Experts weigh in on ways to improve resilience measurements for the Horn of Africa

New project aims to develop a tool for better and more inclusive resilience measuring. Photo: UNAMID
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Ago 25, 2015

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Laura Cramer, Research Consultant (CCAFS Flagship 4)

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Consultative workshop with experts from more than 20 organisations explored ways forward for developing subjective, bottom-up resilience measurements and tools.

By having a standardised way of measuring whether resilience is increasing  - or decreasing - planners and decision-makers can start to learn what climate adaptive activities are effective, and use this knowledge to build more efficient development programmes. Better measurement and tracking of resilience are key to ensure that investments in resilience building are supporting the right activities and target the right people.

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is moving into this new territory of resilience work, starting by answering an open call for proposals together with a consortium of partners put up by the Global Resilience Partnership.

The open-call project is named ‘Dialling Up resilience: Mobilising ICTs to enhance bottom-up resilience measurement, programming and governance in the Horn of Africa’, and is made up of two components:

The first activity that CCAFS and partners undertook was to conduct fieldwork in Makueni, Kenya to better understand what resilience means to local community members, and the second was to organise a stakeholder consultation workshop. The two activities will feed into the full proposal for the open call.

Learn more: Measuring resilience: beyond income and assets to the intangible and subjective (Fieldwork in Makueni, Kenya)

Consulting with local resilience experts

The purpose of the consultation workshop, held this past July in Nairobi, Kenya, was to begin engaging with the vibrant resilience community that is active in the Horn of Africa and to explore ways to jointly develop a subjective resilience measurement tool.

The workshop brought together representatives from the consortium partners, participants from relevant Kenyan national ministries active in building resilience, county level officials from arid counties, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) concerned with resilience programming and monitoring and evaluation (M&E), donor agencies, and international agencies helping to coordinate M&E standardisation in the East African region.

The rationale behind this joint development focus was the emerging lessons from within CCAFS, which show that producing science is not enough to achieve development outcomes and make an impact on people’s lives.

Instead, there needs to be sustained engagement, starting right from the conceptualisation of a project, with next-users to create buy-in for outputs, in this case a resilience measurement tool. This way, products will be more demand-led and more likely to be adopted by the intended users.

Key messages from the workshop

A number of key areas were discussed in order to move forward to the end goal - creating bottom-up resilience measurements that take all groups into consideration.

For example, the group highlighted that the voices of the most marginalised groups, namely women and children, are often left out in resilience analyses and measurements. This is problematic as underrepresentation prevents inclusion or exclusion in later programming, creating self-reinforcing feedback loops.

Participants also felt that it was the responsibility of the academic community, non-governmental organisations, and national level agencies to more fully involve local communities in their work, and it is the chiefs and community gatekeepers, such as respected elders, traditional birth attendants, prominent community members etc., who serve as the link to the broader community. There are many existing structures through which interaction with communities is possible, but technical resilience and climate change experts do not typically engage with communities through an extended process.


The voices of the most marginalised groups, namely women and children, are often left out in resilience analyses and measurements. Photo: EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie

The group outlined three outcomes that they would like to see addressed to bridge the disconnect between top-down and bottom-up measurement. First, chiefs should become more fair and transparent, and wield their power responsibly. This would help the community trust them more and give better access for NGOs and researchers to work directly with community members.

Second, NGOs need to be more coordinated. They also should be trying to work themselves out of a job instead of staying in the same community and doing the same work for decades. County government should take a more active coordination role to ensure that work is not being duplicated, data is being shared, and lessons are being learned to improve future programming. The incentives to make these changes are a sense of ownership and participation.

Participants mentioned that county level governments, chiefs, community gatekeepers, traditional leaders, the research community, and national bodies are all key game changers in trying to address the inherent disconnect between top-down and bottom-up resilience measurement.

Introducing mobile phones for resilience measurement

One aspect of the project will be testing various survey methods using mobile phones. Some challenges to this method are to be expected, but only time will tell whether we can be successful in using mobile phone technology to collect survey data from areas with poor mobile network coverage and low rates of phone ownership, especially among women.

There are ongoing initiatives aimed at standardising resilience indicators across the Horn of Africa, for example from the Technical Consortium and the IGAD Resilience Analysis Unit. If the consortium can work closely with them and their networks, there may be opportunities to build something that is useful for a range of actors.

Next steps include having the findings from the Makueni fieldwork feed into the development of the subjective resilience measurement tool, and move forward with the project proposal in the hopes that it finds long-term funding.


The project is spearheaded by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), with consortium partners including CCAFS, the Kenya National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), GeoPoll, Aspiration, and the Data-Pop Alliance.

Read the first part of this project: Measuring resilience: beyond income and assets to the intangible and subjective (Fieldwork in Makueni, Kenya)

Download workshop report to learn more: Dialling Up Resilience Stakeholder Consultation Workshop