Information Flows Faster than Water: Lessons from a mixed methods evaluation of Oxfam's Community-based Disaster Risk Management and Livelihoods Programme in Pakistan

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  OXFAM RESEARCH REPORT MAY 2014 Oxfam Research Reports  are written to share research results, to contribute to public debate and to invite feedback on development and humanitarian policy and practice. They do not necessarily reflect Oxfam policy positions. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Oxfam.  www.oxfam.org   INFORMATION FLOWS FASTER THAN WATER  A District Flood Preparedness Plan, Muzaffargarh District, Punjab Province. Photo: Jane Beesley/Oxfam, September 2010 Lessons from a mixed methods evaluation of Oxfam's Community-based Disaster Risk Management and Livelihoods Programme in Pakistan  MARTIN WALSH & RICARDO FUENTES-NIEVA RESEARCH TEAM, OXFAM GB   2 Information Flows Faster Than Water In 2010 Pakistan suffered the worst floods in the country’s history. As well as being heavily involved in the humanitarian response to this disaster, Oxfam already had climate change adaptation and risk reduction projects on the ground. One of these was the Community-based Disaster Risk Management and Livelihoods (CBDRML) Programme, operated by partner organizations in four districts of Pakistan. A subsequent quantitative evaluation of the programme in two districts found strong evidence that participating households were better prepared to manage flood-related risk than those outside the programme, and so lost fewer assets during the 2010 floods. This was a very positive outcome, tempered only by the finding that households had not diversified their livelihoods to the extent that was expected.  A qualitative follow-up study was commissioned in early 2013 to provide a deeper understanding of these results, and its findings are presented here. It shows that by empowering people to access information and act quickly in response to the floods, the two partner organizations were able to deliver quick wins to the communities they were working with, reducing their vulnerability. Building adaptive capacity in the long term, however, poses much greater challenges for community-based participatory programmes of this kind. This study supports the conclusion that resilience and empowerment are inextricably intertwined, and that achieving both requires concerted effort at different levels. Research is an important part of this, and should include mixed methods studies like the one reported here to help determine which approaches are most likely to be effective in building community resilience.   Information Flows Faster Than Water 3 CONTENTS 1 Introduction 4   2 Process: The Pakistan programme and its evaluation 5   3 Discussion: lessons for programmes and programme evaluations 13   4 Conclusion 16   Notes 17     4 Information Flows Faster Than Water 1 INTRODUCTION It is widely recognised that one of the most effective ways to minimize the harmful consequences of natural and other disasters is to build resilience at community level. There is much less agreement, however, on how this can best be done. Although anecdotal evidence and opinions abound, there is a lack of good comparative data regarding the effectiveness or otherwise of different approaches to building resilience at local and other scales. This reflects a more general problem in the practice of international development, where the value of evidence-based policy and programme making is acknowledged, but the relevant systematic evidence is more often than not lacking. This lack of evidence is especially critical in the context of climate change, where bridging the gap between theories of practice and solutions that work is a more urgent task than ever. Building on its long experience of humanitarian and development programming, Oxfam GB is now seeking to generate more systematic knowledge for these purposes. Since 2011 it has undertaken intensive evaluations (referred to as effectiveness reviews) of a representative sample of its projects worldwide. These are randomly sampled in six thematic areas, four of which are readily amenable to study using quantitative methods and statistical analysis. 1 The combined study is, in effect, a mixed methods evaluation. As well as discussing the wider implications of its results for resilience programming in Pakistan and beyond, this paper also reflects critically on the process of evaluation itself, and how this might be improved. Although its conclusions are preliminary, it is hoped that this will stimulate discussion and debate, as well as help prepare the ground for further studies of this kind. The first quantitative reviews, using a quasi-experimental survey design, were published to much acclaim. 2  At the same time it was recognised that some of their results required further elucidation, and so it was agreed that two (or more) qualitative follow-up studies would be undertaken on a pilot basis in order to deepen the analysis already provided by selected effectiveness reviews. The first to be selected for this kind of ‘drill down’ was the review of the Community-based Disaster Risk Management and Livelihoods (CBDRML) Programme in Pakistan, and it is the outcome of this that is reported here.
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