Effectiveness in Building Resilience: Synthesis report for Oxfam's Resilience Outcome Area

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As risks related to climate change, natural hazards, population growth, chronic poverty, food insecurity, and inequality intensify for the world’s poorest people, Oxfam has prioritized building resilience to shocks and stresses as an important, cross-cutting outcome area across its programming. Resilience capacities aim to enhance the ability of individuals, households, and communities to persist in the face of shocks and stresses, anticipate and adapt to changing environments, and transform the underlying vulnerabilities that leave them exposed to shocks and stresses. This report examines evidence of how Oxfam's interventions have contributed to building these absorptive, adaptive, and transformative capacities. It examines a sample of 23 projects using Oxfam's Effectiveness Reviews and Evaluation Reports.
  OXFAM RESEARCH REPORTS FEBRUARY 2016 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 author and not necessarily those of Oxfam.  www.oxfam.org   EFFECTIVENESS IN BUILDING RESILIENCE Synthesis report for Oxfam’s Resilience Outcome Area DR. ADITYA BAHADUR, EMMA LOVELL, FLORENCE PICHON Overseas Development Institute, London, UK  2 Effectiveness in Building Resilience: Synthesis report for Oxfam’s Resilience Outcome Area    ACRONYMS  ACCRA Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance BDR Building and Deepening Resilience in Eastern Indonesia BINDS Building Resilient and Adaptive Communities and Institutions in Min-danao BRACED Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters CAP Community Action Plan CBO Community-Based Organisation CCA Climate Change Adaptation CCCCD Partnership for Equitable Resilience to the Impacts of Climate Change of the Coastal Communities in Deltas of Vietnam COP Conference of Parties CSI Coping Strategy Index DRR Disaster Risk Reduction FAO Food and Agricultural Organization HARITA Horn of Africa Risk Transfer for Adaptation IGA Income-Generating Activity INGO International NGO LNGO Local NGO M&E Monitoring and Evaluation MEAL Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning NGO Non-Governmental Organisation NRM Natural Resource Management SES Social and Ecological Systems ToRs Terms of Reference VCAN Vanuatu Climate Adaptation Network VPRT Village Preparedness and Response Team VRDTCA Vanuatu Rural Development Training Centre Association WASH Water, Sanitation and Hygiene WEC Women Empowerment Centre  Effectiveness in Building Resilience: Synthesis report for Oxfam’s Resilience Outcome Area  3   EXECUTIVE SUMMARY  As risks related to climate change, natural hazards, population growth, chronic poverty, food insecurity, and inequality intensify for the world’s poorest people, Oxfam has prioritized building resilience to shocks and stresses as an important, cross cutting outcome area across its programming. Oxfam describes resilience as ‘…the ability of   women and men to realise their rights and improve their well- being despite shocks, stresses, and uncertainty.’ An overview of a sample of Oxfam’s interventions reveals that these risks are real, interrupting the implementation of projects and threatening to undermine development gains. In response to these trends, Oxfam has adopted a new conceptual understanding of resilience based on emerging research on “resilience capacities” to integrate across programmes. This report examines evidence of how Oxfam’s interventions have contributed to building absorptive, adaptive, and transformative capacities. Resilience capacities aim to enhance individual, households, and communities’ ability to persist in the face of shocks and stresses, anticipate evolving risks, adapt to changing environments, and transform the underlying vulnerabilities and inequalities that leave them more exposed to shocks and stresses. Key features of each capacity and associated development interventions are detailed in Section 3 of this report. This report examines a sample of 23 projects using Oxfam’s Effectiveness Reviews and Evaluation Reports (7 projects are analysed in depth through focussed case studies), both of which intend to analyse and describe how successful programmes have been in achieving their stated objectives. Effectiveness Reviews take a ‘resilience’ lens, examining changes in indicators associated with resilience. These are fairly detailed and tend to be more realistic about project achievements, making an analysis of how these outcomes align with evidence of ‘resilience capacities’ more straightforward. Evaluation Reports, on the other hand, are tailored to each programme, with varying degree of detail and rigour. Evaluation Reports were more conservative in their descriptions of risks, challenges, and failed outcomes viz a viz resilience restricting further analysis considerably. As a result, the authors opted to conduct ‘deep dive’ case studies of a smaller sample of projects in considerable detail to better contextualise data and tease out evidence of where resilience capacities had been enhanced. Deep dives (See Section 5) were complemented by interviews with Oxfam programme staff and project documentation. The analysis looked to identify ‘building blocks’, ‘social change processes’, and multi-stakeholder collaborations that had delivered changes in capacities. Taken in aggregate, Oxfam’s projects have been effective in building resilience capacities, though these positive impacts on resilience were generally conservative. Still, nearly every project contributed to enhancing one or more resilience capacities to varying degrees. The projects were most successful in building absorptive capacity. Evidence for building adaptive and transformative capacities was generally smaller. Indicators used to measure changes in transformative capacity were fairly broad, using indicators of social cohesion, participation in community groups, and attitudes towards innovation to capture potential for transformative change. Ideally measuring capacities, requires adapting data collection methods to find more appropriate markers of resilience from the commencement of projects rather than doing this retrospectively.  