Archive for the ‘Needs assessment’ Category

So you’ve read our blog on common needs assessments and our blog on joint evaluations. Like any coordinated multi-agency activity, joint evaluations and joint needs assessments provide an opportunity for agencies to work together, to avoid duplication of efforts, to share perspectives and to build trust for future cooperation.

Duplication of assessments is a persistent problem in the humanitarian sector, identified frequently by evaluations as an important constraint on the quality and effectiveness of humanitarian response. Communities affected by emergencies are often on the receiving end of assessment visits by many separate agencies, providing information about their needs that by no means guarantees that those needs will be met. Both a waste of scarce resources and a source of resentment, the current approach falls short of the primary goal of assessing needs: ensuring that the right assistance reaches the right people at the right time. Because agencies try to avoid duplication, a joint needs assessment can lead to a faster assessment and therefore a faster response. 

Two useful ECB tools:

  1. Joint Initial Rapid Assessment Data Collection Tool

The ECB consortium in Indonesia developed a rapid Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) methodology and tool (also available in Bahasa Indonesian)  in consultation with the Government of Indonesia and the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) Country Team. This methodology includes pre-agreements between actors to deploy a common approach, a standard data collection template, and a database for the management and analysis of data. The Joint Initial Rapid Assessment tool is designed to improve information exchange among Consortium members in the first 72 hours following a disaster. UNOCHA currently recommends that the tool be used as a model for the development of an Integrated Needs Assessment tool for Indonesia.

The joint initial rapid assessment data collection tool is similar to a survey and asks for information on a core set of assessment fields that are common to all agencies and useful across a range of sectors. The tool asks for information on the location of the area being assessed, the demographics of the population, health conditions of the people, issues of child protection, and access to shelter, non-food items, water and sanitation facilities, health services, food and education. 

The six primary ECB agencies and several partner agencies used the Joint Initial Rapid Assessment tool template to respond to the earthquakes that struck Indonesia in 2009. Data was collected into one excel spreadsheet. This data was then incorporated into an OCHA report on all the assessments in the affected area. Click here to learn more about their active engagement at the field level in Indonesia.

The JNA tool has also been used in Bolivia and Bangladesh in 2011 after flooding, and the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS) and ECB conducted a JNA in Niger in March 2012.

  1. Shared Assessment online tool

The ECB team has also developed a simple online platform designed specifically to enable easy entry, storage and retrieval of assessment data.  It is robust enough to operate reliably even under challenging field conditions and poor connectivity. Since it is online, it will allow agencies to share and exchange data in real-time.

This prototype tool enables users to:

  • Enter data either offline or online
  • Complete immediate, local analysis of data
  • Use a system of data validation
  • Generate pre-formatted, aggregated reports
  • Export data for additional, user-specific analysis

Though still in the pilot stage, the ECB Shared Assessment tool has been enthusiastically received by stakeholders in Indonesia, including the UN Country Team and the government. Testing and refinement of the tool will continue in Indonesia. The online tool is not accessible to the public yet (so no link is provided), but be on the lookout for more information as the tool goes public!


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A January 2011 Network Paper by the Humanitarian Practice Network of the Overseas Development Institute is about common needs assessments (CNAs) in post-emergency situations. It discusses

  • how to design and implement a common needs assessment (CNA)
  • the benefits, drawbacks and challenges of CNAs
  • how to overcome problems of common needs assessments to ensure that they are useful and timely
  • the lessons learned from more than 12 recent CNAs, drawing heavily from the assessments conducted after Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008 and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and a series of small common needs assessments in Pakistan 2005 to 2009.

Collecting accurate data on the ground on which to base decision-making around the response ensures greater accountability and effectiveness. Such data also provide a reliable baseline from which to compare later in the recovery phase.

At its best, a common inter-agency, inter-sectoral needs assessment helps to develop a better joint understanding of needs, capabilities, and appropriate response. The story it tells includes both the collection of new information from affected individuals and communities and the collation of relevant information from sources prior to the disaster. But in trying to meet too many objectives, common needs assessments have sometimes failed to live up to this promise. Carrying out a common needs assessment takes time and resources; even when funds and experienced assessors are available, results have not always been useful or timely.

Take a look at Common Needs Assessment and Humanitarian Action by Richard Garfield, with Courtney Blake, Patrice Chatainger and Sandie Walton-Ellery.  Remember Sandie, from ACAPs, from our Jakarta workshop?

What has been your experience with common needs assessments? Do these common needs assessments improve our accountability to beneficiaries? And if so, do the improvements in accountability outweigh the extra work?

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The focus group discussion results, all laid out.

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Sandie Walton-Ellery (ACAPS) shared with us her experience on Joint needs assessments, with this presentation:

More information about her work in Bangladesh can be found here

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The second half of the morning will be focused on discussing needs assessment work.

To set the ground we watched some short videos.

Indonesia JNA

Bolivia JNA

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Over one session, we reviewed some of the likely deployments and the tools at our fingers in depth.

We began with the Joint Needs Assessment approach. Here is the learning from the group who tackled this one: (more…)

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