Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium

January 2011 to December 2017

The Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) is a six year global research programme exploring livelihoods, basic services and social protection in conflict-affected situations.

Funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Irish Aid and the European Commission (EC), SLRC was established in 2011 with the aim of strengthening the evidence base and informing policy and practice around livelihoods and services in conflict.

What is the focus of SLRC’s research?

The evidence base on livelihoods, services and social protection in conflict-affected situations is patchy and extremely weak in certain places. In particular, there is:

  • little understanding of the relationships between service provision, legitimacy and state-building;
  • little evidence on the service delivery and human well being outcomes of external actors’ state-building and capacity development efforts in conflict-affected situations;
  • a lack of comparable and longitudinal research into how people are able to maintain or create secure livelihoods during and after violent conflict.

At the centre of SLRC’s research are three core themes, developed over the course of an intensive one-year inception phase.

1. State legitimacy: experiences, perceptions and expectations of the state and local governance in conflict-affected situations

Establishing, building or strengthening state legitimacy is a major element of state-building, and considered important for securing both peace and development.

Using a local-level, people-centred perspective, we will explore how individuals’ experiences, perceptions and expectations of the state and local governance shape legitimacy, and attempt to identify some of the routes through which improvements in legitimacy might strengthen state-society relations. More specifically, we want to know whether government provision of basic services actually contributes to state-building via its possible effects on state legitimacy.

2. State capacity: building effective states that deliver services and social protection in conflict-affected situations

If the first theme focuses on the ‘demand’ side of state-building, then the second is concerned with its ‘supply’ side.

SLRC research under this theme will follow a two-stage logic: we will first describe what international actors’ approaches to capacity development in conflict-affected situations look like, before analysing the outcomes of their engagement in order to draw out lessons for future programming. Theme 2 research therefore involves both descriptive and prescriptive elements, and will be of direct use to aid agencies engaging in state-building and service delivery operations in conflict-affected environments.

Taken together, these two research themes will generate evidence that contributes towards a fuller understanding of the different dimensions of the state-building process.

 3. Livelihood trajectories and economic activity under conflict

Research under this theme will ask: what do livelihood trajectories in conflict-affected situations tell us about how governments and aid agencies can more effectively support the ways in which poor and vulnerable people make a living?

SLRC will address this using a longitudinal perspective – a key gap in the current evidence base – which will help build a picture of how people attempt to secure their livelihoods in particular contexts and over time. Rather than tracing the impact of individual programmes, this will enable us to start from the perspective of poor people, and to ask which, if any, aid interventions or government policies and programmes are making a difference in peoples’ lives.

By paying close attention to the governance structures that both support and undermine people’s livelihoods, we will link our research within this theme with our work on legitimacy and state capacity.

Particular issues and sub-themes to investigate in more detail will emerge through an iterative process. However, based on a set of ten evidence papers completed during SLRC’s inception phase, it is anticipated that these may include: processes of return; land rights; urbanisation; shifts in gender roles; emerging non-western actors; the role of the private sector; markets (particularly agricultural markets); and opportunities for growth.

Some funding will also be available for SLRC partner organisations to bid for work outside of these core themes and in other conflict-affected countries.

How will SLRC carry out the research?

At the heart of SLRC’s research will be a survey on livelihoods and access to services,which will also explore experiences, perceptions and expectations of the state and local governance.This will be carried out on two separate occasions – once at the start of the programme, and once again at the end– thus providing a valuable longitudinal, panel-based perspective. The surveys will be complemented by in-depth qualitative research.

Developing capacity is at the core of SLRC’s approach to conducting high quality research, and we will achieve this through a combination of activities, including funding PhDs for students from the global south, holding training sessions and workshops, and facilitating collaboration between our partners (for the development of both northern and southern researchers).

SLRC is also paying particular attention to mainstreaming gender throughout its work, both in terms of the content of our research (i.e. research questions, methods, analysis) as well as the way in which we carry out our work (i.e. management, staffing, uptake). In order to track performance and ensure accountability on this front, a core gender team has been established within the Consortium.

Where is SLRC working?

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is the lead organisation.

