Effectiveness of interventions in the humanitarian field to support community resilience (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report)

Abstract

Query

What is the existing literature on the effectiveness of various interventions in the humanitarian field that are meant to support community resilience? Provide an overview of findings and an annotated bibliography of selected references on the issue. Please pay particular attention to capacity building and collaborations. Selected references can focus on academic literature.

Key findings

There is very little evidence available of the effects of humanitarian interventions on resilience for a number of reasons. First, the concept of resilience as it is applied to disasters and human societies remains in its infancy. Second, regarding interventions on resilience, there is a limited evidence base and a short retrospective timeframe. Third, the quality of available evidence is an issue. Monitoring and evaluation tends to be geared toward inputs and processes more than outcomes and impact. A number of other inconsistencies make the evidence base problematic, including: different definitions and assessments of effectiveness; the lack of independent assessment in a number of findings; the evidence base being fragmented and often case- or sector-specific; some of the literature being speculative, prescriptive or based on untested assumptions; and the difficulty in establishing causalities.

Nonetheless, the following common themes emerge from the literature.

  • Resilience is in good part shaped by larger factors, not created by social engineering. Community resilience is first and foremost an endogenous process.
  • Resilience is in part about self-reliance, and donor interventions are not necessarily central. Overall, the most effective efforts are context-specific and tailor their goals and activities to local meanings, priorities and strengths.
  • External interventions may do more harm than good. ‘Do no Harm’ principles include the need to commit enough time and resources for the long-term.
  • Community resilience must be viewed as a process rather than an outcome
  • Programmes for resilience need to be inclusive. They must be carefully designed and implemented in relation to the local context, given the difficulties and risks involved in inclusion.
  • Effective coordination between actors is essential, under local or national leadership. Support must be coherent and cover all aspects of disaster resilience holistically.

Using an annotated bibliography, section 2 of this helpdesk report presents general factors shaping community resilience and section 3 presents evidence of the effectiveness of interventions. Section 4 points to additional references.

Citation

Combaz, E. Effectiveness of interventions in the humanitarian field to support community resilience (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2013) 15 pp.

Effectiveness of interventions in the humanitarian field to support community resilience (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report)

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