Community Based Resilience Analysis (CoBRA)

CoBRA assessment in Karamoja, UgandaPhoto: UNDP GC-RED

CoBRA is a participatory resilience assessment methodology, largely qualitative, which identifies the locally-specific factors contributing to the resilience of households and communities facing different types of shocks and stresses.

Resilience is a complex concept. Different organizations have different understandings and interpretations of resilience, and thus identifying where and how to build resilience in practice is proving to be elusive. Due to the lack of consensus and consistency in terms of what resilience is and how to measure resilience, it is difficult to objectively monitor and verify the success (or failure) of numerous ongoing resilience building initiatives. 

CoBRA aims to understanding resilience from community and household perspectives based on the assumption that building blocks of resilience vary from location to location. This tool does not use any preconceived components of resilience, but rather helps local populations who have been affected by different shocks and stresses, describe and explain resilience on their own, based on their successful experiences to address these shocks and stresses. Overall, CoBRA’s main objectives are to:

  • Identify the locally specific factors contributing to the resilience of communities and households that face different types of shocks and stresses;
  • Identify the features of the households that attain most (if not all) of the identified resilience contributing factors, and their strategies of to cope with past/ongoing shocks and stresses; and
  • Identify the types of interventions that have most assisted the affected communities in building local resilience.


Credit: Alessandra Blasi



CoBRA under Implementation

  Photo: UNDP GC-RED

CoBRA methodology has been pilot-tested in a number of locations in Africa since 2012  with the financial support of the European Commission Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, with interesting findings. 

In the Horn of Africa region, for example, inasmuch as testimonies and opinions were not uniform, a great majority of respondents commonly stated that a resilient community is one where there is access to elementary, secondary and higher education, water, and peace and security. 

Resilient households, on the other hand, were consistently defined in terms of high income and assets from diversified sources. Most examples alluded to farmers who held off-farm side jobs outside of on-farm crop production and livestock rearing. Education featured again as a major asset. Longer years of schooling and higher level of education seemed to lead to better access to a wider-range of income generating activities and help households become more resilient to observed shocks and stresses.

The value placed on education, an issue rarely addressed by disaster risk reduction (DRR) programmes in the past, exposes how largely divergent policymaking can be from the actual needs of the community it seeks to assist, demonstrating the value of responsive survey methods to ensure public agendas are relevant to concerned populations and responsible to their needs and priorities.


Application of CoBRA Results


CoBRA assessment findings can:

  • Inform resilience policies and practices: Evidence-based approach of CoBRA to learn directly from the experiences of communities/households complements other technical/scientific methodologies and contributes to resilience policy-making and programming processes at local, national and higher levels.
  • Inform quantitative/qualitative resilience measurement: Characteristics and features identified and prioritized by communities and households may be used as part of indicators for systematic resilience status/progress tracking.
  • Inform broad disaster risk reduction (DRR) conceptual frameworks and models: Some of the community/household-prioritized resilience building interventions are off the radar screen of conventional DRR conceptual debates and/or activities.

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