SLRC partners include: the Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) in Sri Lanka, Feinstein International Center (FIC, Tufts University), the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Pakistan, Disaster Studies of Wageningen University (WUR) in the Netherlands, the Nepal Centre for Contemporary Research (NCCR), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 

SLRC’s research focuses on seven core countries, covering a range of conflict-affected situations:

  • Afghanistan
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • South Sudan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Uganda
  • Sierra Leone

What will be done with SLRC’s research?

Through a combination of regular engagement with key stakeholders and disseminating compelling, accessible and relevant research outputs, we intend to ensure our findings are used to facilitate better informed policy making and practices, and to promote spaces for dialogue.

SLRC will pay particular attention to engaging with national and local governments, and national civil society, within our eight focus countries. In doing this we will leverage the strength of Consortium members by building on CEPA’s, SDPI’s and NCCR’s existing capacities and expertise at national levels, and ODI’s, Feinstein’s and Wageningen’s at an international level.

SLRC research also hopes to contribute towards on-going efforts by the g7+ – an exciting new institution that is enabling fragile states to bring their own voices to debates about fragility – and the ‘International Dialogue on Peace-building and State-building’ to measure fragile states’ progress towards achieving the five Peace-building and State-building Goals (PSGs) as set out in the ‘New Deal’.

How can I find out more?


What Ebola tells us about how to do state-building

Articles and blogs | 4 March 2015 | Richard Mallett and Paul Harvey
'People's trust in authority must be slowly built through experiences, engagements, interactions. But how is that possible when the state has long been absent from most people’s everyday lives?'
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Risking everything: vulnerabilities and opportunities in migration

Public event | 6 February 2015 13:00 - 14:30 (GMT+00)
​​​Migration is one of the most effective ways of reducing global poverty. However, there are systemic features undermining its potential. This event, organised by the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) and Migrating out of Poverty Consortium, explores  the...

Migration is global development's biggest good news story... almost

Articles and blogs | 18 December 2014 | Jessica Hagen-Zanker and Rich Mallett
International migration is one of the most effective ways of reducing global poverty - but restrictions on movement leave migrants vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, diminishing the economic gains and putting migrants' lives at risk. This blog is part of a series...
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Is it adding up? Peace + aid = state-building

Public event | 13 November 2014 12:00 - 14:30 (GMT-05)
Pulling together experts working on recovery and development in places affected by conflict, this event shares the initial findings from SLRC’s cross-country survey as well as IRC’s latest research on community-driven development in conflict-affected situations. 
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Five ways to make labour markets work better for workers

Articles and blogs | 3 November 2014 | Richard Mallett and Paul Harvey
'Targeting policies purely on job creation slightly misses the point. Absent in many countries is an adequate supply of decent jobs which pay well, offer some sense of security, and maintain the dignity of those taking them up.'
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Mapping Sierra Leone’s plural health system and how people navigate it

Briefing papers | September 2014 | Lisa Denney and Richard Mallett
This briefing paper maps the actors that constitute the plural health system in Sierra Leone and the relationships between them. Second, it examines the factors that influence health-seeking behaviour before setting out some recommendations on ways forward when...

Sierra Leone: Getting beyond nutrition as “a women’s issue”

Briefing papers | September 2014 | Richard Mallett and Lisa Denney
Childcare in Sierra Leone is influenced by a range of people within a household, not just women, which means any attempts to tackle child malnutrition needs engage with this reality. This briefing paper looks at how this can be done.

Making progress on malnutrition in Sierra Leone

Infographic | July 2014
The Government of Sierra Leone has made a commitment to ensure that 60% of infants are exclusively breastfed by 2016. This infographic looks at the factors which need to be considered if Sierra Leone is to meet this goal.
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Health service gaps in Africa led to Ebola epidemic

Articles and blogs | 7 July 2014 | Lisa Denney
Lisa Denney looks at the current Ebola crisis and concludes that continued and strengthened support needs to be focused on building the capacities of national health and sanitation systems to respond to emergencies so that such unnecessary loss of life is prevented in...
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Politics and governance in Afghanistan: the case of Nangarhar province

Working and discussion papers | June 2014 | Ashley Jackson
​Warlords as governors? This paper looks at how power and politics in eastern Afghanistan plays out beneath the narratives created by the international community, and draws attention to the shortcomings of the development and governance interventions so far.

