STEP 2: Capacity Building

Capacity building involves improving your group’s ability to prevent and/or reduce substance misuse and abuse in your community. Capacity includes all the human, technical, organizational, and financial resources you will need in order to implement and evaluate your intervention in a culturally competent and sustainable way. Your capacity affects how (and how effectively) your group goes about every aspect of its work.

Key components of capacity building include the following:31

  • 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

STEP 2: Capacity Building comprises the following primary tasks:

TASK 1: Determine the Needed Organizational Infrastructure

Building capacity means paying attention to the organizational infrastructure needed to plan, implement, evaluate, and sustain your intervention. Five factors are key to both organizational infrastructure development and sustainability:32

  • Creating and strengthening administrative structures and formal linkages among all organizations and systems involved
  • Encouraging champion (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, TA, 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
TASK 2: Address Capacity Building Throughout the SPF

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. It is important to continually examine your capacity and make sure that you have the resources required at each stage. For example:

  • During Step 1, your group may need to assess its cultural competence and then build its capacity to integrate or infuse cultural competence into the assessment process so that participants in planning meetings, focus groups, and other assessment activities experience a safe and supportive environment.
  • During Step 3, you may need to focus on learning how to implement an inclusive and collaborative strategic planning process.

At each step of the SPF, it is important to document and track your 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
  • Identify assets and resources available for preventing and reducing substance misuse and abuse in your target area
  • 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.

TASK 3: Increase Capacity 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.

Answering the following questions can help you assess your group’s strengths and weaknesses in this area:33

  • Membership: How well does your group reflect the communities you serve? To increase the breadth of your representation, should you add members, or 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 capacity in order 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.

TASK 4: Measure Community Readiness

Note: This section was adapted from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.27

There are many resources available to measure community readiness, and most of them acknowledge that community readiness occurs in stages. The Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research at Colorado State University,34 for example, has identified nine stages of community readiness:

  • 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: Preplanning. 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.

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.

TASK 5: Increase Community Readiness

The following strategies are recommended by the National Institute on Drug Abuse:35

  • Stage 1: Community tolerance / no knowledge
  • Hold small-group and one-on-one discussions with community leaders to identify the perceived benefits of substance misuse and abuse 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: Preplanning
  • 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 (see Effective Messaging for Substance Abuse Prevention for guidance on designing a consistent and effective message for your local media campaign)
  • 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 (see Effective Messaging for Substance Abuse Prevention for guidance on designing a consistent and effective message for your local media campaign)
  • 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
TASK 6: Complete the Capacity Building Worksheet

The Capacity-Building Worksheet is a tool that can help you identify the issue or area of needed growth, how this capacity need will be addressed, the person(s) responsible, the timeline for addressing this need, and the measure of success. You may want to fill out a similar worksheet for each capacity need you identify as you carry out each step in the SPF model. Remember to also keep in mind needs related to cultural competence and sustainability.

A template and an example of a completed worksheet is available here.