Technical Assistance ToolkitCore Values

This section highlights the central values that should ground technical assistance (TA) and capacity building activities implemented by the State of California. Developed in collaboration with an interagency working group from 13 different State agencies, each with deep expertise in TA and capacity building, these core principles should inform every stage of the process of a TA project – goal-setting, contracting, evaluation, and communications. Approaching the TA initiatives with these core principles in mind can help ensure that the TA results in long-term capacity building and equitable outcomes in the state’s most under-resourced communities.

Technical Assistance Core Values cirlce: Racial and Social Equity, Capacity Building, Trust, Community Engagement, Relevance, Cultural Awareness, Mutual Learning, and Adaptability.

  Social and Racial Equity

Each community in California has a distinct history and unique set of assets and challenges. However, it is critical to understand that some communities and individuals have suffered from historic injustices and continue to carry disproportionate burdens that others do not. Communities of color, tribes, and low-income communities have faced years of disinvestment, systemic discrimination, racism, and disproportionate environmental burdens, many of which have been caused or exacerbated by local and state policies. As a result, these communities are the most vulnerable to severe climate impacts, such as catastrophic natural disasters, extreme weather, economic shocks, and negative health outcomes. They also tend to have limited capacity and resources to access critical funding to address these impacts, leading to a vicious cycle of resource scarcity and injustice.

To overcome these barriers, it is necessary to center social and racial equity in both the process and outcome of capacity building and technical assistance efforts. Centering equity means ensuring that race/ethnicity, gender, income, and other determinants that disadvantage certain groups of Californians should be considered when designing and implementing TA programs. By ensuring that both social and racial equity is central to TA and capacity building efforts, the State gives under-resourced communities a fairer chance to compete for funds or to implement policies that not only benefit their residents, but also contribute to statewide goals.

In Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-16-22 on embedding equity, it is made clear that, “state government can take additional concrete steps to address existing disparities in opportunities and outcomes and advance equity by designing and delivering state services and programs, consistent with federal and state constitutional requirements, to address unequal starting points and drive equal outcomes so all Californians may reach their full potential and lead healthy and rewarding lives.” As such, technical assistance and capacity building initiatives clearly align with the state’s framework around furthering equitable outcomes in California.

  Capacity Building

Capacity building is strengthening local coordination, leadership, knowledge, skills, expertise, and access to resources in California tribes and under-resourced communities with the goal of helping to develop or increase the ability of that community to independently compete for grants and implement projects in the future (SGC, 2022). The objective of TA should not simply be about contractors doing work on behalf of communities, but about building long-term capacity within communities to sustain and expand successful practices into the future. TA should build recipients’ resilience by identifying and augmenting communities’ existing assets and strengths with the goal of reaching a level of autonomy in which outside TA is no longer needed. While not all TA programs are explicitly focused on capacity building activities such as workshops, educational trainings, or building social capital through partnership development, all TA should support relationship building, knowledge transmission, and sustainability of activities once the TA project term has ended.


As one of the most direct ways the State can support local communities, effective TA can build stronger relationships between State and local entities. This is especially the case when TA not only supports local governments, but also includes meaningful engagement and partnership with residents and community-based organizations. Residents of under-resourced communities may distrust the State based on past discriminatory experiences or perceived disinvestment and lack of support. Histories of redlining and other forms of systemic discrimination have understandably compromised trust in government for many communities of color. California tribes also have ample reason to distrust the California State government. Governor Newsom’s 2019 apology for historical maltreatment, violence, and neglect of tribes was an important step toward building a stronger relationship with tribes. Other populations that may not trust government include immigrants – specifically those with undocumented status – certain rural communities, and other historically under-represented groups. TA is an opportunity to slowly and incrementally build trust within these communities by partnering with trusted local organizations and institutions and maintaining frequent two-way communication.

  Community Engagement

Community engagement should be a central element of every step of the TA process, from conducting a gap analysis, to designing a TA program, implementing TA, and evaluating and communicating results. Building partnerships on the ground with trusted community-based organizations and other local entities with a recognized commitment to equity is critical to ensure a representative and meaningful engagement process. If community engagement is included in the scope of a TA or capacity building effort, it is important to budget for compensating the community partners that help with outreach, material development, translation, and/or facilitation of workshops or other engagement events.

