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Livelihoods improvement and institutional dynamics

Summaries of different tools, methods and approaches relevant to advancing knowledge on livelihoods improvement and social change with particular emphasis on governance and institutional dynamics.
Eglantina Bruci

The pages below provide summaries and overviews of different tools, methods and approaches relevant to advancing knowledge on livelihoods improvement and social change with particular emphasis on governance and institutional dynamics.

This guidance will continue to grow and evolve based on feedback. If you have new methods, tools or applications to add, please create a new article so it can be linked to the guidance pages.

Livelihoods improvement and institutional dynamics

Vulnerability assessments

Methods for assessing vulnerability range from creating livelihood sensitivity and exposure matrices to vulnerability profiling, the use of indicators and capacity and asset mapping.

Sustainable Livelihoods Analysis

Social change is necessary in order to improve livelihoods. This means that institutions and governance arrangements must evolve and adapt at if they are to deliver sustainable development outcomes. The Sustainable Livelihoods Framework seeks to integrate varied and equally valid forms of knowledge, appreciating the dual role of formal structures and informal stakeholder agency organised in diverse ‘communities of practice’ (e.g. Powell et al. 2011).

Liveable and Just Toolkit

Developed through work with local governments in Victoria, Australia, the toolkit provides a practical framework to help integrate responses to the social and equity impacts of climate change across local government. It also presents ideas and suggestions to respond to climate change in ways that simultaneously promote social justice.

Characteristics of Resilience

This paper presents a common understanding of resilience-building, understood as resilience to any shock or stress that has the potential to do harm, hamper development and reduce social well-being, creating an environment where threats can be managed and opportunities realised. It lays out common characteristics of processes or programmes that work with communities to build resilience, underpinned and informed by core principles or values. These can be used to diagnose the resilience of existing work, in evaluation and in the planning of new work.

Building adaptive capacity

Climate Vulnerability and Capacity Analysis – CVCA

A methodology developed by CARE facilitating analysis of vulnerability and adaptive capacity by members of communities themselves. In doing this it applies participatory values, processes and methods, to enable local people to articulate and enhance their own knowledge and understanding, and to plan action. Its main objectives are to help users to; 1. Analyze vulnerability to Climate Change and adaptive capacity at community level; 2. Combine community knowledge and scientific data to yield greater understanding about local impacts of climate change.

Central American Subsistence and Coffee farmer ADaptation based on Ecosystems (CASCADE)

Conservation International and CATIE are identifying and testing Ecosystem-based Adaptation strategies that can help farmers cope with climate change, and building local capacity to support the implementation of these strategies in smallholder farming communities in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras. This project has been led by Celia Harvey, from Conservation International, and Francisco Alpízar, from CATIE.

Integrating climate change into community-level projects


A screening tool designed to help project designers and managers integrate risk reduction and climate change adaptation into community-level projects. Its main users are project designers and managers. The output of CRISTAL is to help assess vulnerability and livelihood profiles, and can also be used to assist in project modification.

Climate Change and Forests in the Congo Basin: Synergies between Adaptation and Mitigation (COBAM)

The COBAM project aims to provide policymakers, practitioners and local communities with the information, analysis and tools they need to implement policies and projects for adaptation to climate change and reduction of carbon emissions in the forests of the Congo Basin, with equitable impacts and co-benefits – including poverty reduction, enhancement of ecosystem services, and protection of local livelihoods and rights.

Chololo Ecovillage

Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement is part of a team of six agencies working to transform Chololo, near Dodoma, into an ecovillage. The project is supporting and empowering the community to test, evaluate and take up new innovations in agriculture, livestock, water, energy, and forestry.

Institutional dynamics

Performance Acceleration through Capacity-building Tool (PACT)

Identifies a number of principles underlying effective change by organisations on climate change issues. PACT is sometimes described as an organisational development tool because it gathers and organises information about nine organisational capacities or ‘pathways’ necessary for improved performance, based on these principles. PACT reviewers use the tool to identify what pathways are holding back progress within the organisation and suggest ways in which performance could be improved.

Update: As of 2013 this tool has been superseeded by CaDD.

Soft systems methodology

(SSM) is a systemic approach for tackling complex real-world problems. Soft Systems Methodology is the result of the continuing action research over 30 years, to provide a framework for users to deal with the kind of messy problem situations characterised by conflicting and opposing stakeholder views.

Business Areas Climate Impacts Assessment Tool (BACLIAT)

Used for a risk assessment of threats and opportunities. The tool comprises of a simple checklist for assessing the potential impacts of climate change under the following headings: Logistics, finance, markets, process, people, premises and management implications. The user groups targeted are corporate or multi-facility operations and non-industrial SME business managers. This tool is most effective when it is used as part of group brainstorming exercises.


A simple tool developed by UKCIP to help organisations to assess their exposure to weather and climate. The LCLIP process highlights a locality’s vulnerability to severe weather events and how these events affect local communities as well as local authority assets, infrastructure and capacity to deliver services.

Photography © SEI Oxford

References and further reading

Axelsson, K. (2012): Global miljöpåverkan och lokala fotavtryck – analys av fyra svenska kommuners totala konsumtion. Stockholm Environment Institute: Stockholm, Sweden.

Andersson, K. (2012): Multifunctional wetlands and stakeholder engagement: Lessons from Sweden. Stockholm Environment Institute: Stockholm, Sweden. Forthcoming.

