'Resilience' is a powerful word that means a wealth of different things depending on who is saying it, to what audience, and in what context. For Practical Action, resilience is the ability of a system, community or society to pursue its social, ecological and economic development objectives while managing its disaster risk over time, in a mutually reinforcing way.

resilience disaster risk livelihoods
Understanding livelihoods is essential to understanding resilience

New measurement approaches

Practical Action, as part of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, is developing a toolkit to address the knowledge gap around measuring resilience. Using current literature and expertise of its members, the toolkit includes a methodology for testing and empirically validating the framework, and a technology based data gathering and evaluation tool for measurement and assessment of resilience. The toolkit focuses specifically on resilience to floods given that floods globally account for more losses than all other natural hazards combined.

In order to measure resilience as comprehensively as possible, yet to make the measurement manageable, the measurement framework is organised around three levels:

The 5 capitals

The framework is grouped in the 5 capitals (human, social, physical, natural and financial). The multiple capital approach has been popularised by the well-known and utilised Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (SFL) from the Department for International Development (DFID). By exploring flood resilience in this way, we are explicitly drawing out the links between flood resilience and development more broadly and capture the complementary nature of these capitals, rather than focusing on just one capital of interest.

Sources of resilience

Each capital group contains a set of sources of resilience (which can be thought of as sub-indicators). Across the 5 capitals there are a total of 88 sources of resilience, each specifically defined. Data can be collected in different ways to according to context and need, (e.g. household survey, qualitative community discussion, key informants, interest groups, and third party source).

  • No general measurement framework for disaster resilience has been empirically verified yet (UNDP, 2014)
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Each of the 88 sources is then graded on a pre-determined A-D scale (A: best practice, D: very poor practice). Grading is done by trained assessors drawing on their experience and the previously collected data.

Graph depicting community results of the resilience measurement tool
Results through the ’Theme’ lens


Results can be viewed through the following lenses:

  • 5 Capitals (Human, Social, Physical, Natural, Financial)
  • 4 R’s (Robustness, Redundancy, Rapidity, Resourcefulness)
  • 10 Themes (Assets & Livelihoods, Education, Energy, Food, Governance, Life & Health, Natural Environment, Transport & Communication, Waste, Water)
  • 5 stages of the Disaster Risk Management Cycle (Coping, Corrective risk reduction, Crisis preparedness, Prospective risk reduction, Reconstruction)
  • Context (Enabling environment, Community level)

The tool can be used to lay down a project baseline and used alongside existing processes to begin to identify possible solutions. A smaller post-flood assessment is carried out soon after a flood in order to capture key outcomes. Finally an end-line study is carried out and the end of the project. Six organisations are currently using the tool in 9 countries in a pilot phase that will run until 2018.

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