A complementary statistical meta-analysis of Effectiveness Reviews conducted by Rob Fuller revealed a few interesting ‘big picture’ insights on Oxfam’s contributions to building resilience capacities. Using a ‘resilience index’ developed from indicators in Effectiveness Reviews, Fuller found that projects in Asia were more successful in achieving a positive effect size on resilience compared to projects in Africa and South America, though this change was led by particularly successful projects in Nepal and Pakistan. Project duration and size held no bearing on the project’s impact in build ing resilience capacities, and no single indicator drove changes in resilience across the 16 projects that Fuller sampled. Female-headed households had  4 Effectiveness in Building Resilience: Synthesis report for Oxfam’s Resilience Outcome Area   marginally lower resilience scores than male-headed households. These findings are explored in more depth in Section 4.1. The deep dives reveal a number of interesting insights on the causal mechanisms through which individual projects contributed to resilience capacities. Taking a few examples we see that the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative in Senegal helped people absorb shocks by providing weather indexed risk insurance to 3700 farmers. Here pay outs are linked to hazard events to ensure that farmers have something to fall back on. The Climate Change Adaptation among Small Producers initiative in Nicaragua helped enhance adaptive capacity by promoting new agricultural techniques and seed varieties that were suited to changing conditions by recruiting community volunteers who received this knowledge and helped raise awareness amongst other farmers. The Community-based Disaster Risk Management and Livelihoods Programme in Pakistan contributed to enhancing transformative capacity by ensuring that community groups have a seat on the table and a voice in policy making processes around risk management. On the other hand, we learn that existing and entrenched cultural norms around excluding certain communities in Chad made it difficult for the project in the country to initially build resilience capacities uniformly across all sections of the population. In this way, all seven of the case studies in this report provide valuable insights into the pathways of and impediments to enhancing resilience. This analysis leads to the distillation of some crucial, cross-cutting insights. The majority of Oxfam’s evidence of generating positive changes in resilience capacities lies at the local level (community/household/individual). This is partly due to the nature of the data used to assess these changes; household surveys are limited in their ability to capture higher system-level dynamics. This is also likely related to timescales of projects. Building resilience capacities beyond the household level often requires engaging with institutional, political, and environmental factors that rarely show radical changes in a few years. These types of shifts are often far beyond the scope of any particular intervention. Deep dives revealed that issues of power had a crucial bearing on resilience capacities and need more attention. Issues of caste, religion, corruption, debt, and gender have an important mediating effect on people’s capacities to deal with shocks and stresses. Project documents shied away from engaging with issues that were impeding resilience but that were beyond the sphere of the project’s influence, such as levels of indebtedness or high-level political capture of project activities. Bringing attention to these issues can support design of more effective programmes that can work better in local contexts by moving away from a technocratic approach to resilience building and recognising the inherent difficulties in tackling such complex issues. Multi-stakeholder collaborations were varied in their ability to deliver changes in resilience capacities. Interviews with project staff highlighted the importance of strong relationships with local development organisations and government institutions, who were key to building ownership of the project and encouraging participation from different actors. Interviews also highlighted the difficulties of working in consortiums with separate funding strategies, which impeded a more collaborative approach. Lastly, multi-stakeholder collaborations were also an opportunity for innovation. Partner institutions could take on new responsibilities or undertake new activities with the support of Oxfam and other stakeholders.  Aligning evidence of Oxfam’s impacts into resilience capacities has generated a rich internal discussion of how various indicators, such as social capital or access to credit, best illustrate changes in resilience capacities. Refining this approach requires testing various approaches to more accurately gauge resilience and understand what factors contribute to enhancing each capacity (and in what context). Many of the initial indicators from Evaluation Reports and Effectiveness Reviews focused on programme outputs/intermediate outcomes (such as the implementation of an early warning system) rather than final outcomes/impacts (reduced disaster mortality and losses). This means resilience capacities are not tested until the event of
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