DIAGNOSTIC SEQUENCING AND METHODS
While the exact sequencing of assessment and diagnosis will vary depending on the objectives and information requirements, the sequence of a full-blown livelihood security assessment includes:6
- Objective setting: Clear objectives are fundamental to keeping the entire diagnosis process on track.
- Review of existing information: A comprehensive review of existing information and an assessment of its validity, reliability and comprehensiveness sets the parameters for primary information collection.7
- Identification of major issues for field data collection: Where there are gaps in existing information, tools for gathering that information have to be designed.
- Stakeholder validation of conclusions from secondary information and gaps: Prior to investing staff time and financial resources in field data collection, experience shows that it is useful to validate the conclusions reached on the basis of secondary information. Stakeholders here include representatives of communities in which programmes may take place, partner organizations that may be involved in diagnosis, design and implementation, local authorities and other organizations or research institutes that may have experience or information.
- Site selection: Locations for field data collection must reasonably represent locations where programmes will be implemented, but can rarely be statistically representative due to resource restrictions. Therefore careful thought must go into purposive selection of sites, and the number of sites must be adequate to capture the breadth of variation in livelihood systems, constraints and sources of vulnerability.
- Community preparation: The quality of information gathered is only as good as the quality of response from groups participating in the information collection, so good communication with communities in the sites selected is critical. Likewise, it is important to inform communities that projects or "aid" may not necessarily follow immediately (or ever).
- Field team training: Often field teams include staff from partner organizations or local government, representing multidisciplinary viewpoints and expertise. Incorporating HLS concepts and rigorous field methods into a mixed team is a challenge that is often allocated inadequate time.
- Field data collection/entry/analysis iteration: Capturing information, organizing it and making it retrievable and beginning to synthesize findings are all part of fieldwork. For these activities at least one day is required for every day of actual information collection. This should be an iterative process rather than the lumping of information collection and entry/analysis into separate activities and time frames.
- Analysis and design workshops: Further refinement of information, identification of problems and opportunities, and selection of strategically focused interventions usually occur in design workshops following the field exercise. Often, multiple stakeholders, including community representatives, are involved in this process. Once a set of intervention themes has been identified, these themes are subjected to a series of screens to determine the key leverage points for design follow-up. The selected themes are reviewed with the community to determine if they are valid community priorities.
Another example of a sequenced approach for participatory livelihood assessments is the one used in Malawi.
Malawi participatory livelihood assessment, July 1998: methods used and key information collected
Level of analysis
Key information collected
Community-level environmental and economic analysis
- Resource mapping and focus group discussions around resource map
- Historical time line
- Seasonality calendars
- Venn diagramming
- Matrix ranking
- Infrastructure, key services, land use, farming systems, land tenure, natural resource base, availability, access, quality, historical changes
- Historical analysis, changes over time, trends, past efforts
- Seasonal farming activities, income, expenditure, stress periods, coping and adaptive strategies
- Institutional identification, operation, interaction, level of service, performance
- Economic activities, priorities, performance, trends, gender
Household-level social analysis
- Identification of livelihood indicators
- Identification of livelihood categories
- Livelihood category profiles
- Social mapping
- Case study and household interviews
- Economic, social and environmental criteria used for classifying households by well-being
- Difference by gender
- Location and names of households
- Proportional livelihood status
- Vulnerability, shocks, stress, coping and adaptive behaviour
- Potential opportunities
Problem prioritization, analysis and opportunity identification (synthesis)
- Problem identification analysis
- Cause-effect analysis
- Opportunity analysis
- Prioritized problems by gender
- Problem linkages, causes and effects
- Previous efforts, successes, failures
- Roles and responsibilities
- Potential opportunities and strategies
LSA methodology grows out of RRA/PRA methods but is focused specifically on the multidimensional issues of livelihoods and vulnerability. Field methods for qualitative and participatory information collection have been adequately described in greater detail elsewhere.8 However, they broadly consist of focus and large group key informant interviews, used together with participatory techniques such as maps, time lines, calendars and Venn diagramming, as well as more analytical participatory techniques such as problem tree analysis and concept mapping. These may be combined with quantitative household survey interviews and anthropometric/health surveys.
In general, qualitative methods allow for greater flexibility and greater exploratory power, and they result in information that permits logical inference. Quantitative methods allow for greater confirmatory power and result in information that permits statistical inference. Each has implications for sample selection. Use of multiple methods permits triangulation (cross-checking and confirming findings), and each adds some perspective that the other cannot. The use of multiple methods is an iterative process, and the sequencing usually depends on how much information is already known.
6 These steps are laid out in much greater detail in several other resources. See T. Frankenberger & K. McCaston, 1999, "Rapid food and livelihood security assessments: a comprehensive approach for diagnosing nutritional security", in Scaling up, scaling down: overcoming malnutrition in developing countries, ed. by T. Marchione, Amsterdam, Overseas Publishers Association; D. Maxwell & R. Rutahakana, 1997, "Dar-es-Salaam urban livelihood security assessment: design, background, strategy, data collection and analysis methodology", Dar-es-Salaam, CARE Tanzania; and M. Pareja, 1997, "Preparing for a rapid livelihood security assessment.", Nairobi, CARE East Africa.
7 See K. McCaston. 1998. "Tips for collecting, reviewing, and analyzing secondary data", Atlanta, CARE USA.
8 Maxwell & Rutahakana, op. cit., Drinkwater, 1998, Frankenberger & McCaston, 1999.