Baumann, P., Sinha, S., 2001. Linking development with democratic processes in India: Political capital and sustainable livelihoods analysis. Natural Resource Perspectives. Overseas Development Institute.

Bharwani, S., Downing, T.E., Varela-Ortega, C., Blanco, I., Esteve, P., Carmona, G., Taylor R., Devisscher, T., Coll Besa, M. Tainio, A., Ballard, D. and Watkiss, P. (2013). Social Network Analysis: Decision Support Methods for Adaptation, MEDIATION Project, Briefing Note 8. Funded by the EC’s 7FWP

Coll Besa, M., Canedi, V., Leclerc, G., Schillinger, R., De Melo, E., , Chauque, C., Guerra, C., Cuevas, M. (2013) Socio-institutional analysis (Argentina) for ecosystem-based strategies and innovations in water governance networks for adaptation to climate change in Latin American landscapes Deliverable 2.4. Funded by the EC’s 7FWP

Devisscher. T, Cronenbold, R., Lobo, A., Pacheco, N., Salinas, J.C., Orellana, C., Linzer, K. (2013) Socio-institutional analysis (Bolivia) for ecosystem-based strategies and innovations in water governance networks for adaptation to climate change in Latin American landscapes Deliverable 2.4. Funded by the EC’s 7FWP

Ekane, N., Kjellén, M., Noel, S. And Fogde, M. 2012. Sanitation and Hygiene: Policy, Stated beliefs and Actual Practice – A Case Study in the Burera District, Rwanda. SEI Working Paper 2012-7.

Hamza, M., L. Moriniere, R. Taylor, N. Matin and B. Ali (2012): Emerging Issues: Forced Migration by Climate Change. In: R. Fujikura and M. Kawanishi (eds.) Climate Change Adaptation and International Development. Earthscan.

Johannessen, Å., and T. Hahn (2012): Social learning towards a more adaptive paradigm? Reducing flood risk in Kristianstad municipality, Sweden. Global Environmental Change, in press, corrected proof, available online 3 September 2012.

Larsen, R. K. (2011): Dialogue and revolution: Fostering legitimacy of stakeholder agency in natural resource governance. Doctoral dissertation, Communication and Innovation Studies, Wageningen University, the Netherlands.

Larsen, R.K., E. Calgaro and F. Thomalla (2011). Governing Resilience Building in Thailand’s Tourism-dependent Coastal Communities: Conceptualising Stakeholder Agency in Social-ecological Systems. Global Environmental Change 21: 481-491.

Larsen, R. K. and Mamosso, C. A. (2013): Environmental governance of uranium mining in Niger: A blind spot for development cooperation? Working Paper 2013:02, Danish Institute for International Studies.

Miller, F., H. Osbahr, E. Boyd, F. Thomalla, S. Bharwani, G. Ziervogel, B. Walker, J. Birkmann, S. Van der Leeuw, J. Rockström, J. Hinkel, T. Downing, C. Folke and D. Nelson. (2010). Resilience and Vulnerability: Complementary or Conflicting Concepts?. Ecology and Society 15(3).

Morse, S., McNamara, N., Acholo, M., 2013. Sustainable Livelihood Approach: A critical analysis of theory and practice. Geographical Paper No. 189. University of Reading.

Osbeck, M. et al. (2013). Farming for sustainable futures – a Baltic tale.

Powell, N., and M. Osbeck. 2010. Understanding and embedding stakeholder realities in coastal governance: The case of mangroves in the Mahakam delta, East Kalimantan. International Journal of Sustainable Development18(3).

Powell, N., Å. Gerger Swartling, Hoang Minh Ha (eds) 2011. Stakeholder Agency and Rural Development Policy: Articulating Co-governance in Vietnam Hanoi, Vietnam: ICRAF World Agroforestry Centre.

Ravnborg, H. M., Larsen, R. K., Vilsen, J. L., Funder, M. 2013. Environmental governance and development cooperation – achievements and challenges. DIIS Report 2013:15, Danish Institute of International Studies, Copenhagen.

Rudberg, P. M. (2011). Constant Concessions Under Changing Circumstances: the Water and Renewable Energy Directives and Hydropower in Sweden. Stockholm Environment Institute: Project Report. 2nd Edition.

Scoones, I., 1998. Sustainable Rural Livelihoods: A Framework for Analysis. IDS Working Paper 72.

SEI (2012): How the EU Can Revise its Biofuel Policies to Promote “Sustainable” Palm Oil Cultivation in Southeast Asia. SEI Policy Brief.

SEI (2013). Climate Adaptation and Water Governance.

Thomalla, F. and R. K. Larsen (2010). Resilience in the Context of Tsunami Early Warning Systems and Community Disaster Preparedness in the Indian Ocean Region. Environmental Hazards: Human and Policy Dimensions. Special Issue on Coastal Hazards and Vulnerability 9 (2010): 249–265

Varela-Ortega, C., Blanco-Gutiérrez, I., Bharwani, S., Esteve, P., Fronzek, S. & Downing, TE. How can irrigation agriculture adapt to climate change? Insights from the Guadiana basin in Spain. In: Hinkel, J., Swart, R. & Bisaro, S. (Guest eds) Approaches to problem-oriented adaptation research. Special Issue in Regional Environmental Change (submitted).

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