The state of capacity development evaluation in biodiversity conservation and natural resource management

Eleanor J. Sterling, Amanda Sigouin, Erin Betley, Jennifer Zavaleta Cheek, Jennifer N. Solomon, Kimberley Landrigan, Ana L. Porzecanski, Nora Bynum, Bailey Cadena, Samantha H. Cheng, Kaylin R. Clements, Ryan Finchum, Mallory Geresy, Andrés Gomez, Martha Groom, Thirza A.C. Loffeld, Daniel C. Miller, Domoina Rakotobe, Madhu Rao, Ryan RobertsXoco Anna Shinbrot, Erin Willigan, Megan S. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Capacity development is critical to long-term conservation success, yet we lack a robust and rigorous understanding of how well its effects are being evaluated. A comprehensive summary of who is monitoring and evaluating capacity development interventions, what is being evaluated and how, would help in the development of evidence-based guidance to inform design and implementation decisions for future capacity development interventions and evaluations of their effectiveness. We built an evidence map by reviewing peer-reviewed and grey literature published since 2000, to identify case studies evaluating capacity development interventions in biodiversity conservation and natural resource management. We used inductive and deductive approaches to develop a coding strategy for studies that met our criteria, extracting data on the type of capacity development intervention, evaluation methods, data and analysis types, categories of outputs and outcomes assessed, and whether the study had a clear causal model and/or used a systems approach. We found that almost all studies assessed multiple outcome types: most frequent was change in knowledge, followed by behaviour, then attitude. Few studies evaluated conservation outcomes. Less than half included an explicit causal model linking interventions to expected outcomes. Half of the studies considered external factors that could influence the efficacy of the capacity development intervention, and few used an explicit systems approach. We used framework synthesis to situate our evidence map within the broader literature on capacity development evaluation. Our evidence map (including a visual heat map) highlights areas of low and high representation in investment in research on the evaluation of capacity development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)728-739
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 21 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodiversity conservation
  • capacity development
  • conservation outcomes
  • evaluation
  • evidence map
  • literature review
  • systematic map
  • systems approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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