STEP 2: Capacity Building

Step 2

Capacity building means improving your group’s ability to address the problem you have identified within your community.

Capacity includes (1) the human, technical, organizational, and financial resources you will need to address the problem, and (2) your community’s readiness to do so. Before you begin building capacity, you must assess your community’s current capacity.

Capacity building is an ongoing process. Different elements of capacity become more important during different points in the SPF cycle. Your capacity needs may change as work progresses, goals are accomplished, and priorities shift or expand. 

STEP 2: Capacity Building comprises the following primary tasks:

TASK 1: Assess Capacity--Resources and Readiness

Assessing the existing resources that may be dedicated to addressing the substance misuse and abuse problem and your community’s readiness to do so will help you identify the most appropriate and feasible prevention strategies to implement in your community.

Assessing Resources

Identifying and assessing the resources that exist to address substance misuse and abuse in your community will help you identify potential resource gaps, build support for prevention activities, and ensure a realistic match between identified needs and available resources.

The word resources often connotes staff, financial support, and a sound organizational structure. However, prevention resources may also include the following:

  • Existing community efforts to address the prevention and reduction of substance misuse and abuse
  • Community awareness of those efforts
  • Specialized knowledge of prevention research, theory, and practice
  • Practical experience working with particular populations
  • Knowledge of the ways that local politics and policies help or hinder prevention efforts

It is important to focus your assessment on relevant resources (i.e., those related to your priority problem). A well-planned and focused assessment will produce far more valuable information than one that casts too wide a net. At the same time, keep in mind that useful and accessible resources may also be found outside the substance abuse prevention system, including among the many organizations in your community that promote public health.

Assessing Community Readiness

An assessment of community readiness will help you determine your community’s level of awareness of, interest in, and ability and willingness to support substance misuse and abuse prevention initiatives.

Most experts in this field acknowledge that readiness occurs in stages. The Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research at Colorado State University, for example, has identified nine stages of community readiness:49

  • Stage 1: Community tolerance / no knowledge. Substance misuse and abuse is generally not recognized by the community or leaders as a problem. “It’s just the way things are” is a common attitude. Community norms may encourage or tolerate the behavior in a social context. Substance misuse and abuse may be attributed to certain age, sex, racial, or class groups.
  • Stage 2: Denial. There is some recognition by at least some members of the community that the behavior is a problem, but there is little or no recognition that it is a local problem. Attitudes may include “It’s not my problem” and “We can’t do anything about it.”
  • Stage 3: Vague awareness. There is a general feeling among some in the community that there is a local problem and that something ought to be done, but there is little motivation to do anything. Knowledge about the problem is limited. No identifiable leadership exists, and/or leadership is not encouraged.
  • Stage 4: Pre-planning. Many folks clearly recognize that there is a local problem and that something needs to be done. There is general information about local problems and some discussion. There may be leaders and a committee to address the problem, but no real planning or clear idea of how to progress.
  • Stage 5: Preparation. The community has begun planning and is focused on practical details. There is general information about local problems and about the pros and cons of prevention programs, but this information may not be based on formally collected data. Leadership is active and energetic. Decisions are being made, and resources (time, money, people, etc.) are being sought and allocated.
  • Stage 6: Initiation. Data are collected that justify a prevention program; however, decisions may be based on stereotypes rather than data. Action has just begun. Staff are being trained. Leaders are enthusiastic, as few problems or limitations have occurred.
  • Stage 7: Institutionalization/stabilization. Several planned efforts are underway and supported by community decision-makers. Programs and activities are seen as stable, and staff are trained and experienced. Few see the need for change or expansion. Evaluation may be limited, although some data are routinely gathered.
  • Stage 8: Confirmation/expansion. Efforts and activities are in place, and community members are participating. Programs have been evaluated and modified. Leaders support expanding funding and program scope. Data are regularly collected and are used to drive planning.
  • Stage 9: Professionalization. The community has detailed, sophisticated knowledge of the prevalence of the problem and related risk and protective factors. Universal, selective, and indicated efforts are in place for a variety of focus populations. Staff are well-trained and experienced. Effective evaluation is routine and used to modify activities. Community involvement is high.

There are many resources available to measure community readiness. We recommend Community Readiness for Community Change: Tri-Ethnic Center Community Readiness Handbook, which provides guidance for conducting both brief and in-depth readiness assessments, depending on your group’s preference. 

TASK 2: Build Capacity--Increase Resources and Improve Readiness

Building capacity includes the following:50

  • Increasing the availability of fiscal, human, organizational, and other resources
  • Raising awareness of the substance misuse and abuse problem and the readiness of stakeholders to address this issue
  • Developing or strengthening relationships with partners and/or identifying new opportunities for collaboration

It is important to continually assess your capacity and make sure that you have the resources and readiness required to carry out each stage.

Capacity Building Through Organizational Development

What organizational infrastructure is needed to plan, implement, evaluate, and sustain your intervention? Five factors are key to both organizational infrastructure development and sustainability:51

  • Creating and strengthening administrative structures and formal linkages among all organizations and systems involved
  • Encouraging champion roles (people who speak about and promote the strategies in the community) and leadership roles for multiple supporters across organizations and systems, and making sure that these roles are distributed across different ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, and other community subpopulations
  • Making plans to ensure that adequate funding, staffing, technical assistance, and materials will be in place as needed
  • Developing administrative policies and procedures that support your prevention strategies and send a clear message about the desirability of and expectations for sustaining efforts
  • Building and maintaining community and practitioner expertise in several areas, such as effective prevention, needs assessment, logic model construction, selection and implementation of evidence-based programs, fidelity and adaptation, evaluation, and cultural competence

Capacity Building Throughout the SPF

At each step of the SPF, it is important to document and track required assets and needs. This information will assist you in developing concrete plans for building your group’s capacity and tracking the implementation of your plans.

