About the ExCEL3 Organisational Capacity Assessment Tool (OCAT) 

1. What are the benefits of OCAT?

When your organisation uses OCAT to assess capacity you are engaging in organisational learning by bringing members from diverse areas of your organisation together for a facilitated discussion on key organisational capacities, you can see benefits almost immediately in the form of increased focus on critical organisational capacities and improved information flows.

Results from the OCAT self-assessment survey, as well as outcomes from the discussion session, will help to identify areas where change efforts are most important to your stakeholders and will therefore have an impact on how your organisation achieves its missions.

2. How was OCAT devised?

OCAT is based on the Composite Capacity Assessment Tool (CCAT), which was originally developed as part of a research project at the Robert F Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University in order to support the small-scale, start-up phase of grantee organisations. The preliminary version of CCAT was designed in accordance with the following methodology: a literature review on capacity assessment tools designed for and used by other non-profit organisations, a glossary of capacity assessment terms, an organisational survey to cross check results with findings of the literature review as part of the validation process, and pilot testing phase with revisions based on results.

ExCEL3 OCAT is based on a revision of the original CCAT by members of the ExCEL3 team, and updated through current research on governance, leadership and philanthropy in the third sector in Hong Kong as well as a review of the latest literature on organisational assessment for nonprofits.

3. How often should my organisation conduct capacity assessment?

Capacity assessment (and therefore, capacity building), is an on-going process and not a one-time prescription. As often as the tool is used, the organisation continues to grow and learn. At a minimum, OCAT should be revisited annually so that organisations can realign capacity building efforts with changing realities.

4. What are the criteria for taking the OCAT?

  • Small-medium sized NGOs
  • Social service NGOs, which provide direct social service in Hong Kong
  • NGOs who are eager to have capacity building/capacity assessment for their organisation; willing to spend time (at least 3 months) on the project; different levels of the organisation will be ready to participate; willing to share their organisational information

5. Can OCAT be adapted/ modified to suit our specific organisation? How?

Your organisation’s ownership of the tool is important. As such, we encourage your organisation to revisit the questions and to contextualize the tool to your own organisation.

6. Are all capacity areas equally important? What does it mean if organisation is low on a certain indicator/capacity area?

Capacity areas function like the pillars of an organisation, whereby if one capacity is weak, this can affect other capacity areas negatively. For example, if an organisation is weak in Governance & Leadership, this will have implications on other areas of the organisation, such as Program Design & Management, or Organisational Planning. Having said that, it also depends on the unique situation of each individual organisation, and what strategic direction it is heading towards. Every organisation will have its priority capacity areas depending on context specific factors.

7. Does OCAT take into account other organisational factors that can influence an organisation’s capacity, e.g, age and developmental stage; size; service nature; cultural/ethnic identity; environmental context?

Yes, during the interpretation and data analysis stage, we will consider these factors.

8. What are some other uses of the tool?

  • Use tool to hire new staff/board members where there are weaknesses and to demonstrate how new member could meet this capacity area
  • Use tool to attract volunteers where there are weaknesses
  • Give staff incentives to look at different components of the tool, e.g. for career development purposes, performance reviews, etc.
  • Mention tool in your website and annual report
  • Use tool to measure growth in organisation’s capacity by conducting regular assessments and comparing results over time
  • Use tool in strategic planning exercises to set clear, specific, measurable goals for your organisation

9. Can I give feedback on the tool?

Yes, absolutely. Your input and feedback will help us to identify how we may best support your work. Capacity building is a two-way process whereby we, as the capacity building provider, are also part of the learning process, which leads to changes within our own organisation. This ‘double-loop’ learning is central to successful capacity building.

