The Vulnerability and Risk Assessment (VRA) methodology aims to develop a common understanding among a wide range of stakeholders about the main hazards and issues affecting people in a social-ecological landscape; and subsequently to jointly design measures to reduce risk, enhance wellbeing and promote resilient development in that landscape.

The methodology does so through a participatory process of identification and prioritisation of existing and future vulnerabilities, risks, capacities and ambitions. The term ‘vulnerability’ in VRA comprises hazards, but also the capacities of people and environment to respond, adapt and overcome these hazards. The VRA brings together actors across scales – community, local, municipal, district, sometimes national – to understand the links between these governance levels and influence stakeholders to proactively propose ways forward and ensure development initiatives are driven by inclusive, locally-relevant decision making that benefits the poor and marginalised. In doing so, the VRA aims to trigger a sense of empowerment and collaboration among stakeholders.

The PCVA and the VRA have some similarities and differences. In a nutshell the PCVA is a community level assessment, while the VRA is a landscape-wide cross-scalar assessment. The linked blog may help you to decide which tool suits your work better. In many cases, the VRA and the PCVA complement each other and can be used together to strengthen interventions.

The following gives an overview of the methodology, and the VRA Methodology document (downloadable below) provides full details.

Average time investment for using this tool

2 days over a period of one week

Who leads

1 or 2 facilitators (project officer or above) from Oxfam and/or an Oxfam partner.

Who needs to be involved

All relevant stakeholders. See activity 1: preparing for the VRA for how to select your knowledge group. This may include: community representatives; local, municipal, district or national level government officials; government agencies; NGOs; CSOs; private sector and research/academia.

Activity 1: Preparing for the VRA

Assess the wider market system and integrate the results from other tools on women’s economic empowerment and risk management.

Step 1: Review the literature

Find out what is already known by reviewing existing assessments of the landscape (like participatory rural appraisal reports), grey literature and secondary data.

Step 2: Conduct a power analysis of the landscape

A power analysis will tell you who the enablers and the blockers are to the intervention, as well as their agendas and possible leverage points.

See the ASSAR stakeholder mapping and analysis exercise from Namibia for guidance.

Step 3: Select your knowledge group

The knowledge you have just attained aids the selection process of the knowledge group (KG). As the VRA builds its analysis on the input of the knowledge group, its selection is very important to the process, and you are advised to include women and men with a diverse mix of experiences.

Step 4: Prepare your stakeholders

Pay a visit to the communities you will work with, in order to get an up-to-date sense of the context, and discuss the process with the community participants before involving other stakeholders. Check that all members are fully aware of the intended outcomes, understand the process and agree to be active participants. As required, offer coaching on debating and public speaking to communities to assist their participation.

Activity 2: Implementing the VRA

The VRA consists of the following four steps. Work with your knowledge group to assess and analyse them.

Step 1: The Initial Vulnerability Assessment (IVA)

Use the IVA to analyse the exposure and sensitivity of a social group to relevant hazards and issues.

This step helps develop a common understanding of the hazards that have posed, and are likely to pose, the highest risk to groups of community members and their livelihoods.


IVA matrix from Myanmar

Step 2: The Impact Chain Exercise (ICE)

An Impact Chain is a graphic depiction of the consequences of a given hazard from the moment it manifests to the several final impacts.

Use the ICE to assess the positive and negative impacts of hazards, and their implications over time.

In this step you identify, critically discuss, and prioritise potential measures to reduce the vulnerability of community groups and promote their resilience.


Impact chain for drought in Afghanistan

Step 3: The Adaptive Capacity Analysis (ACA)

Use the ACA to test the potential contribution of the measures identified in step two to risk reduction and resilience building.  The analysis predicts the extent of impacts in the next ten years, with the help of tools such as climate models and socio-economic scenarios.

Step 4: Aligning Findings with Opportunities

The APS allows the knowledge group (or members of the knowledge group in collaboration with local leaders) to identify which measures to include in the existing development plan of the community – if one exists – and in those of the municipality/district.  The selection is normally based on impact, cost and urgency of the measure.

Part of your action plan may require influencing behaviour, policies or people. For guidance on how to plan for this, see influencing and power analysis.

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The GEM+ Toolkit

Work with these different tools to design, implement and evaluate your GEM+ project.