Resilience policymaking in Nepal: giving voice to communities

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Politics

Abstract

An intensive resilience policy-making process is currently underway in Nepal, a country with a recent history of conflict and disaster that also faces future risks resulting from environmental change. This ground-breaking project will utilise a participatory video (PV) approach to create new and potentially challenging interventions in that process, whilst simultaneously developing methods and approaches that could have broader applicability.

Using PV - an innovative methodology that has successfully achieved policy impact elsewhere - we seek to address the gap that exists in Nepal between national-level resilience policy-making (undertaken with the support of international donors and experts) and community-level perceptions and expectations. In so doing, the project will seek to give those most-affected by the overlapping challenges of poverty, conflict and environmental change a powerful way to engage with - and potentially influence - high-level policymakers.

In particular the project will examine:

1. What are the study communities' own perceptions of the threats they face? Are these reflected in the views and perceptions of policymakers?
2. How have the study communities faced previous challenges to their wellbeing? What adaptation strategies have they employed and what can be learned?
3. What are the perceived/identified roles of government (national and local) vis a vis building community resilience? How effectively is government seen to be fulfilling those roles?

Working in three communities alongside a well-established development NGO, small groups of residents will produce short films capturing their experiences and perceptions of risk and resilience that will then be shared and discussed with key audiences at the village, District and national levels. The overall aim is to facilitate and improve the sensitization of policymakers to community-level perceptions, thereby potentially opening up new policy directions, ideas and opportunities.

Planned Impact

It is intended that the beneficiaries of the project will include:
1. The study communities (opportunities to engage with policy audiences, have their voices heard and receive feedback; opportunities to engage with counterparts in other study communities; skills development though participation in the Participatory Video (PV) process and the co-production of knowledge via defining and answering their own research questions).
2. Policy audiences at local, District and national levels (new ideas and input into policy development; insights into community-level perceptions of risk and of current government activities).
3. Wider policy audiences (new insights on the 'gap' between top-down resilience policymaking and the perceptions and understandings of local communities; new evidence on the potential of PV as an approach to giving voice to the poor in policy processes).
4. Academic audiences (see 'Academic beneficiaries').

We will engage with these audiences in a variety of ways (see also 'Pathways to impact'):
a) The videos produced by participants in the project. These will be shown to participants' own communities, to representatives from the other study communities, and to policy audiences at the District-level and in Kathmandu.
b) A short edited compilation of the three videos to be made available via YouTube and the project website as a research, advocacy and teaching resource.
c) Events at village-, District- and national-level at which the videos will be shown along with discussions of the issues and themes arising and feedback from the policy workshops, in all cases where possible including community participants themselves.
d) Interviews/Focus Group Discussions at all levels during which issues arising from the films will be further discussed, and views sought on the value of the PV approach.
e) Academic outputs, to include at least three articles in highly-ranked journals, at least one of which will be lead authored by Nepali team members.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The project had two key objectives: i) to investigate a hypothesised 'gap' in perceptions between policymakers responsible for creating and implementing policies designed to make Nepali communities more resilient to future natural disasters; and ii) to utilise Participatory Video as a methodology to 'bridge the gap', bringing together community and policy-level stakeholders in dialogue over future disaster threats and their mitigation, in the process 'giving voice' to communities. Here we report key findings against both of these objectives, as well as the key issues that arose in the dialogues between communities and policymakers. These specific issues are examined in more depth in the project policy briefing paper, along with recommendations for addressing them.
1. We found significant differences in knowledge and understanding of disaster risks and resilience building between government and communities. However, the 'gap' between government and communities varied widely between different levels of government. Having worked with our participants to create videos in three remote communities, we took the participants and their films to workshops held with stakeholders at different levels of government - four for each village (the relevant Rural Municipality; District; Province; and a national government-level workshop in Kathmandu). In general (although this was not uniform), we found the most significant gaps in perception at the national level, but these were less prominent at more local levels of government. Differences between government levels were in some ways as significant as the government-community 'gap'.
2. Through the workshop dialogues we identified a number of specific issues around which there were particularly notable perception gaps. Some of the most significant were over: i) disaster risk reduction needs (government tended to focus more on technical and infrastructural issues, communities gave much more prominence to social and economic needs); ii) the effectiveness of current post-earthquake reconstruction and resilience-building programmes (government claims of progress were often challenged by those who saw less action on the ground); iii) the extent to which the needs of marginalized groups are being addressed; and iv) perceptions of the effectiveness of government structures created to deal with post-earthquake reconstruction and future resilience issues.
3. The 'gaps' were two-way: this was not always a case of the government not understanding communities. We also found that communities often had limited knowledge of the relevant government structures beyond the immediate village/municipality level. Frequently community members were unable to distinguish between the sources of support that the community had received, for example attributing what had actually been government assistance to NGOs. We found considerable frustration amongst policymakers that government was not being given appropriate credit for the things that had been done, with communities only recognising its shortcomings.
4. Participatory Video was in many ways an effective tool, but not a panacea for addressing gaps between communities and policymakers. The participants and their wider communities embraced the process. It proved to be an extremely effective method of gathering and analysing perceptions and knowledge in the communities. The participants benefitted hugely in terms of their personal development, building new skills and - for the first time - having the opportunity to engage in person with high-level policy audiences. They approached these occasions with gusto, engaging seriously in discussion and often directly challenging the views of senior government officials. In the context of the workshops, the films worked extremely well as a means of opening up conversations. Whether they were seen by the policy audiences as a robust form evidence varied. This differed more according to the personalities in the room rather than as a function of level of government. In some workshops, stakeholders saw this as an extremely important way of government learning more about the perceptions of 'ordinary' communities - and in the case of the National Reconstruction Authority even encouraged us to expand the project in a longitudinal fashion so that they could better document and track local-level policy implementation. In other workshops, the films were seen by stakeholders as anecdotal and as having been hijacked by those with ill-founded grievances against the government. Even in the latter, however, the films performed an important function in stimulating conversation. As a way of 'giving voice to communities', the process worked extremely well. What varied was the extent to which those voices were accepted and listened to.
Exploitation Route Following a workshop held at the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA, the government agency coordinating post-earthquake reconstruction), it was proposed by the NRA's CEO that we extend our study to longitudinally track post-earthquake reconstruction in our three study villages over a 2-3 year period. This would involve returning to each village annually and using our groups of trained community filmmakers to make short films addressing the following Research Questions:

