Sector development

The key to this intervention Sector development interventions should engage users through recognition of the skills and experience they bring to the field, while also facilitating their acquisition of new skills and relevant information.

What is the activity?

Sector development, also called capacity building, refers to the provision of information, knowledge and skills to improve an organisation’s or individual’s ability to deliver interventions. In terms of HIV prevention, ‘capacity’ refers to the ability of an organisation or individual to deliver a range of interventions in the context of the broader HIV sector.

Due to relatively high staff turn-over and frequnt restructuring within many organisations serving African people, there is a requirement for continuous development of an ever-changing workforce. To address these challenges, organisations need the ability to operate reactively as well as proactively to shape HIV prevention processes and outcomes.

Sector development is important in helping organisations and individuals to assess their needs, improve intervention design, create a more enabling environment and increase the efficiency with which they use their limited resources.

Sector development interventions are frequently delivered alongside:

A range of elements

Gathering and applying evidence: Managers, staff and volunteers play important roles in gathering data from their own service users, or functioning as gatekeepers for research and evaluation activities. This may involve: participant recruitment, hosting research activity, publicising research to service users or being a research participant. In addition, there are often decisions to be made regarding how to prioritise requests for agency participation in research and evaluation activity.

Organisations also play a leading role in the development of research agendas by identifying areas requiring further investigation among those whose needs they aim to meet. This requires commitment to research processes, from start to finish, in consultative roles, through steering group membership, or project management. This helps to shift the focus from being a passive recipient of changes imposed to active involvement in shaping research and policy directions.

As part of gathering and applying evidence, organisations should also ensure that intervention planning and delivery is accompanied by the thoughtful use of needs assessment, monitoring and evaluation. These activities help providers to measure success, identify weaknesses, plan for future programmes and feedback to commissioners on how resources have been used.

Acknowledging failure: If organisations do not acknowledge and share information about challenges and failures, then success will be difficult to assess. Sector development includes a willingness to publically discuss failures, mistakes and challenges for the benefit of those planning future interventions.

Ongoing professional development: All new staff and volunteers should undergo a comprehensive induction to organisational policies and ethics, as well as statutory requirements on equality, rights and confidentiality. This requires genuine work-place compliance backed-up by accessible policies.

In addition, managers, staff and volunteers of organisations should establish and adhere to professional development plans. This should include assessments of need in a variety of skill and resource areas, and followed up with an agreed action plan which may include attending further training, seminars, or conferences; keeping up-to-date with research, briefing papers, newsletters or email updates; job shadowing; or mentoring. Team activities such as away days and staff social events can be useful in developing and improving motivation in a team.

Where capacity allows, many organisations have a significant role to play as providers of information and training to staff and volunteers from other agencies. Such activities can be diverse, and may include: provision of print or electronic resources that summarise developments in the field; compiling and delivering extensive packages of training for those who specialise in HIV as well as non-specialists; or hosting stakeholder seminars and conferences.

Ensuring coherence and collaboration in service delivery: The diverse nature of HIV work requires collaborative working to provide: opportunities for combining resources, cross-referrals, developing long-term joint goals and building professional support networks.

Partnership effectiveness will depend on good leadership, service user involvement, political will and genuine cooperation towards a common goal. Partnerships should also extend beyond community-based organisations to include relevant private and statutory sector organisations. In forming partnerships, organisational similarity should be taken into account including a careful analysis of values, desired outcomes and available resources to ensure best fit for all.

Ensuring sustainability

Managers, staff and volunteers should strive for a sustainable approach to organisational development. Managers require extensive fund-rasing skills and familiarity with the funding environment. They should also oversee organisation-wide accountability policies and practice, in addition to strong commitment to monitoring and evaluation because evidence of accountability will be useful in securing future funding.

All personnel should be skillful and approachable, promoting a receptive image to potential service users. Where possible, staff and volunteers should have a cultural background similar to the service users. This will create trust among potential service users who might prefer to be served by people with similar cultural characteristics to them. To reduce staff-turnover, managers should ensure a working environment conducive to personal and professional development.


Sector development interventions should provide staff members, volunteers, and board members of statutory and voluntary sector organisations with the necessary resources, skills, knowledge and understanding of the activities of other agencies to adequately contribute to HIV prevention involving African people in England (see organsational aims). The specific content of these capacity-building activities should be tailored to the needs of staff and volunteers.

Examples of sector development outcomes may include:

  • Increased understanding and application of research evidence (see associated needs).
  • Improved ability to raise funds necessary to sustain existing and future interventions (see associated needs).
  • Increased understanding of interventions and services offered by others (see section on partnership working).
  • Written and fully implemented equalities and confidentiality policies (see associated needs).
  • Improved service provider / commissioner relationships, evidenced by regular meetings and ongoing communication (see section on influencing local policy).
  • Increased confidence and motivation to openly discuss sex and sexuality, as a model for service users (see associated needs here, here and here).
  • Increased leadership profile promoting the well-being of African people at a local, regional or national level (see associated needs).
  • Improved skill and knowledge base among staff, volunteers and board members (see associated needs).

Monitoring and evaluation

Monitoring involvement in such interventions (by keeping an up to date record of current and past activity) enables agencies to assess their capacity to meet future demand. Sector development interventions can be evaluated through the use of needs assessment questionnaires administered before and after a particular intervention (such as a training session or a conference). More detailed process evaluation or end user evaluation can be undertaken using follow-up interviews undertaken some time after the intervention.

Useful resources

The following websites provide useful information in this area:

Page last updated: 22 July 2013

Case study

West Midlands African Forum

THT Birmingham

The Sexual Health Promotion Service at Heart of Birmingham PCT recognised that, although HIV prevention initiatives targeting African people were taking place in Birmingham, providers and community groups were not sharing information and resources. Working with Terrence Higgins Trust, the African Forum was formed to bring together all stakeholders to plan a co-ordinated response and to ensure commissioners and providers were accountable to communities. With support from NAHIP, the African Forum is being extended across the West Midlands. Its membership comprises African community groups, clinicians, public health staff, commissioners and NHS and voluntary sector providers.

Case study

Sixth Biennial NAHIP Conference


In September 2010, nearly 200 delegates attended the NAHIP one-day conference Influencing Change through Knowledge, Will and Power to hear speakers such as Simon Kirby MP (vice‑chair of the APPG on HIV and AIDS) and Canon Gideon Byamugisha. Structured dialogue on the major issues facing England's response to HIV in the African population provided an opportunity to share research and best practice, aiming to improve sector wide delivery of prevention interventions. The independent conference evaluation found 92% of delegates would recommend the conference to others and many felt inspired to try new working practices.

Case study

Life and Knowledge training

African Health Policy Network

Life and Knowledge is a collaboratively developed toolkit for use when training local Muslim faith leaders, stakeholders and service providers to better inform their own community members about issues related to HIV and Islam. NAHIP commissioned Sigma Research to undertake an outcome evaluation of training events using the Life and Knowledge toolkit. Attendees at the events in London and Leicester worked either at a Mosque or Islamic Community centre, or they provided health services in the community. As a direct result of their participation, the overwhelming majority of participants said they had increased their HIV knowledge, had a more positive attitude to Muslims with HIV, and had increased their capacity and intention to carry out community-based HIV education. Click here to read the evaluation report in full.