Resilience – what works, what doesn’t?


October 14th, 2016

In his latest blog Colin McQuistan says that preparedness and response for disasters should be a last resort. The extensive time needed to recover and to rebuild capacity following a disaster in low income countries puts a halt to the development process, lends itself to massive economic costs and endangers lives. There seems little disagreement amongst development professionals that proactively building community resilience to disasters is much more effective at maintaining development than solely reactive interventions.

The Resilience in Practice briefing series that Practical Action has developed through its work on the ground talks about building resilience in volatile environments. As a sector we are moving forward in strides but here’s the thing about resilience – it’s complicated, multi-faceted and with no definitive conclusion on how to measure if we’ve been successful!

Flood victims are evacuated with their children as they rescued by naval boats in a village in Sukkur in Pakistan's Sindh province August 8, 2010.

Flood evacuation in Sukkur, Bangladesh Photo: Reuters/Akhtar Soomro, courtesy www.alertnet.org

This is not disheartening, how we measure resilience has received much attention in recent years and now the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance has taken this one step further and is currently undergoing a two year testing phase of its Flood Resilient Measurement Tool. We measure communities before a flood through 88 different indicators which feeds into existing processes and is validated through community feedback sessions. The tool design allows practitioners to view the data through several lenses in order to understand existing issues more fully.

Following a significant flood incident a post-event study is undertaken within eight weeks of the disaster. This follow up study looks at the extent of the flooding, the damage people suffered and the action they choose to take. As well as being reviewed by the teams, all the data is fed into a global data set. The aim of the global data set is to understand key questions about resilience measurement. Can we identify a key set of indicators of resilience that expands across contexts, are there indicators that carry more weight in particular contexts and finally what can this global study tell us about how we attempt to build resilience.

I am looking forward to reading the IFRC World Disasters Report launched later today. As two members of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, Practical Action has worked closely with the IFRC on developing the measurement tool and we’ve learned a great deal from one another. Sharing what works and what doesn’t and continually engaging in the global conversation is how we move forward with resilience agenda. Don’t stop!

Read some of the Alliance publications:
Making Communities More Flood Resilient: The Role of Cost Benefit Analysis and Other Decision-Support Tools in Disaster Risk Reduction
What Motivates Households in Vulnerable Communities to Take Flood Preparedness Actions?

Preparing for El Niño floods in Peru

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