A baseline is a measurement of conditions at the start of a project, against which subsequent progress can be assessed. Ideally, all projects should have baseline studies to help them set their objectives and indicators of achievement. In practice, this happens far less than it should, leaving many evaluators struggling to find adequate measures of success.
In DRR programs, a risk or vulnerability/capacity analysis (VCA) should provide good baseline data to guide planning and interventions. However, considerable resources are required for a comprehensive analysis, and time, resource, and capacity constraints in evaluations make it difficult to collect and analyze the range of data required. VCA is also a relatively new approach for many project staff. Until they acquire greater confidence in the techniques required, they may be reluctant to use it in evaluations, especially where the findings will go before senior staff or funding agencies.
Case Study of Establishing Baselines
Project assessments of its community-based DRR programs by the Myanmar Red Cross include initial baseline surveys intended to provide community profiles and an understanding of local perceptions of risk and disasters and to identify the coping and preparedness strategies used by households and communities. Baseline surveys are carried out by community M&E teams comprising between 12 and 15 local Red Cross volunteers. Team members are given a two-day basic training course in M&E concepts and survey methods and are supported in the field by a specialist M&E officer. A sample of 10–20% of households is interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire, and the data collected is entered onto a computer for analysis using specialist software: all of this work is done by the volunteers. The M&E officer then writes a report based on the data and analysis. End-of-project surveys are carried out by the same teams, using the same sets of questions as the baselines, in order to compare and measure change. Key respondents are also interviewed to add a further perspective on the project’s impact.