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Chapter 3 Tools and approaches

Response analysis


Response analysis is essentially what follows assessments and other activities such as profiling, where findings are reviewed, leading to programme design. During response analysis, programme options are decided.+D. Maxwell et al., Response Analysis and Response Choice in Food Security Crises: A Roadmap, Network Paper 73
(London: ODI, 2013) (
Response analysis should include a consideration of elements such as costs and benefits, actors’ engagement and capacity, risk analysis and technical feasibility. Good response analyses therefore are used to engage a large number of stakeholders. Response analyses can be wide-ranging and complex, and in urban areas need to be managed, in order to be realistic in terms of timeframe, scope, numbers and types of actors engaged with (the list can verge on limitless) and complexity.

This section identifies the challenges of undertaking an urban response analysis. It presents a number of response analysis frameworks that are applicable to post-conflict urban contexts. It presents an urban-specific response analysis tool, and provides two examples of sectoral response analysis frameworks, for food security and cash programming.

Figure 3.8 Five steps in urban targeting

Source: G. Smith, L. Mohiddin and L. Phelps, Targeting in Urban Displacement Contexts: Guidance Note for Humanitarian Practitioners (London: IIED, 2017) (, p. 12

3.8.1 Challenges of undertaking an urban response analysis

Response analyses can be large, take substantial time and resources and require research expertise. In one example, of a food security response analysis in East Africa, activities comprised an extensive literature review as well as qualitative interviews with approximately 150 key informants. Interviews were conducted with headquarters and field level staff (Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya) of a variety of local, national and international NGOs, UN agencies, the Red Cross movement, global experts, as well as national government and donor officials’.+Ibid., p. 1.

Response analyses (as with almost any other approach) can be susceptible to misuse, however unwittingly. One study concluded that:

The term ‘response analysis’ implies that response choices are made solely on the basis of evidence and analysis. However, many factors contribute to how agencies select a response, and ‘response choice’ does not always involve an evidence-based, analytical process. Research … suggests that response choices are also driven by the capacity and organisational ethos of the implementing agency, the personal experience of programme staff and a range of external factors, including donor resources and policy, government policy in the recipient country, media and political influences, the costs of reporting and compliance associated with different resources, the capacity of partner organisations and considerations (or assumptions) about the risks associated with different responses. Sometimes the complexity of the context can severely constrain response options.+Ibid.

Other challenges include:

  • Engaging stakeholders adequately, which takes time and effort. Stakeholders can be various and there can be a large number of them. They can include (but are not limited to) municipal water and electricity utilities, private providers acting as utilities (water, electricity, sanitation services), health structures, neighbourhood associations, criminal gangs/organisations, the police, political parties and religious associations.
  • Spending time on response analysis rather than addressing the immediate needs of vulnerable people.
  • Needs can be extremely complex, making meaningful analysis difficult.
  • Needs and issues may change rapidly, potentially rendering an analysis that is not sufficiently flexible out of date.
  • The risk of doing harm, for instance by using out of date findings or not engaging sufficiently with relevant stakeholders.

Table 3.2 Frameworks that can be adapted to urban post-conflict contexts

Source: L. Mohiddin, G. Smith and L. Phelps, Urban Response Analysis Framework (URAF). Guidance Note for Humanitarian Practitioners (London: IIED, 2017) (, p. 15.


Box 3.13 NRC’s Urban Response Analysis Framework

NRC’s Urban Response Analysis Framework (URAF) aims to provide an urban-specific multi-sectoral response analysis tool for use in situations where people have been displaced. The intention of the URAF is to: identify which needs should be prioritised in multi-sector programmes, and which populations should be targeted; define programme objectives, response modalities and delivery mechanisms; and identify programme- and context-related indicators for monitoring. The URAF comprises six steps, which are given, along with outputs, in Figure 3.9.


Figure 3.9 The URAF’s six steps

Source: Mohiddin, Smith and Phelps, Urban Response Analysis Framework.

 3.8.2 Different response analysis frameworks

There are a number of different frameworks relating to conflict and disasters. Table 3.2 presents a number of response analysis frameworks that can be applied to post-conflict situations in urban areas, though none has been specifically designed for urban use.

3.8.3 Sectoral response analyses

Response analyses can be used to investigate the most appropriate delivery mechanisms in particular sectors (while recognising that sectors need to work closely together and multi- sectoral responses are important, as discussed in Section 3.2 on area-based approaches and referred to elsewhere in this Good Practice Review). Examples below concern food security and cash programming.

Food security

Figure 3.10 identifies the steps undertaken in response analysis, and where it appears in the programme management cycle. The example concerns food security needs following a rapid-onset disaster, or in preparation for a declining food situation where an early warning has been given. Cross-cutting considerations are indicated.

Cash programming

The following example from UNHCR identifies high-level critical decisions concerning the use of cash. The analysis is based on asking simple and clear questions, leading to a decision on the best modality for cash delivery based on the particular circumstances.

Cash-based programming is discussed further in Section 3.3.

Figure 3.10 A road map for response analysis

Source: D. Maxwell et al., Response Analysis and Response Choice in Food Security Crises: A Roadmap, Network Paper 73 (London: ODI, 2013) (


Figure 3.11 UNHCR cash delivery assessment tool

Source: UNHCR, Cash Delivery Mechanism Assessment Tool (, cited in Mohiddin, Smith and Phelps, Urban Response Analysis Framework.