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OPINION: Measuring Resilience: some lesson shared during Evaluation Conclave 2015


Ram Chandra Khanal, CDKN’s Country Lead for Nepal shares his thoughts on emerging concepts of resilience based development management.

The concept of resilience is increasingly becoming a central focus in climate change and development interventions. Various organisations from the development world are now working towards translating resilience concepts into practice. One of the challenges the development practitioners are facing is how best to define an appropriate evaluation framework, including criteria and indicators. The learning on resilience based management and measurement could also be useful for CDKN interventions as the programme also emphasised improving resilience for promoting climate compatible development.

The Third Evaluation Conclave 2015, a global gathering of evaluators in Kathmandu recently hosted a panel discussion on ‘measuring resilience’ with the support from the Rockefeller Foundation, ITAD and Sambodhi. I presented a paper on ‘developing a resilience based evaluation framework’ based on my study on community forestry in Nepal with the support from multi-stakeholder forestry, government-funded programme in Nepal. The study was carried out in four districts representing three ecological zones and two forest management regimes.

Based on the responsive constructive evaluation approach, the study outlined five principles (a standard that a principle is judged by), fifteen criteria and thirty indicators (an indicator is any variable used to infer attributes of the resource and its utilisation) that are important for maintaining and ensuring resilience at community forests in the studied area. The study also found that the indicators related to enabling environment, social inclusion, economic viability, ecosystems integrity and ability to learn and improvement by local groups are important but communities based their degree of preference based on context and geography –differences in thought emerge between hilly areas and southern plains.

The study has identified a set of indicators that go beyond the conventional development indicators related to sustainable forest development. The criteria and indicators development process moved from linear Newtonian causality to complex non-linear dynamics of the natural resources management processes and has captured both the human and environmental aspects which is commonly known as the socio-ecological resilience approach. It has adequately emphasised ‘ability’ or ‘capacity’ of stakeholders in managing resilience and they are absorptive, adaptive and transformative capacities.

But the journey is not easy and straightforward. There is no clear understanding and convergence on defining resilience; the cost and benefits of moving towards resilience based development management are not clear and generating evidence as at a very nascent stage. In addition, how resilience interacts with other development concepts such as sustainable development is not well understood.

Operationalising the concept is potentially a huge challenge; there has to be agreement on working boundaries, timeframes and working modality. One issue the study did hid highlight was that of identifying resilience indicators and using them at the local level in close collaboration with local level natural resources management groups is appropriate to enhance the resilience of their socio-ecological systems.

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