About the Organisational Capacity Assessment (OCA) Process

1. What are the roles and expectations of the OCAP team and of our organisation during the OCA process?

  • Role of OCAP team: Third-person facilitator of self-assessment and discussion process; data collection and analysis; formal report writing
  • Expectations: We will provide a safe ground of learning for your organisation. This involves total confidentiality, in a non-judgemental and supportive environment. We are responsible for facilitating the communication process and organisational learning.
  • Role of your organisation: Participation in self-assessment and discussion
  • Expectations: You must have a sincere desire to build your organisation’s capacity, and be willing to commit to the capacity building process. This involves participating honestly in the self-assessment and discussion, sharing relevant organisational information, and taking responsibility to use the tool in a way that will have an impact on your organisation and make a positive change. We also encourage you to report back on something your organisation has implemented as a result of the tool after 6 months. This ensures accountability on your end and the feedback helps us to improve as well.

2. How will OCAP ensure our organisation’s complete confidentiality?

All records will be strictly confidential. All personal and organisational names will be replaced with a number to make sure everything is anonymous; we will only report aggregate data; the report is confidential to your organisation only; all information will be password-protected in the ExCEL3 computer, and will be deleted five years after the assessment.

3. Who owns the information?

The University of Hong Kong and your organisation will own the information.

4. How will the information be shared with our organisation?

Findings will be shared with the Executive Director before they are included in the final report, to give the Executive Director an opportunity to review, dispute and potentially amend any findings. The final report is generally shared with key staff and the board, although who sees the report and how it is used will vary based on the goals and strategies used.

5. How will the information be used?

At the beginning of the process, we will clarify what your organisation hopes to achieve. The findings should then be used to explore a range of strategies to reach your goal. On HKU’s side, the findings will be made anonymous and aggregated. We hope to be able to build up enough findings that can be aggregated to bring to the surface common issues, patterns and development trends across the field of organisations. In other words, we hope to create a portrait of organisational capacity in Hong Kong.

6. Can our organisation expect any support from ExCEL3 after the capacity assessment?

Once your organisation has conducted capacity assessment through us, we consider you part of our community learning network. As part of our network, you can feel free to contact us at any time should any query arise. We will keep you informed of all our different capacity building events such as workshops and trainings, and try to use our expansive network to connect you with relevant community partners.

7. What is ExCEL3’s motivation behind OCAP?

ExCEL3’s mission is to build the nonprofit sector’s capacity to sustainably organise itself to contribute to human well-being and social change. It is our belief that capacity-building efforts should not be implemented in a vacuum; an organisation should always have a clear picture of its strengths and weaknesses. As such, any attempt to build capacity should always be preceded by an organisational capacity assessment in order to guide where, how, and if capacity-building should even occur.

We also hope that through collecting aggregate data, we can build a collective picture of the nonprofit sector’s capacity, which will help the sector to learn and improve.

8. What are the values and principles guiding our work?

We aspire to engage in capacity building and organisational assessment which reflects the following:


  • Values-driven: our approach is informed by set of values shared within our team and organisation
  • Participatory and client-centred: we value client ownership and engagement, and start with the needs and characteristics of each organisation
  • Reflective; and informed by research
  • Contextually appropriate: we are grounded in the specific context of Hong Kong nonprofit sector, yet informed by international trends
  • Adaptive: we are prepared to adapt to different contexts and organisations
  • Practical: we want to bring about real improvements in capacity
  • Time and cost effective 

Outcomes and impact:

  • Relevant and appropriate: we value addressing ‘capacity gaps’ and improvements against weaknesses, but also enabling your organisation to discover for itself how it might define and attain capacities that match its vision and mission.
  • Non-deterministic: we are open to unexpected results 

Facilitators’ role and style:

  • We value a consultative style to the capacity building process, built on an atmosphere of trust, support, and client ownership. We value and respect your organisation’s rich experience and do not claim to be “in the know”, as we understand how such a perspective can defeat the core empowerment objective of capacity building/organisational assessment.
  • We value integrity as a key personal quality of our team members. This involves flexibility, humility, intuition, experience and good judgement.