How to save the Afghan election

Articles and blogs | 25 June 2014 | Ashley Jackson
Ashley Jackson reflects on this weekend’s voting activities in Afghanistan and calls on the international community to ensure that the results are legitimate and don’t drive Afghanistan deeper into conflict.
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Funds for peace? Examining the transformative potential of social funds

Journal articles or issues | September 2013 | Richard Mallett, Rachel Slater
Social funds and large-scale community driven development (CDD) programmes are a popular policy instrument in post-conflict situations. This is partly because they are seen to alleviate pressure on governments to deliver development and reconstruction outcomes by...

Growth and livelihoods in fragile and conflict-affected situations

Working and discussion papers | November 2012 | Richard Mallett and Rachel Slater
This Working Paper reviews the evidence on growth, economic activity livelihoods in fragile and conflict-affected situations with the aim of identifying key findings, pinpointing specific weaknesses in the literature and shedding light on the nature and composition of...

Service delivery and state-building: the 46.7 billion dollar question?

Articles and blogs | 25 October 2012 | Rachel Slater and Samuel Carpenter
'When service delivery programmes adopt state-building objectives without strong evidence that they will work...they threaten to undermine support for aid in conflict-affected situations, support for investments in basic services in particular, and even support for aid...
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Social protection and basic services in fragile and conflict-affected situations

Working and discussion papers | October 2012 | Samuel Carpenter, Rachel Slater and Richard Mallett
In an effort to generate better understanding and to identify useful lessons and findings for researchers and decision makers working on and in fragile and conflicted-affected situations, this paper synthesises and assesses the available evidence on social protection...

Why political settlements matter: a response to Mick Moore

Articles and blogs | 5 October 2012 | Richard Mallett
'The literature on political settlements is growing, and has already begun to help us make sense of development successes and failures; if a bit of discursive and conceptual spring cleaning is part of what’s in order, then let’s drop the pessimism and get to work.'
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Livelihoods, basic services and social protection in Sri Lanka

Working and discussion papers | August 2012 | Priyanthi Fernando and Sonali Moonesinghe
Drawing on a review of key literature and a series of consultations with policy makers, practitioners and academics, this paper explores and assesses the current state of knowledge on livelihoods, basic services and social protection in Sri Lanka.

Livelihoods, basic services and social protection in north-western Pakistan

Working and discussion papers | August 2012 | Babar Shahbaz, Qasim Ali Shah, Abid Q. Suleri, Steve Commins and Akbar Ali Malik
This review paper synthesises and assesses evidence from the existing literature on poverty and livelihoods, access to basic services and social protection, and aid and its governance in conflict-affected areas of Pakistan, particularly the north-western province of...

Livelihoods, basic services and social protection in Afghanistan

Working and discussion papers | July 2012 | Adam Pain
This paper examines the links between livelihoods, service delivery and social protection interventions in Afghanistan and how poor people seek to make a living and scrutinises the causal models or ‘theories of change’ that underpin such interventions.

Livelihoods, basic services and social protection in South Sudan

Working and discussion papers | July 2012 | Daniel Maxwell, Kirsten Gelsdorf and Martina Santschi
This paper summarises the existing literature on livelihoods, basic services and social protection in South Sudan; presents a brief analysis of this literature, and lays out potential research questions for the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC).

Views amidst violence: can perception surveys improve aid in fragile states?

Public event | 14 June 2012 16:00 - 17:30 (GMT+01 (BST))
Aid policy and programming in fragile and conflict-affected situations often assumes that investing in improved service delivery, justice and security can contribute to state-building and peace-building.  Surveys are increasingly used to better understand the attitudes...

Making systematic reviews work for international development research

Working and discussion papers | January 2012 | Jessica Hagen-Zanker, Maren Duvendack, Richard Mallett and Rachel Slater with Samuel Carpenter and Mathieu Tromme
This briefing paper reflects upon the use of systematic reviews in international development research. It attempts to identify where a systematic review approach adds value to development research and where it becomes problematic.