Why do community profiles?
The purpose of a community profile is to enable mission members to develop a sufficient understanding of the community as a whole to be able to:
decide which household livelihood strategies to investigate in more detail;
decide which local institutions might be important for household livelihood strategies and need to be investigated in more depth;
understand the context in which households and local institutions operate so that they can identify linkages
ultimately, design and implement more effective and sustainable projects.
The profile does not need to be "definitive" - the mission does not need to know everything about the community in which it is working. Nor does it imply that once the community profile has been "completed", investigators have no more to learn about the community as a whole. Everything they uncover during the rest of their field visits will deepen their understanding of the community and improve the richness and complexity of their "community profile". But what they learn during this initial community profile will provide them with an entry point so that they know where to look, who to talk to and what approach to use during the rest of their work.
What do we mean by community?
From a practical point of view, it is important for missions to work with a pragmatic concept of the rural community as a social reality of operational significance which can be easily identified in practice.
Box - Definition of "community"
A "community" refers to the locus where all members of a group of people having some form of collective claim over a territory and recognizing some form of collective governance can be given the opportunity to influence decisions in matters of public choice that affect their livelihood (i.e.: the locus where direct participatory democracy is a concrete possibility).
The above definition implies: (a) a territory, (b) that all residents in the territory know each other, or are in a position to do so easily and (c) that community members share institutions of local public governance.
The Rapid Guide will use the term "community" as roughly interchangeable with the term "village".
Topics for key informant meetings with community leaders
Vulnerability context - shocks, stresses affecting livelihoods of villagers
Participatory rural appraisal (PRA) exercises with leaders:
Community history (time line) - frequency of shocks and coping mechanisms
Vulnerability context: proportion of households who are food and income insecure in an average year, bad year, good year (reasons)
Social map: location of all households
Wealth ranking: typical characteristics of wealth and well-being groups in the community
Household composition (human capital: labour force, migration, education, dependency status) by socio-economic group
Household assets by wealth group (access to land, water and natural resources; livestock ownership; physical and financial capital)
Typical social capital by wealth group
Typical livelihood strategies and sources for each wealth group
Typical livelihood outcomes by wealth group
Rough estimate of proportion of households in each wealth category
Estimate of women-headed households in each wealth category
Upward or downward mobility by socio-economic category: which categories of households are increasing their wealth; staying the same; falling into poverty (reasons)
Precise identification of households in each wealth category (on social map)
Initial community institutional profile (see Checklist 4A for a fuller set of questions)
Rank groups in order of importance for livelihoods and poverty reduction
Focus group meetings
("ordinary" people - non-leaders - separate groups of women and men)
Local resource map: main land types, livelihood activities on each land type, physical infrastructure (roads, public transportation, irrigated areas, water points, schools, health posts, nearest market, electricity, banks, agricultural extension, etc.)
Seasonal activity calendar (crops, livestock, forest, off-farm, domestic work, gender roles)
Vulnerability context: shocks, stresses; proportion of households who are food insecure in an average year, bad year, good year (reasons); proportion of households who are income insecure in an average year, bad year, good year (reasons)
Problem analysis module: Perceived livelihood problems, causes of problems, coping mechanisms and livelihood opportunities of women and men (separately)
Feedback on project activities and preferred service providers
Module 4 - Checklist 4A - Questions for a community profile
Community history and trends
Perceived problems, opportunities and priorities
Module 4 - Checklist 4B - Guide for analysis of community profiles
What is the pattern in the community regarding
Access to land and water (typical farm size, range of variation, landlessness)
How does the historical, political and institutional context influence access to assets?
How do the assets of different wealth categories affect their livelihood strategies?
What are the main causes of poverty (as seen by the locals)?
Is life in the community getting better or worse, and for whom, and why?
How are local institutions evolving?
What are the biggest livelihood problems faced by the community?
What are the top livelihood opportunities as seen by different people in the community?
 In cases where governments
have grouped several hamlets into a single administrative village, the
"community" may coincide with the hamlet. In areas where scattered settlement
patterns prevail, "communities" can exist even in the absence of "villages." In
some highly populated areas where towns of over 10,000 people are still referred
to as "villages," the "community" may coincide with a neighbourhood within the
larger village. Although the French term "commune" and its Spanish equivalent
"municipio," are sometimes translated as the "community," we prefer in the Rapid
Guide to treat them as equivalent to the English "district" and to reserve the
term "community" for villages having not more than around 500