should be continued
  • Short courses of an advanced and specialized nature
  • Learning by doing courses
  • Strengthening dissemination of capacity-building opportunities

Summary comments

This case study provides:

  • An excellent example of TNA at the regional level
  • The application of a methodology suited to the objectives of the assessment
  • A demonstration of the linkages between TNA and human capacity assessment
  • Good lessons learned and well documented
  • Clear explanations of the process followed, findings, and recommendations

Key References

TRAIN-SEA-COAST PROGRAMME Analysis of Training Needs

NOAA Coastal Services Center - On-line Learning Module

Coastal Resources Center, University of Rhode Island Capacity building

Related articles

Assessment of training needs

The main author of this article is Vallejo, Stella Maris
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Vallejo, Stella Maris (2020): Methodologies for assessing the capacity needs in ICZM. Available from [accessed on 20-07-2024]