New methods in resilience measurement: early insights from a mobile phone panel survey in Myanmar using subjective tools

  • By Lindsey Jones
  • 24/01/2018

Credit: Adam Dean

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Understanding and tracking resilience is key to supporting households in dealing with disasters and climate extremes. Accurate and timely information can help development actors to know what kinds of resilience-building activities to support and who best to target.

Yet, current ways of measuring resilience are not up to the task. Not only are they costly but time consuming (some resilience surveys can take up to 3 hours to complete). They also rely heavily on judgements from external ‘experts’ that are often far removed from disaster affected communities.

This is where BRACED’s Rapid Response Research (RRR) aims to fill important gaps. The RRR is trialing new methods for collecting, analysing and presenting information on household resilience in Myanmar.

The research revolves around two key innovations. The first is the use of mobile phones to collect information from households affected by disasters. Surveys are delivered over the phone via a remote call centre. This allows data to be collected at a fraction of the cost of traditional household surveys with information feeding back in near-real-time. The method also allows data collection when people are on the move (such as during temporary relocation after a disaster event), taking full advantage of the rapid proliferation of mobile phone use across many development countries.

The second innovation is the trialling of new ways of measuring resilience through subjective methods. Resilience has traditionally been measured via objective means (i.e. taking external measurements by observing households or one-way collection of information through surveys). These are normally expert-driven affairs, that make big assumptions about the factors that support other people’s resilience. Subjective tools take a very different approach. They make use of people’s knowledge of their own resilience and the factors that contribute to it. Tools for measuring subjective resilience seek to quantify levels of perceived resilience using standardised survey methods (similar how information on subjective wellbeing is collected).

If these tools prove to be robust then they may offer quicker, cheaper and more bottom-up ways of understanding and measuring resilience in post-disaster contexts.

The Resilience Dashboard

The Resilience Dashboard allows anyone to explore insights from the RRR. Rather than relying on lengthy technical research reports, people are encouraged to delve into the data themselves and investigate interesting relationships between resilience the factors that might drive it. The dashboard will continue to be updated as more and more rounds of the survey come in over time.

For obvious privacy and security reasons all data is anonymised and aggregated. Not all of the survey data is presented here, though the RRR team aims to put as much useful information up as possible to allow people to understand as much as possible about the dynamics of resilience across the 8 villages.

The aim is to continue collecting monthly survey data from RRR participants for up to a year (hopefully longer should funding permit). Doing so would give us high-frequency panel data on household’s coping mechanisms and levels of resilience over time – something that has never been done before.

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