Having spend a number of years working in think tanks and policy-oriented research institutes I recently took the rather scary jump of starting a PhD at LSE, under Declan Conway
(Disclaimer: Declan is far from scary, quite the opposite in fact)
What am I working on?
My main topic relates to measuring the biggest buzzword of our time: resilience. More specifically, I’m looking at the potential for new tools to improve the way we measure whether people can deal with climate impacts and disasters in developing countries.
The research explores two innovations:
1) The potential for mobile phones to collect cheap and near-real-time survey data. It also allows data to be collected when people are on the move (crucial when trying to access people that temporarily relocate after a disaster).
The approach takes full advantage of the proliferation of mobile phone use across many development countries.
2) Exploring subjective evaluations of resilience (i.e. asking people to self-evaluate their own capacities to deal with climate risk). Resilience has traditionally been measured via objective means (i.e. taking external measurements by observing people). These are normally expert-driven affairs, that make big assumptions about the factors that support other people’s resilience.
Subjective tools take a very different approach. They make use of people’s knowledge of their own resilience and the factors that contribute to it. Tools for measuring subjective resilience seek to quantify levels of perceived resilience using standardised surveys (similar to how information on subjective wellbeing is collected).
If these tools prove to be robust then they may offer quicker, cheaper and more bottom-up ways of understanding and measuring resilience in post-disaster contexts.
How am I collecting data?
A lot of my PhD research revolves around a BRACED programme called the Rapid Response Research project (RRR). The RRR is run in Myanmar, where we carried out a survey of 1200 households in June 2017, using a traditional face-to-face survey approach. At this point each household was given a mobile phone and a solar charger. At the same time, a call centre was set up in the capital, Yangon.
Each month participants are contacted via the call centre to collect important information relating to resilience and disaster risk. For households affected by monsoon flooding this approach provides an easy and robust way of understanding how people recover in post-disaster contexts. Households are given a small financial incentive to take part (50c USD per completed survey) and can answer the survey at a time of their choosing. This flexibility and convenience has allowed the panel to maintain a response rate of 95% up to a year later – far higher than most traditional panel surveys.
What am I investigating and why is it useful?
Using data collected under the RRR, ODI/BRACED colleagues and I are hoping to test whether subjective methods work and make sense to people on the ground. We also want to see if mobile phone data collection is adding value and providing accurate information.
Ultimately, the aim of all this is to better understand what makes people resilient to the many risks that they face now and in the future. More importantly, we hope that this work will be useful to NGOs, multilateral agencies and governments in being able to better target, deliver and monitor resilience-building activities to those who need it most.
How can you learn more about what we’ve finding and get involved?
To see some of the exciting results and findings from the RRR check out our interactive site: the Resilience Dashboard. It’s full of data visualisations, descriptions of the research and latest findings/blogs as they emerge.
If you want to get geeky and jump straight into the specifics then see the list of reports in the Papers tab.
Jones, L. (2018). New methods in resilience measurement: early insights from a mobile phone survey in Myanmar using subjective tools. Overseas Development Institute. London: UK. Available here
Jones, L., Samman, E., Vinck, P. (2018). Subjective measures of household resilience to climate variability and change: Insights from a nationally-representative survey of Tanzania. Ecology and Society, 23(1). Available here
Clare, A., Graber, R., Jones, L., & Conway, D. (2017). Subjective measures of climate resilience: What is the added value for policy and programming? Global Environmental Change, 46, 17-22. Available here
Jones, L., Tanner, T. (2016). ‘Subjective resilience’: using perceptions to measure household resilience to climate extremes and disasters. Regional Environmental Change. 17: 229. doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-0995-2. Available here