Resilience Measurement Principles: Toward an Agenda for Measurement Design
In a world where conventional approaches to dealing with humanitarian aid and development assistance have been questioned, resilience has captured the attention of many audiences because it is seen as providing a new perspective on how to effectively plan for and analyze the effects of shocks and stressors that threaten the well-being of vulnerable populations.
There is now wide agreement that the interactions among climate change trends, ecosystem fragility and geopolitical instability have produced new configurations of risks that are increasingly difficult to predict. The combined effect of these new risk configurations has, in turn, placed a more pronounced set of negative pressures on the agroecological systems, economic resources and social institutions that affect welfare dynamics. Consequently, the well-being of the world’s poor, that portion of the world population with the fewest protections, is now subject to a more challenging series of shocks and stressors. Viewed by many as a strategic approach to deal with the range of unpredictable risks that undermine well-being, resilience emerged in the mid-2010s as a key concept for policy and program development. The concept of resilience is now at the center of policy discussions for both U.S. and European aid organizations and is the focus of large-scale interventions to which substantial streams of funding are directed. In a world where conventional approaches to dealing with humanitarian aid and development assistance have been questioned, resilience has captured the attention of many audiences because it is seen as providing a new perspective on how to effectively plan for and analyze the effects of shocks and stressors that threaten the well-being of vulnerable populations.
As a consequence of the elevated interest in resilience, a steady flow of white papers and policy statements has been released and a wide range of funded initiatives has been launched. Within this growing discourse, the topic of measurement has been accorded a relatively limited amount of attention. There is now an urgent need to confront the difficulty of measuring resilience as interventions focused on building resilience at multiple scales continue to proliferate. With the goal of providing credible, data-based insights about the attributes, capacities and processes observed at various scales (e.g., individual, household, community and national), data obtained from resilience measures will support efforts to evaluate the impact of interventions and inform discussions of how to promote resilience.
In recognition of the need to examine measurement as an important part of broader discussions on the value of resilience for development, a three-day Expert Consultation on Resilience Measurement for Food Security was held in Rome, Italy in February 2013. The meeting, which brought together policymakers, program staff, researchers and leaders from various agencies and organizations, provided an opportunity to share initial findings and raise questions about resilience measurement. Reflecting the diverse mix of participants who attended the meeting, a range of analytical issues and practical concerns on resilience measurement were raised. Not surprisingly, one of the main outcomes of the meeting was agreement on the need to formulate and actively pursue an agenda to inform resilience measurement. As a follow-up action to the Expert Consultation, the Resilience Measurement Technical Working Group (RM-TWG) was organized as a way to provide a mechanism for directing more sustained attention and concentrated work on the topic of resilience measurement. The broad aim of the RM-TWG is to promote the adoption of technically sound “best” practices for resilience measurement. Recommendations generated by the RM-TWG should also support efforts to achieve consensus on a common analytical framework and guidelines for resilience measurement.