A comparative overview of resilience measurement frameworks: analysing indicators and approaches

Working and discussion papers
July 2015
Lisa Schipper and Lara Langston

Over the last few years, resilience has emerged as the new preferred paradigm among development organisations, including both non-governmental organisations and donors, to meet a future world of uncertainty and change. The growth of the popularity of resilience within the development discourse, and the adoption of resilience widely across programmatic pillars within NGOs and donor agencies, has led to an explosion of resilience-focused frameworks. The measurement of resilience is a new and rapidly developing area of research and practice and a growing number of NGOs and organisations have developed and highlighted resilience indicators as a key component of measuring programme success. This paper explores the theory and practice of measuring resilience in the context of climate change and natural hazards to provide lessons and ways to improve understanding.

The growing number of targets under inter-governmental frameworks for sustainable development, which extends to disaster risk reduction and climate change, necessitates the ability to measure and assess progress. A set of seven global targets was agreed on at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai in March 2015; the UN Sustainable Development Goals expected to be adopted in September 2015 and new targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions under the UNFCCC are expected to be adopted at the end of 2015. We examined 17 sets of indicators of resilience found in internationally recognised resilience frameworks. The purpose was to understand what the indicators actually say about resilience, and this required a working definition of resilience against which to assess the indicators. Following a review of the literature, we identified three criteria (learning, options, flexibility) that cover key dimensions of resilience that recur in the literature. We complemented the literature review with written interviews from eight key informants in the field. We then looked at the indicators to see whether they aligned with our criteria of resilience, and the nature of this alignment.

The analysis identified a number of issues that may contribute to the broad discussion on resilience and resilience indicators. We found that the criteria selected for the analysis were generally well aligned with the indicator sets. The analysis furthermore showed that:
(1) each framework is strongly influenced by its conceptual entry point, making a comparison only partially possible and justifying the development of further frameworks;
(2) there is a clear gap between the theory on resilience and the way in which the indicators focus on well-being and general development factors; and
(3) indicators may not always provide a complete picture of resilience.