Have you ever wondered what happened after a project was implemented? Were you able to return to project areas several years after a project ended? Are the changes brought about by a project sustained after the project ends? If so, why? What do people in the communities think about the project? Such questions are all the more important when it comes to resilience‑building projects.
The Sustaining Resilience study, led by IRMA’s Co-founder Marilise Turnbull in 2019, seeks to answer those questions for projects Catholic Relief Services (CRS) implemented between 2013 and 2016 to strengthen peoples’ capacities to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.
The activities varied from country to country, and included strengthening or establishing early warning systems, household‑level disaster preparedness training, hazard‑resistant construction techniques to strengthen homes, improved agricultural practices, animal husbandry, livelihoods diversification, savings groups, and other activities identified by the communities.
Based on field research in Guatemala, Bangladesh and Vietnam, the findings strongly indicate that, with the right project design, household and community resilience can be sustained.
Women and men in all three countries have maintained key resilience-building activities, including reinforcing housing with hazard-resistant construction techniques, taking part in early warning systems and savings clubs, and introducing alternative agricultural techniques and diversified crops. They continued to feel resilient to the hazards that typically affected the areas where they lived and worked. They were aware of the ongoing and constantly evolving risks but felt confident of their ability to learn to adapt.
This study has led CRS to make the following recommendations to organizations and people designing resilience-building projects, to enhance the sustainability of the projects’ outcomes after the funding ends:
- During the project, raise awareness among all stakeholders of the effectiveness of the techniques or measures used
- Invest in enhancing risk understanding, so that actions to reduce risk are self-motivated
- Design projects that reduce risk while enhancing livelihoods, to demonstrate the economic benefits
- Foster multiple sources of prompts and reminders, aiming mainly for those that may continue once the project ends
- Make connections with local organizations and authorities, and foster the development of relevant policies
- Find synergies with local customs and culture to help maintain behaviors and actions beyond the project timeframe.
- Engage women and men in setting their own resilience goals, measuring progress and planning for sustainability
- Tailor facilitation styles and materials to audience needs, to enable men and women to continue new practices without outside assistance
- Plan for medium-term engagement, to allow time to create new habits
- Design disaster response and recovery projects to support disaster resilience, thereby using all possible opportunities for synergy
- Build in post-project support to sustain resilience; ‘light’ or periodic support may facilitate adjustments to changing needs and help reinforce positive actions.