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RIVAF Report on Vulnerability & Real-Time Information

Anoush Rima Tatevossian
Apr 3, 2012

 

We are pleased to make available this RIVAF compilation report, which chronicles the Rapid Impact and Vulnerability Analysis Fund (RIVAF) process.

To get a cross-sectoral understanding of how vulnerable populations cope with the impacts of global crises, Global Pulse partnered with research teams from 11 UN Agencies to look at the 2008/2009 Global Economic Crisis through the lens of eight different sectors in 38 countries - under the umbrella of RIVAF.

In July 2011, Global Pulse hosted “Towards a Real-Time Understanding of Emerging Vulnerability,” a conference where RIVAF research partners discussed their findings on how the world’s most vulnerable populations were effected by the global economic crisis in order to explore how we can do crisis impact assessment more rapidly in the future.

A great deal of insight was gained from this process last year, as the RIVAF studies and collaborations will inform Global Pulse’s work going forward.

While the report outlines some findings related to the impacts of the Global Economic Crisis in selected countries and sectors, our goal in making the compilation report available was to show how and why the process was undertaken. Furthermore, we want to unearth lessons for future research and recommendations for how we can better prepare for future crises: what type of real-time data collection and analysis can help us identify impacts on populations earlier on, before consequence become irreversible.

The RIVAF studies – conducted between 2010 and 2011 - covered a broad range of topics (e.g., education, employment, tourism, crime, illegal migration, food security, nutrition, and reproductive health) and had a geographical reach of 38 countries and four cities surveyed.

Each research summary paper in the report gives an introduction to the project and its relevance to the UN Agency carrying out the research, highlights key findings, and, importantly, ends with a discussion of key challenges. Most of the challenges were related data access, availability and inter-operability – and will help guide future research and innovation.

Several high-level themes emerged about the process of conducting research on crisis impact. Some challenges and lessons-learned include:

  • "The global economic crisis story" is not an easy, straightforward story to tell. Each of the research projects pointed to the analytical complexity of establishing clear linkages between the global economic crisis and changes in populations' well being. It was difficult to clearly attribute observed behavioural changes at the local level to the global economic crisis. There is general consensus among the researchers that correlation does not necessarily equal causation.
  • Broad generalizations on crisis impact were not possible. The real story is in the detail. It was noted that examining aggregate data alone often failed to reveal any significant changes in populations’ well being during the crisis period. It was only when researchers focused on particular sectors or geographic locations that changes could be detected. Research highlighted that there were indeed local impacts, but that these greatly varied between employment sectors, countries and districts, income groups, educational backgrounds, gender, etc.
  • The importance of combining quantitative and qualitative analysis. Building trust between researchers and respondents was identified as crucial for the implementation of qualitative studies. The authority and neutrality of the UN proved very helpful in this regard.
  • Data gaps. All researchers highlighted the existence of significant data gaps that impeded their research. Where data was available, it often did not meet the specific information needs or quality standards.
  • Limited availability of micro level real-time data. In an increasingly fast moving, inter-connected global environment, our analytical tools need to be supported by more real-time data inputs. Currently, some real-time data generally exists at the macro-economic level, but we still face an enormous gap when it comes to detecting early changes in populations' lives.

This compilation of insights contributes to Global Pulse’s future work, by helping to 1) identify priority areas of concern for UN Agencies, 2) understand trends/signatures of the Global Economic Crisis so that we can begin to design real-time data monitors to listen for those same trends, as early-warning in the future, and 3) identifying practical challenges – real-time data gaps, data accessibility – that Pulse Labs can focus on developing innovative solutions for.

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