Why the right data is critical to building resilience

Why the right data is critical to building resilience

The following is an except adapted from "Bouncing Forward: Why 'Resilience' Is Important and Needs a Definition," and was originally published by The Woodrow Wilson Center's New Security Beat.

As policymakers respond to the threat of climate and environmental change, the concept of resilience has found itself at the center of discussion. Few scientists and policymakers, however, can come to a consensus on how to define, evaluate, and build resilience.

Good data is critical to understanding how to intervene and what to strengthen or change... Not all data is created equal though, said Jon Kurtz, Mercy Corps’ director of research and learning. What’s most important to understanding the vulnerability or resilience of a community is how it responds to “shocks” – abrupt single incidents, like natural disasters or violent conflicts. 

Kurtz has employed an approach at Mercy Corps based on testing predictive power and data against post-shock outcomes. “What tends to happen is that people stop there,” Kurtz said, and apply their findings on one aspect of resilience to all their efforts. But data on food security, for example, may not be transferable to understanding flooding or drought. Communities react differently to different challenges. This is especially true when talking about scales beyond the local level. “When we start to talk about subnational levels and market systems, those are a lot fuzzier and don’t really lend themselves to quantifying,” he said.

Read the full article at the Wilson Center.

Jon Kurtz is the director of research and learning at Mercy Corps.

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