When demands exceed our capacity, then the extra stuff overflows — the bigger the cup, the more it can hold.
A classic example of capacity building is education. A newborn child must learn everything, even how to breast feed*
. By the time a child is 20, and received the educational support of family, community, friends, and teachers, they have enough capacity to participate in society and handle most everyday demands.
Education that improves general competence — such as language, information literacy, world-knowledge, and social skills — helps a society becomes more likely to perceive and engage with threats to its future, and to care about neighbouring societies and the natural world.
If our capacity for a task is small, then it takes a lot of time to reach a larger goal.
Through personal capacity building, we can shorten the amount of time it takes us to reach a goal.
But personal capacity building can only go so far. Instead of improving our capacity to carry water, it would be better to improve our capacity to build an aqueduct. This is a shift from personal
capacity building to societal
capacity building. It's normal to get frustrated with society and to think "I'll just do it myself," but it is only through societal capacity building that the difficult becomes automatic (such as getting water in the desert) or the impossible becomes possible (such as being able to reduce risks to future generations faster than we increase risks).
The ancient Nabataeans built clever cities in the desert that harvested and stored rain and dew. Their secret networks of aqueducts and resevoirs prevented visitors from guessing the source of their water. (Most of the bricks that once hid this little aqueduct have been lost.)
image credit: ancient-origins.net
The capacity building
strategy applies not only to building capacity, but to protecting existing capacity. For example, bullying in schools or workplaces can significantly harm both the victim's capacity and the organisation's capacity.
By standing up for victims and supporting them, we can protect that capacity.
Another important component of social capacity is the ability of different groups to get along with each other. When communities fight each other instead of supporting each other, not only do they harm themselves, but they are no longer useful to the social and natural environment in which they exist.
Note that we need the personal responsibility
strategy to avoid a situation in which we blame other parties for their lack of caring, instead of developing our own capacity to forgive and resolve conflicts. You don't need the other party's cooperation or approval to develop your own capacity.