Community engagement is the process of working collaboratively with a diverse group of residents and community-based organizations to address issues affecting their well-being. It involves sharing information, building relationships and partnerships, and involving community members in planning and making decisions with the goal of improving the outcomes of policies and programs. This type of engagement is a powerful vehicle for improving the legitimacy, relevance, and overall success of any project that aims to improve conditions within a community. Building partnerships on the ground with trusted community-based organizations and other local entities with a recognized commitment to equity is critical to ensure a representative and meaningful engagement process. If community engagement is included in the scope of a TA or capacity building effort, it is important to budget for compensating the community partners that help with outreach, material development, translation, and/or facilitation of workshops or other engagement events. Additional guidance about community engagement practices is referenced throughout this document, and more in-depth resources on the topic are listed in the Resources section.


Under-resourced communities face multi-faceted challenges, covering a wide range of basic needs related to clean water and air, natural resources, adequate city services, and availability of parks and open spaces. For this reason, State agencies should work closely with TA recipients and devote adequate time and resources to ensuring that the scope of the TA responds to the priorities and needs of the community it is meant to serve. When the scope of the TA offering is not broad enough to respond to the recipient’s priorities, providers must set clear and realistic expectations about available services and, whenever possible, connect the community to other types of TA that can address its priority issues. This early engagement can help build trust and avoid wasting resources on support that will not ultimately have the desired impact.

  Cultural Awareness

In order to truly build trust through capacity building, the State should hire TA contractors and tailor TA activities to fit the cultural context of the communities served. This may include:

  • Providing translation and interpretation services or hire TA contractors who can provide service in the language of TA recipients.
  • Respecting cultural norms and traditions, acknowledging past and current injustices.
  • Hiring TA providers who come from the communities served.
  • Ensuring TA providers have experience working with under-resourced communities in California and can demonstrate cultural awareness and humility in their approach.

Recognizing that miscommunications and mistakes happen in any program provided for diverse entities, agencies should actively seek feedback and always strive to improve TA offerings, ensuring that they become increasingly responsive to cultural differences.

  Mutual Learning

TA and capacity building efforts can help State agencies better understand how to support local communities and improve State policies and programs to ensure better and more meaningful implementation. For example, application assistance TA may bring to light that certain communities face barriers to applying or competing for funding through a particular program. It may also reveal certain parts of an application process that are unclear or onerous. Policy implementation TA might help an agency identify complexities or a need for a more context-specific approach than originally expected. In contrast, viewing TA as one-way service provision rather than an opportunity for mutual learning and growth is a missed opportunity to improve State programs and policies and can ultimately slow the advancement of State goals.

In many cases, TA recipients can also benefit from hearing about each other’s experiences through peer-to-peer learning. While this may not be appropriate when communities are competing for the same grant, connecting past grantees with current applicants or creating opportunities for capacity building or implementation TA recipients to share information can be remarkably fruitful.


Under-resourced local governments and organizations often juggle several different issues and projects with very little staff capacity. When crises arise, these communities are often the hardest hit, and the local agencies, community-based organizations, and anchor institutions (such as universities, hospitals, and foundations) that serve them may need to shift focus to meet urgent needs. For this reason, TA and capacity building initiatives should be adaptable to changes that may arise during the project term. TA should not plow forward on a scope of work that is no longer relevant. A lack of adaptability and flexibility can result in wasted time and money, compromise hard-won trust, and missed opportunities to provide relevant and timely assistance.

Many unexpected scenarios may arise during the project, so being as flexible as possible with your technical assistance program at all stages of the grant is imperative. For example, this may mean offering a menu of TA services for TA recipients to choose from rather than determining a set scope of services that applies to all recipients. Needs vary across different applicants and grantees, so offering this kind of flexibility can ensure that the TA is as tailored and beneficial as possible for TA recipients. For further information on increasing adaptability and flexibility in grant and technical assistance programs, please reference the Reducing Barriers for Applicants section.