What have we learned so far?
After three years, this section provides a snapshot of where the programme has got to so far. Setting up resilience-building interventions in a manner likely to produce sustainable change takes time. Significant strides have been made in positive, trusting working relationships with communities, and in establishing broader strategic partnerships with authorities and other organisations at different levels and across sectors. The value of these should not be underestimated. The Resilience Exchange will continue to be added to throughout the final month of BRACED as we learn more about building resilience in some of the worlds most fragile areas.
BRACED is still being implemented and results are tentative. A new edition of the Resilience Exchange will follow in 2018, building on these themes and adding new ones. Taking advantage of additional time for results to emerge – and for reflection on them – this subsequent Resilience Exchange will take a more critical look at how to build resilience, challenge our assumptions, and delve deeper into what has been learned for the benefit of a global resilience community.
Several key messages have already emerged that can inform efforts to build resilience at the local level in the most vulnerable contexts, as well as global policy and investments in resilience – for instance towards the 2019 Global Climate Summit, which is looking to increase the global ambition. Many of these messages permeate this Resilience Exchange, including those in the sections ‘Activities to build resilience‘ and ‘Evaluating progress’. Here are some of the main cross-cutting conclusions, which will be updated through the coming year:
1. BRACED interventions – delivered by civil society organisations working directly with vulnerable communities – are clearly building resilience. BRACED has already reached a larger number of beneficiaries than anticipated when the project began. Although time is short to firmly demonstrate the impact on development outcomes, there is clear progress on several key resilience capacities among these vulnerable communities.
2. The BRACED projects have shown that building resilience is about investing in good development – but with special attention to strengthening the capacity of social systems to anticipate, absorb and adapt to climate shocks and stresses.
An example of anticipatory capacity comes from the CIARE project in Ethiopia who reported that 14.2% of target households reported receiving a warning for the most recent extreme event, up from 7.1% at the baseline. It was noted that radio messages produced and disseminated as part of the project helped them to prepare for extreme events.
An example of absorptive capacity comes from the SUR1M project in Niger and Mali, which helped establish Savings and Internal Lending Communities in project areas. In the third year of BRACED, 94% of all members took credit (up from 66% in year 2 and 22.1% in year 1).
3. Activities on their own are not what resilience is about – it’s how they are linked and layered. It’s the combination of activities, approaches to implementation and layering of outcomes that determines the extent to which they build resilience. By conceptualising resilience as a process or intermediate outcome, BRACED projects have achieved notable successes in many areas that provide important building blocks towards resilience outcomes.
For example, linking activities that promote access to climate information with the provision of improved seeds, while simultaneously linking farmers with existing markets, have contributed to better-informed decision-making and income generation (in 10 out of 15 projects – SUR1M, RIC4REC, CIARE, PRESENCES, Livestock mobility, Progress, Zaman Lebidi, BRES, IRISS, DCF).
Similarly, the establishment of Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) in 12 out of 15 projects (CIARE, PROGRES, Myanmar Alliance, IRISS, MAR, PRESENCES, Livestock Mobility, RIC4REC, SUR1M) is leading to an increase in savings and new job opportunities. This change has been facilitated through a number of different layered and linked activities (including accessing credit, intensive training and coaching), combined with additional support activities to further strengthen the financial capabilities and livelihoods of targeted communities.
4. In fragile contexts, resilience can be delivered at scale at the local level through civil society organisations. Yet to truly reach scale, strong connections between communities, government institutions and market actors are essential.
In highly challenging contexts, where government capacity may be particularly weak or nonexistent, there are special opportunities for civil society organisations (CSOs) to step up to deliver resilience. In BRACED, their capacity to do so was implicitly tested over the course of implementation. It is important to acknowledge the different starting points for these interventions, due to more difficult operational circumstances, and not to penalise projects for what may appear less impressive achievements.
In seven out of fifteen projects, project-implemented activities and newly established groups provided support mechanisms in times of stress. For instance, the border regions in which Livestock Mobility operates received over 2,000 refugees, driven by the conflict in neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire. Project partner RECOPA-Ouest received PHASE funding to absorb the shock and held meetings to increase cross-border communication with Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Ghana to find solutions before the shocks and agree on common aims for livestock mobility.
The BRICS project has argued that pastoralist routes established by the project have improved social relations between herders and settled farmers. Pastoralists are now able to move unhindered to their grazing areas and watering points, whereas previously routes were unmarked and cultivators would encroach onto the paths, causing conflict between the groups.
5. Community-level projects are more likely to achieve long-term, potentially transformative change when they have a clear strategy for engaging with government institutions across scales, including financial systems reaching the local level.
Working across scale and with institutions creates a solid foundation for systemic change, and can play an important role in linking previously marginalised or excluded people into this system.
