Enhancing community resilience

Enhancing community resilience
9 October, 2013

Integrating science to humanitarian & development planning & practice

Melanie Duncan, EngD candidate, University College London

Melanie Duncan wrote the guidelines to address this shortfall, aimed at NGO practitioners looking to effectively integrate relevant scientific understandings of risk into their resilience work.

In the last few years, there has been an increased emphasis upon the application of science to humanitarian and development planning, decision-making and practice; particularly in the context of understanding, assessing and anticipating risk (e.g. HERR , 2011). However, there remains very little practical guidance for non-governmental organisation (NGO) practitioners on how to integrate sciences they have traditionally had little contact with in the past (e.g. climate science) within their humanitarian and development work.

In July 2013 I was given the exciting opportunity to write a draft set of guidelines to address this shortfall. The guidelines (entitled Integrating science into humanitarian and development planning and practice to enhance community resilience: draft guidelines for review)  are aimed at NGO practitioners looking to effectively integrate relevant scientific understandings of risk into their resilience work.

These draft guidelines are a consequence of a number of collaborative initiatives to integrate science into humanitarian and development work for the purposes of building resilience, particularly the workshop on Identifying concrete opportunities for further integrating science across humanitarian and development planning to support community resilience that was hosted by the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS) on 2nd July 2013. The workshop was co-convened by Charlie McLaren (UKCDS), Emma Visman (Humanitarian Futures Programme; HFP), Kate Crowley (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development; CAFOD), Susanne Sargeant (British Geological Survey; BGS) and Rosalind Cornforth (University of Reading).

I wanted to be involved in writing the draft guidelines owing to their relevance to my own doctoral research at University College London, which is being conducted in partnership with CAFOD. A consistent theme throughout my research has been upon the use of natural science by NGOs for the purposes of multi-hazard assessments, and I had already been in discussion with CAFOD about producing a similar set of internal guidelines; so the opportunity to write a collaborative set of guidelines – with wider reach – was very timely and held much appeal. However, I quickly understood why there is so little practical information available on integrating science, as producing the guidelines proved difficult. One of the greatest challenges was in trying to strike a balance between providing enough detail, whilst avoiding creating a document that is discouragingly long. It was also challenging to assimilate universal guidance on integrating science since ‘science’ is comprised of many different disciplines and approaches. To address these challenges, I and the co-authors ensured that the guidelines included an executive summary and that each of the topics discussed was supported by case studies, examples and checklists.

We would like to stress that these guidelines are not designed to be exhaustive; they are intended to encourage humanitarian and development NGO practitioners to think about the types of scientific information and expertise they may need, how to access and use them, and how to ensure that they are applied in an ethical and accountable manner.  Importantly, they are also about helping practitioners consider what questions they need to be asking of scientists. These guidelines are a working draft and we very much welcome any feedback (from NGOs, scientists and any other interested parties) in the hope that we may revise and refine this document to ensure that the needs of the end-user are sufficiently addressed. The feedback received will be used to revise the draft guidelines early next year.

Melanie Duncan is completing an EngD at the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Centre as part of the UCL-CAFOD partnership. Her research is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and CAFOD through the UCL Doctoral Training Centre in Urban Sustainability and Resilience. The guidelines were produced with contributions from  Kate Crowley (CAFOD), Stephen Edwards (UCL), Richard Ewbank (Christian Aid), Charlie McLaren (formally UKCDS), Jose Luis Penya (Christian Aid), Alice Obrecht (HFP), Susanne Sargeant (BGS) and Emma Visman (HFP).

Image credit: Codioful via Unsplash

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