Oxfam’s approach to resilience in Asia


Asia is on a path to historical transformation, with rapid economic growth, rising inequality, a high vulnerability to climate change, a rapidly increasing number of disasters (see Figure 1, below), advancing urbanization, and a huge growth in use of information technology (with over 1.3 billion people online). Some of these changes are bringing clear benefits to society, whilst others are increasing the vulnerability of some or all of the population to disasters. 

What these changes mean in terms of what international NGOs and their local partners should do differently is less clear, and Oxfam asked 3Keel to support them in harnessing their rich variety of programme experience to develop an approach to resilience. Framing part of Oxfam’s work as resilience provides an opportunity to bring together different strands of their work to focus on vulnerability and opportunity in rapidly changing and uncertain times.

Figure 1: The number of reported disasters from 1970-2013 in Asia (data from the Em-Dat database).

Together with Oxfam staff from 11 countries and 5 Oxfam affiliates, we developed an overarching approach to resilience that focuses on supporting poor women and men achieve six outcomes (Figure 2, centre). Part of Oxfam’s task will be working to increase the assets, income, and sustainable natural resource base that buffer people against disasters. But even with these buffers in place, few poor communities or households will be safe from disasters, and so access to timely, high quality emergency resources and support remains essential. The approach also encompasses supporting innovation and access to knowledge so that poor people can adapt and respond to an uncertain world. Fundamentally though, it is through exercising their rights that people living in poverty will increase their resilience for good. These five outcomes are what all of Oxfam’s country programmes in Asia will be working towards in the coming years, harnessing their own resources (top of Figure 2) as well as influencing governments and businesses (bottom of Figure 2).

Figure 2: Oxfam’s approach to resilience in Asia

Alongside this strategy, we also developed with Oxfam a practical resilience toolkit for programme staff on the ground. This includes a checklist for designing projects, case studies, and links to tools, and a framework for monitoring, evaluation and learning.

In a vibrant and rapidly changing continent, it will be fascinating to see how Oxfam’s work on resilience progresses.

Project lead

Steve Jennings