For instance, in Livestock Mobility, local governments, farmer groups and pastoralist groups (groups often in conflict with each other) were brought together to sign social agreements regarding the use of livestock corridors, pastoral resources and creating inclusive committees to manage resources. So far, 787 social agreements have been developed and signed, and 94 functional management committees inclusive of key stakeholders have been established in local communities. Their efforts have led to improved representation of pastoralist groups in regional decision-making processes through commitments from local governments to integrate pastoral issues and priorities into development plans and strategies.
These links will be further explored in the activities in the BRACED extension phase, which includes top-down government support to complement the bottom-up experiences at the local level (as envisaged in the original BRACED Theory of Change).
6. Activities that link institutions with markets show especially good potential for replication and systemic, transformative change. Projects have shown ways to work with private-sector actors to improve access to markets and to climate information. Addressing disconnects in governance and institutions and filling gaps in provision are additional examples of activities that can result in tangible outcomes for people, such as strengthened linkages between local institutions and different activity areas.
As an example, MAR in Ethiopia focused on the establishment of VSLAs and cooperatives. In 2017, MAR worked with the local government to promote the adoption of the Participatory Natural Resource Management (PNRM) approach, which has provided legal status for new cooperatives and assigned forest patches to them. Alongside this, MAR layered its approach by promoting income diversification, offering training on PNRM practices (soil and water conservation, rangeland conservation) and encouraging cooperatives in Afar to produce a new type of animal feed. The strategy has taken the next step by linking the empowered cooperatives with sugar corporations and microfinance institutions, which have provided access to financial services for individuals and cooperatives in remote areas. Partnerships with cooperatives have involved different stakeholders, such as sugar plantation farmers, cooperatives and Afar Micro Finance Institute.
7. Trust and credibility are key. This is another way in which CSOs working in and with communities have demonstrated their special value. Important aspects of implementation that can generate buy-in include: working collaboratively with communities; getting the right people on board at the community level; providing demonstration effects through early adopters; ongoing involvement of project staff and follow-up with communities; and an emphasis on practical demonstration. Providing resources such as tools and materials or addressing basic needs means that people are more likely to respond to the project resources and to implement activities, resulting in tangible, longer-term benefits.
For instance, DCF invested time to build partnerships with and between local/regional governments and technical services to promote the DCF approach. This led these actors to institutionalise tools and approaches (e.g. adaptation committees) contributing towards the longer-term goal of scaling and embedding the project successes within local government structures.
PROGRESS demonstrated the importance of maintaining a flexible and adaptive approach to developing partnerships. In order to obtain political buy-in and endorsement for the project, it provided capacity-building and advisory services to the government that built trust and mutual respect over time through a “give and take” engagement.
8. Adaptive management approaches can deliver better development outcomes, which is especially critical in the face of climate shocks and stresses.
Shocks and stresses, which are to be expected in the contexts where programmes like BRACED are working, should trigger changes in project delivery, facilitated by project monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems that go beyond relatively rigid traditional budgets and log-frames.
For example, IRISS is working with farmers and communities in South Sudan to create resilience in a humanitarian crisis context, where people struggle to meet their basic needs. In this context, security concerns caused delays in distributing seeds and agricultural tools and in securing strong relationships with seed suppliers. The project altered course: instead of just importing seeds from neighbouring countries, it sourced good-quality local varieties as well as focusing on transmitting knowledge on seed selection, saving and storage, allowing participants to autonomously supply themselves with seeds. In the future, IRISS expects that farmers and community members will not only start growing their own crops but also be able to self-supply and trade seeds.
As discussed in the Evaluating progress section, M&E and learning systems can support these adjustments, and also help show whether interventions are successful when shocks and stresses occur. M&E frameworks also need to be flexible enough to accommodate the ways in which projects change over time and adopt learning as evidence emerges.
The work of several of the BRACED partners and the Knowledge Manager extends well into 2019, so the Resilience Exchange, and the key messages featured throughout, will continue to be updated.
The coming year will also see a continued dialogue with partners within and beyond BRACED on what these findings mean for resilience practitioners, as well as for national policy processes, humanitarian and development finance, and especially the ambitions under the Paris agreement.
We are heading into a very special year, with the completion of the Talonoa Dialogue in the UNFCCC taking stock, for the first time, of progress under the Paris Agreement, including the Global Goal on Adaptation – are we making enough progress managing the rising risks? A Climate Summit will have a special focus on raising ambition on adaptation. And the Global Commission on Adaptation, chaired by Ban Ki Moon, Bill Gates, and Kristalina Georgieva, will deliver recommendations on how to raise ambition and optimise global collaboration and support. BRACED will contribute its experience and evidence to all of these forums, making the case for scaling up investment to address the rising risks facing the most vulnerable, and offering practical advice on how this can best be done.
Underpinning that evidence will be first and foremost the demonstrated impacts of BRACED projects on the lives of communities. And there will also be lots of new stories of change. Resilience-building is about people, and everyone has a story to tell.