Measuring Resilience


Monday, 18 November, 2013


Presenter:  Nancy Mock, Professor, Co-Director of the Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy, Tulane University

This session provided participants with concepts, strategies and methodologies for measuring resilience and its determinants.  A framing presentation provided a conceptual framework for measuring resilience, including the systems factors that characterize resilience such as shocks/hazards, assets/capacities, multi-scale and multi-level interactions among determinants.  Measurement approaches such as quantitative and qualitative methods were discussed together with characteristics of indicators such as the degree to which they are subjective versus objective.  Systems concepts such as the importance of initial conditions, tipping points, flow and scale provided participants with an approach to measuring changing dynamics that influence households. The session then allowed small group work on resilience measurement in specific programming contexts. The session concluded by giving attendees the opportunity to consider key questions for moving the resilience measurement agenda forward.

The presenter emphasized that there are no standard indicators for measuring resilience and that the process is complicated. She shared several approaches for measuring resilience, which tend to vary according to the particular community of practice (climate change, sustainability, food security, humanitarian). USAID indicators of resilience fall into five categories: (1) income and food access; (2) assets; (3) social capital and safety nets; (4) nutrition and health; and (5) adaptive capacity. One can select different indicators depending on the focus of the program.

The presenter emphasized that collecting the data to measure resilience can cost a lot of money. She pointed out that resilience is most often measured at the household level, but it is important to measure it on the community and systems levels as well because certain indicators, like social capital, will not be easy to capture at the household level. She also pointed out that it is important to use both a quantitative and a qualitative approach since some higher level factors aren’t reflected in quantitative measures. She also noted that measures of resilience need to continue over a period of time and that different indicators need to be selected at different stages of the resilience continuum—from the baseline, to disturbance measures, to resilience measures and to endline well-being measures.