For example, after completing the assessment of needs, readiness, and resources in Step 1, your group might do the following:

  • Review the quantitative and qualitative data collected regarding your community’s capacity to prevent and reduce substance misuse and abuse
  • Identify capacity needs
  • If necessary, conduct additional assessments to further define your capacity needs

Next, your group should develop a capacity-building plan for addressing each identified need, building on the assets and resources you identified earlier in the process. See the Capacity-Building Plan Example and Template for further guidance.

Capacity Building Through Cultural Competence

Increasing the cultural competence of your organization or group involves looking at your current practices and considering whether your written guidelines or policies reflect a culturally competent perspective. The following questions can help you assess your group’s strengths and weaknesses in this area:52

  • Membership: How well does your group reflect the communities you serve? To increase the breadth of your representation, should you add members? Should you forge partnerships with organizations that have stronger capacity for working with certain diverse groups?
  • Resources: Do your members or partners need additional training or resources in order to serve all parts of your community equitably? For example, do you need to build your capacity to translate program materials into another language?
  • Barriers: What is getting in your group’s way as you work to connect with and serve diverse communities? Without rehashing past mistakes, can you take a clear look at any problems that exist, and identify how your group might change its practices?
  • Leadership: Has your group publicly endorsed cultural competence and inclusivity? Does it need more leadership in this area, perhaps from a partner with more expertise?

More information on cultural competence is available here.

Capacity Building Through Improved Community Readiness

To improve community readiness, the National Institute on Drug Abuse53 recommends the following strategies, which coincide with the Tri-Ethnic Center’s nine stages of community readiness:

Stage 1: Community tolerance / no knowledge

  • Hold small-group and one-on-one discussions with community leaders to identify the perceived benefits of substance use and how community norms reinforce use
  • Have small-group and one-on-one discussions with community leaders on the health, psychological, and social costs of substance misuse and abuse, in order to change perceptions among those most likely to be part of the group that initiates program development

Stage 2: Denial

  • Offer educational outreach programs to community leaders and community groups interested in sponsoring local programs focusing on the health, psychological, and social costs of substance misuse and abuse
  • Use local incidents that illustrate the harmful consequences of substance misuse and abuse in your one-on-one discussions and educational outreach programs

Stage 3: Vague awareness

  • Offer educational outreach programs on national and state prevalence rates of substance misuse and abuse and prevalence rates in communities with similar characteristics
  • Conduct local media campaigns that emphasize the consequences of substance misuse and abuse (see Effective Messaging for Substance Abuse Prevention for guidance on designing a consistent and effective message for your local media campaign)
  • Include local incidents that illustrate the harmful consequences of substance misuse and abuse in all outreach efforts

Stage 4: Pre-planning

  • Offer educational outreach programs to community leaders and sponsorship groups that communicate the prevalence rates and correlates or causes of substance misuse and abuse
  • Provide educational outreach programs that introduce the concept of prevention and illustrate specific prevention programs adopted by communities with similar profiles
  • Conduct local media campaigns emphasizing the consequences of substance misuse and abuse and ways to reduce demand for illicit substances through prevention programming

Stage 5: Preparation

  • Offer educational outreach programs to the general public on specific types of prevention programs, their goals, and how they can be implemented
  • Provide educational outreach programs for community leaders and local sponsorship groups on prevention programs, goals, staff requirements, and other startup aspects of programming
  • Conduct a local media campaign describing the benefits of prevention programs for reducing consequences of substance misuse and abuse

Stage 6: Initiation

  • Offer in-service educational training for program staff (paid and volunteer) on the consequences, correlates, and causes of substance misuse and abuse and the nature of the problem in the local community
  • Conduct publicity efforts associated with the kickoff of the program
  • Hold a special meeting with community leaders and local sponsorship groups to provide an update and review of initial program activities

Stage 7: Institutionalization/stabilization

  • Lead in-service educational programs on the evaluation process, new trends in substance misuse and abuse, and new initiatives in prevention programming, with trainers either brought in from the outside or with staff members sent to programs sponsored by professional societies
  • Conduct periodic review meetings and special recognition events for local supporters of the prevention program
  • Publicize local efforts associated with review meetings and recognition events

Stage 8: Confirmation/expansion

  • Lead in-service educational programs on the evaluation process, new trends in substance misuse and abuse, and new initiatives in prevention programming, with trainers either brought in from the outside or with staff members sent to programs sponsored by professional societies
  • Conduct periodic review meetings and special recognition events for local supporters of the prevention program
  • Present results of research and evaluation activities of the prevention program to the public through local media and public meetings (see Strategies for Working with the Media for more information)

Stage 9: Professionalization

  • Provide continued in-service training of staff
  • Continue to assess new drug-related problems and to reassess targeted groups within community
  • Continue to evaluate program efforts
  • Provide regular updates on program activities and results to community leaders and local sponsorship groups; share success stories with local media and at public meetings

Don’t try to skip stages. For example, if you find that your community is in Stage 1, do not try to force it into Stage 5. Change must happen through preparation and process, not coercion.