1. Who has reconstructed and who has not? Which groups report not having received any government support?
2. For those who have not managed to rebuild their houses, what are the obstacles they are facing?
3. For those that have rebuilt, what is the quality of the reconstruction? Do the new houses actually comply with the government guidelines?
4. Have the required engineering inspections been done?
5. What have been the social impacts of reconstruction: how has life for these families changed compared to their lives in their previous dwellings?
6. Are there opportunities for identifying more cost-effective materials and techniques for earthquake resistant-buildings in these communities and others like them?

The films produced each year would document the reconstruction process and its obstacles, and would be used by the NRA as a source of information on the 'real world' implementation of national reconstruction policies.

We were successful in obtaining internal GCRF funding for the first year of this study, We are currently in the process of seeking funding for subsequent years, in collaboration with colleagues in structural engineering with expertise on earthquake-resistant building designs.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Description The project has already generated impact in a number of ways. We expect further impact to accrue in the coming months: 1. Participants and their communities. The participants in Participatory Video projects (8 local residents from each of the three villages) have reported significant benefits from their involvement on the project, captured at a series of debriefing meetings held at the end of the training and after each of the policy workshops. The impacts on them have included: - New skills in film-making and interviewing - Increased knowledge and understanding of disaster and resilience issues - Skills and confidence development through a number of opportunities to engage with policymakers and other stakeholders at all levels of government. - Increased political literacy and understanding of the policymaking process. - New informal leadership roles within their communities. 2. Policy audiences The project's methodology sought to use the participatory videos to sensitise policymakers to issues and perceptions in the remote villages in which the project worked, and to bring the voices of those communities into policy processes at all levels. - At most of the workshop events, policymakers and other stakeholders reported having learnt important new information from the videos and from their interactions with participants, giving them a better understanding of the obstacles to building the resilience of these communities (and others like them) to future natural disasters. - At a number of the workshops there were detailed discussions of specific policy problems. At the Kathmandu high-level workshop, for example, there were detailed discussions of the problems that had been experienced by communities in accessing the available government support for reconstruction, and the issues around better regulation of illegal quarrying and road building which, in some communities, is creating new disaster risks as a result of landslides. - At some workshops (especially those at the lower level), specific needs of communities were identified and addressed. At the Gorkha District-level workshop, for example, resource needs in Keraunja were identified (needs that the District government had not previously been aware of) and an agreement was drawn up between the Chief District Officer and the Ward Chair to address these deficiencies. - The CEO of the National Reconstruction Authority was extremely enthusiastic about the project's methodology as a way of tracking reconstruction (and the obstacles to it) at the village level. Plans were drawn up between the NRA and the research team to take this issue on as a new project, longitudinally tracking reconstruction over three years. With the support of the NRA, we have secured funding for the first year of this study, which will work in the same three villages and use the skills of the same three community film-making teams.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice,Other
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description ESRC-DFID Poverty Alleviation Follow on Funding
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/T015934/1 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2020 
End 03/2021
 
