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ICCE TIG Week: The Self-Reliance Index: Supporting the Self-Reliance of Displaced Persons Through Data by Amy Gray, Ned Meerdink, and Simar Singh

Hi! We are Amy Gray, Senior Program Officer For Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL), Ned Meerdink, Senior Programs Officer, and Simar Singh, Senior Programs Manager at RefugePoint, an international organization advancing lasting solutions for at-risk refugees, and supporting the humanitarian community to do the same.

According to UNHCR’s 2022 Global Appeal, the number of forcibly displaced persons globally will surpass 100 million before the end of the year. At the same time, available resources to provide support and long-term solutions to these ever-growing populations of concern remain woefully inadequate. In 2021, for example, only 52% of funding required to meet the needs of displaced persons was raised and deployed. It is therefore critical that we focus even more attention on whether or not the programming we put in place with and for displaced persons is effective, helping them not just survive but also to become increasingly self-reliant and empowered to regain control of their lives.

Self-reliance framework

With this in mind, the Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative (RSRI), a global learning and practice community co-chaired by RefugePoint and the Women’s Refugee Commission, launched the Self-Reliance Index (SRI) in May 2020. The SRI is the first global tool for measuring the progress of refugee households toward self-reliance. It was created to support practitioners in designing and implementing effective self-reliance programming as well as to help build an evidence base of “what works”. The SRI was collaboratively developed over a rigorous three-year testing period and is now being used by agencies in over 23 countries to better understand if their contributions are leading to increased self-reliance, which we define as “the social and economic ability of an individual, a household, or a community to meet its essential needs in a sustainable manner.”

A household level assessment, the SRI captures high-level information on 12 domains that relate to different dimensions of self-reliance. Typically taking about 45 minutes to complete, the SRI seeks to understand firstly, whether and how a household’s basic needs are being met, and then how and to what extent those needs will continue to be met into the future. Based on the responses selected, the tool uses a weighted scoring rubric to calculate an overall household self-reliance score between 1 and 5, where 1 indicates a low level of self-reliance and 5 represents basic household self-reliance. Importantly, the tool also includes open-ended questions, giving space for displaced persons to provide feedback and ideation on what would contribute meaningfully to their self-reliance. In addition, there is space for assessors to share general feedback on the assessment as well as to identify potential referral needs in the instances where basic needs are not being met.

Importantly, this tool provides an important holistic and person-centered view of displaced households. Often humanitarian support assessments consider affected populations only in terms of the services we can provide them (e.g. WASH or Shelter “beneficiaries”); however, answering the question “is this household becoming more self-reliant?” requires a broad array of questions not restricted to individual sectors of humanitarian response. What this means is that practitioners using the SRI gain an important multidimensional view into the household and emerge better positioned to respond to the diverse changing set of needs and capacities of displaced persons we work alongside. 

Rad Resources:

The American Evaluation Association is hosting International and Cross-Cultural (ICCE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the International and Cross-Cultural Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our ICCE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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