Movement Capacity Assessment Tool

Movements are critical to creating social change. In order to continue building strong, effective movements, we need to understand their strengths, needs, and priorities. Global Fund for Women’s Movement Capacity Assessment Tool helps movement actors to collectively assess the capacity of their movement and plan next steps.

Click here to download the tool.

Learn more about the Movement Capacity Assessment Tool by watching the video.

Click on a title below to learn more

We learned two critical lessons from our 2017 pilot studies. First, it is essential that a local lead organization who is part of the movement initiate, spearhead and own the assessment process. This helps create local ownership of the process and the results, and helps navigate the complexity of movement politics. Second, while the MCAT can be a useful tool to spark a conversation among movement actors on how to strengthen the capacities of their movement, it is important that the assessment is accompanied by adequate resources to support follow-up actions.

Based on these learnings, in 2019, we partnered with eight feminist organizations to use MCAT to assess, strengthen the capacity of, and sustain their movements in six countries:

Partners adapted the MCAT for their particular context, translate and test the tool, and lead collection of data, identifying respondents within the movement and ensuring participation through regular follow up. Once data collected are analyzed, partners led meetings with participants and interested stakeholders on the results. During and following these meetings, partners used the results to plan subsequent action for each of the movements.

Using the 700+ responses submitted by movement actors, feedback from movement actors and partners, and an extensive literature review, Global Fund for Women is working to document and synthesize learning for improvements to the movement capacity framework and movement capacity assessment process and tool. Here we highlight three critical findings across movements. First, creating a shared identity and a picture of who is within and outside is a political process: it requires understanding how movement actors relate to and interact with one another. Second, several movements identified collaboration as both a challenge and a priority. They highlighted the need for space and opportunities to gather, discuss and develop a shared strategy and identity, and overcome historically competitive relationships (in particular, competing for limited resources) with increased cooperation, coordination and communication. Finally, developing a pipeline of young and diverse leaders is critical but must also recognize the accomplishments and progress that has been made. Several movements are exploring ways to create systems to support young people’s leadership, including by addressing practices that exclude or tokenize them.

The Movement Capacity Assessment Tool builds on a large body of research on social movements (please download the references here) and Global Fund for Women’s experience in supporting women’s rights movements globally. We are grateful to the numerous partners, both organizations and individuals, who generously provided their time and expertise to review and/or test different iterations of the tool.

We’d like to thank those that provided invaluable feedback during the tool’s development: Irit Houvras from American Jewish World Service, Andrea Lynch from A.E. Lynch Consulting; Mary Jane Real from Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights Asia and Pacific; Mekala Krishnan and Rishi Arora from McKinsey & Company; and Judy Kan from HER Fund.

We’d also like to thank those who piloted the tool and gave us the opportunity to learn with them about what worked, what didn’t, and what could be improved: the Ukrainian Women’s Fund; CARE Latin America and CARE International; JASS Mesoamerica; and all of the organizations and individual activists who participated in the pilot studies. We also thank The Girl Generation who adapted an early version of the MCAT and shared with us their pilot experience.

We are also grateful to The Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative, a grant-making program overseen by the trustees of Fidelity Charitable, for providing a grant that allowed us to conduct the pilot studies, the team of translators that worked to make the tool accessible in multiple languages, and Advocate Creative for producing the video and helping us introduce a complex concept in a more interesting way.

Research shows that broad-based social movements effectively create and sustain long-term social transformation. To support movement building, it is important for movement actors—including funders, NGOs, activists, and networks—to develop a shared understanding of the strengths, needs, and priorities of their movements. The Movement Capacity Assessment Tool is designed to engage multiple stakeholders in a collective assessment of the capacity of their movement. Movement actors can use the results of the assessment to spark discussion on how to address challenges and make progress as a movement. This tool can also be used as a planning and measurement tool to track progress of a movement over a period of time.

Global Fund for Women embraces the definition offered by feminist scholar and activist Srilatha Batliwala of movements as, “an organized set of people vested in making a change in their situation pursuing a common political agenda through collective action.” Based on review of literature and our experience in supporting women’s rights movements globally, we identified several key characteristics shared by strong movements for progressive social change. We also learned that social movements have different stages of development and that movements at each stage have different capacity needs and require different types of support.

By measuring participants’ perceptions on these aspects of the movement, the tool allows movement actors to gain an understanding of the strengths and challenges of the movement and identify priorities.

In 2017, we conducted pilot studies with five national and one regional movement. This version incorporates lessons learned from those experiences as well as feedback from participants and other reviewers. The tool is available in English, French, Arabic, Spanish, and Russian.

The Movement Capacity Assessment Tool is a series of questions to capture information about participants’ experience and perceptions of the movement they are assessing. Because the results are based on subjective assessment and depend on local context, we encourage you to use the results a starting place for conversation and framework for discussion.

Please download a copy of the Movement Capacity Assessment Tool and user guide for more information about to use the tool.

Based on our pilot experience, we created a set of criteria to help decide if the tool is appropriate in a given context. We recommend only moving forward to use this tool if the movement you would like to assess meets the following criteria:

  • The movement is composed of an organized set of individuals and organizations vested in making a change in their situation and pursuing a common political agenda through collective action
  • These individuals and organizations recognize the movement’s existence and identify themselves as part of the movement
  • The potential benefits of engaging these individuals and organizations in assessing the movement outweigh potential risks (security, internal/external conflict, resources, or other obstacles)
  • As the lead organizer, you or your organization are able to reach and involve other movement actors in the assessment

To allow knowledge and learning to be widely shared and more easily adapted or built upon, this tool is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) License. This means you are free to use the tool under the following terms and conditions without having to secure permission from Global Fund for Women:

You are free to:

  • Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material

Under the following terms:

  • Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
  • NonCommercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes.
  • ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

The above description does not constitute an exhaustive list of the terms and conditions of the CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 License.  Please review the license in its entirety before making any use of the tool.  A link to the license can be found here.

Due to limited staff capacity, we are not able to provide technical support to every organization that is interested in using the tool. Please contact us at and provide a brief description about the movement you would like to assess, how you plan to use the results, and your role in the movement.

We would very much appreciate any and all feedback you might have about the tool. Please share your comments and suggestions directly with Global Fund for Women by emailing

The Movement Capacity Assessment Tool and all related documentation, including but not limited to the text of the downloadable PDF below (collectively, the “MCAT”), are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial ShareAlike 4.0 International license (the “License”). The License requires you to, amongst other things, provide appropriate credit when linking to the MCAT, and distribute the MCAT and any modifications you make to the MCAT under the terms of the License. The License also prohibits you from using the MCAT for commercial purposes. This paragraph does not serve as an exhaustive list of the terms and conditions of the License. The full text of the License can be found here.

Creative Commons License


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