Description Tracking post-earthquake reconstruction in Nepal: addressing civil engineering and policy implementation challenges.
Amount £39,330 (GBP)
Funding ID X/159931 
Organisation University of Sheffield 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 07/2019
 
Description University of Sheffield Knowledge Exchange Support Fund
Amount £24,000 (GBP)
Funding ID X/159049-12 
Organisation University of Sheffield 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2018 
End 01/2019
 
Description University of Sheffield Relationship-building, analysis and re-use of data held by NGOs scheme (PI: Jiban Karki)
Amount £7,016 (GBP)
Organisation University of Sheffield 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 06/2019
 
Description Chautara District-level screening event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A screening of the films created in Hagam and Jalbire village was held at the District HQ in Gorkha Bazaar, attended by representatives from most of the relevant Departments of the District government as well as local and national NGOs. The workshop was chaired by the Chief District Officer. At the event, the participants from the villages presented their films, and then engaged in a discussion with the policymakers and stakeholders around the needs and issues shown in the film.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Gorkha District-level screening event and policy workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A screening of the film created in Keraunja village was held at the District HQ in Gorkha Bazaar, attended by representatives from most of the relevant Departments of the District government as well as local and national NGOs. The workshop was chaired by the Chief District Officer. At the event, the participants from the village presented their film, and then engaged in a discussion with the policymakers and stakeholders around the needs and issues shown in the film.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Hagam village screening event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A village-level screening event was held at which the film created by participants in the village was screened to local residents, local government officials and NGO representatives. The screening of the film was followed by a group discussion on the themes and issues arising.
The event created an ongoing discussion in the village about disaster risks and reconsrtuction issues.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Hetauda Provincial government workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A screening of the films created in Hagam and Jalbire villages was held at the Provincial capital in Hetauda, attended by representatives from most of the relevant Departments of the Provincial government as well as local and national NGOs and media representatives. At the event, the participants from the villages presented their film, and then engaged in a discussion with the policymakers and stakeholders around the needs and issues shown in the film.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Jalbire village screening event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A village-level screening event was held at which the film created by participants in the village was screened to local residents, local government officials and NGO representatives. The screening of the film was followed by a group discussion on the themes and issues arising.
The event created an ongoing discussion in the village about disaster risks and reconsrtuction issues.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Kathmandu High-Level Policy Workshop and screening event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This workshop brought together the Participatory Video participants from the three study villages with a high-level policy audience in Kathmandu. The workshop used the films from the three villages to open up a wide-ranging discussion on the resilience of these communities (and many other communities like them in Nepal). The focus was on policies for strengthening the resilience of rural communities in Nepal and their ability to cope with future disasters, of whatever type they may face. In particular, the event addressed:

• Do the communities' views of the future disaster risks they face match with Government-level planning?
• Are Government resilience and Disaster Risk Reduction efforts reflected in the films?
• What is the level of awareness in communities about government plans and policies?
• How could the resilience of communities like these be improved?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/polopoly_fs/1.828544!/file/NepalreportFINAL.pdf
 
Description Keraunja village screening event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A village-level screening event was held at which the film created by participants in the village was screened to local residents, local government officials and NGO representatives. The screening of the film was followed by a group discussion on the themes and issues arising.
The event created an ongoing discussion in the village about disaster risks and reconsrtuction issues.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description National Reconstruction Authority workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A screening event and workshop was held at the National Reconstruction Authority in Kathmandu. The films from the three villages were presented, and the issues surrounding the role of the National Reconstruction Authority and the progress of (and obstacles to) reconstruction in the villages was held.
The CEO of the National Reconstruction Authority requested the researchers to develop an ongoing (3-year) project to longitudinally track the implementation of the government's reconstruction policies in these three villages, using a Participatory Video methodology.
We have subsequently secured funding from the University of Sheffield to support year one of this study (fieldwork is currently ongoing) and are seeking external funding for years 2-3.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Pokhara Provincial Government workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A screening of the film created in Keraunja was held at the Provincial capital in Pokhara, attended by representatives from most of the relevant Departments of the Provincial government as well as ward chairs from the Rural Municipality Government, local and national NGOs ,and media representatives. At the event, the participants from the villages presented their film, and then engaged in a discussion with the policymakers and stakeholders around the needs and issues shown in the film.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Public availability of the project videos via youtube.com 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The five films created as part of the Participatory Video methodology have been made publicly available on the Youtube website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.bit.ly/Nepal-Resilience
 
Description Sukute, Jugal Rural Municipality workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This workshop brought together the 12 ward chairs from Jugal Rural municipality (the municipality covering Hagam and Jalbire) as well as NGO representatives and the Participatory Video participants from the villages. The screening of the film was followed by a group discussion on the themes and issues arising.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018