Action at the Frontline

Action at the Frontline aims to facilitate processes where local communities understand risks and root causes and strengthen their ability to address these through regular reflection and by working in partnership with others. The programme run twice, first in 2011 and then in 2013.

The Challenge

Findings from GNDR’s large scale assessments of progress in Disaster Risk Reduction – Views from the Frontline (VFL) show that losses faced by communities are primarily the result of small scale recurrent ‘everyday disasters’ resulting from social, economic and political as well as environmental risk factors.

Everyday disasters rarely attract the attention or action of national or international actors. Local communities who understand them very well are left to deal with them in their own way.

Evidence from Action at the Frontline (AFL) case studies conducted in 2011 shows that there is tremendous potential local capacity to build resilience.

The learning from resilience building at local community level is the foundation of resilience at all levels.

Action at the Frontline

Action at the Frontline (AFL) is a response to this reality, designed to strengthen local capacities for learning and action in the face of everyday disasters; building community resilience. The programme enables Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and communities to:

  • Work and learn together; understanding shocks and stresses that impact their development, 
  • Shape plans of action,
  • Identify partnerships and resources secured locally,
  • Take action based on local capacities and resources.
  • Learn from their actions in order to sustain progress and build resilience.
  • Learn from and share with other participating communities to discover other innovative and relevant local level strategies and actions.
  • Create political space and influence through their partnerships, actions and learning to influence underlying causes at national and global level.

It contrasts with much of the funded project-work CSOs undertake as it is devoted to building local capacity, without time restrictions or dependence on external funding and priorities. Building capacities for sustainable action and learning strengthens local sustainable development, gradually builds resilience to shocks and stresses of all kinds, and also informs local, national and global policy in support of this.

AFL is an initiative which was developed in response to members' requests for an ongoing relationship with local communities who participate in Views from the Frontline (VFL). It allows follow up on the research gathered in VFL.

AFL objectives

AFL engages at three levels: 1) within individual communities partnered with civil society organisations (CSOs) and other local stakeholders; 2) between local communities; and 3) in local, national and global governance. It has three objectives related to these levels:

  1. Enable CSOs and local communities to work together on strengthening local capacity and leadership to build resilience
  2. Enable CSOs and local communities to learn and share with each other on actions, strategies and innovations to strengthen local capacity to build resilience
  3. Enable CSOs and local communities to share knowledge and create political space to inform  and influence local, national and global governance to build resilience

AFL Methodology

AFL forms part of GNDR’s Frontline programme concept (developed from the original VFL methodology) and is complementary to the activities in that programme. The three components of the methodology reflect the three AFL objectives:

1. Strengthening local capacity to build resilience

‘Resilience profiling’ developed and piloted as part of the Frontline programme forms the basis of this. This activity is a simple participative consultation which has been developed and tested to gather rich data about local experiences of shocks and stresses, capacities, constraints and the ability to achieve change. The participative profiling activity leads to collaborative consultation and learning between a CSO and a local community that defines action plans. The core partners engage other stakeholders, identify resources, take action and conduct reflection to learn from their actions and progress. Through this continuing cyclical process, communities and CSOs strengthen local capacity to build resilience. These steps are all described in the AFL guidelines.

2. Learn and share with each other on actions, strategies and innovations

Through participation in the AFL programme, organisations and communities share action, learning and case studies in online presentations and skype meetings, on the website, and at regional meetings; facilitated by GNDR’s AFL team. This creates opportunities for learning about effective actions, strategies and innovations to be shared between localities, strengthening local capacity to build resilience.

3. Share knowledge and create political space to inform and influence local, national and global governance

The learning and case studies gathered and shared during the AFL programme are based on the resilience profiling methodology which also forms the basis of Frontline. The rich qualitative learning and case studies from AFL complement the wider scale resilience profiling, baselining and monitoring of Frontline, providing concrete practical experience and examples of the opportunities and constraints in strengthening resilience at local, national and global level which are revealed through the Frontline programme. This strengthens the ability of the whole programme to share knowledge and create political space to inform and influence local, national and global governance, addressing the underlying causes that impact local communities.

AFL is not a linear project with a set time frame and specific deliverables, but an ongoing process which consists of 3 components as the diagram below shows.

AFL spiral

: These are ongoing social processes, initiatives and events that usually take place in environments where people with different worldviews and various levels of power and influence meet and participate (positively or negatively) in the action.

Reflection: The conscious effort to understand connections and underlying causes between people, places and events as they relate to risks faced by the community. Without reflection, learning is often superficial and does not lead to a change of thinking, behaviour and attitudes.

Learning: The result of action and reflection. It is more than gathering knowledge; should involve emotions and change understanding and attitudes. Good learning will in the end lead to changed practice and result in effective DRR approaches. Learning can be shared.

Further key elements for a successful AFL process are:

  • Facilitation: The role of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) is to support and facilitate the local processes and leadership. The CSO can act as an outside stimulus for reflection and learning, give a power balance to influences within the community and build bridges to decision makers that are not accessible to the local leadership.
  • Partnerships: The success of AFL depends on growing partnerships with other stakeholders (businesses, politicians, technical expertise) at local level but also beyond the immediate community setting. These are important for the sustainability of community activities and to build resilience.
  • Communication and regular connecting with other AFL participants who also work with communities at local level are important for peer support and shared learning. GNDR makes this possible through email list serves, regional Skype calls and occasional face to face meetings.

Action, reflection and learning - to build community resilience

The repeating cycle of reflection, learning and action results in strengthened learning and action as communities build confidence that they can work together and make a difference. There is only so much communities can do and there are usually underlying causes which are beyond their control - decisions about resources, land use, agricultural development, building and other matters which are under the control of local and national government and businesses.

During the process case studies of action and learning reports will be collated. These can be used locally but also shared with other network members and local and national governments and international institutions. This will give local groups a voice beyond their own locality and influence underlying causes. For more information on the AFL methodology please docclick here for a concept note that was developed for the AFL pilot study which was carried out in 2013.

AFL Pilot 2013

The AFL pilot was carried out in 2013 with a small number of GNDR members to test the theory of action, reflection and learning. The pilot was successfully completed in January 2014 with an evaluation and planning workshop in Amman, Jordan.

AFL 2014-15

Following on from the pilot, over 64 national and local Civil Society Organisations (CSO) in 39 countries across the globe will work in 53 communities in a wide range of geographic, social, economic and political contexts. All will explore the risks and hazards they face while sharing and learning from each other on how these can be tackled and adapted to – and ultimately increase their resilience. The AFL process is facilitated at regional level by AFL advisors with support from GNDR Regional Development Coordinators, with global coordination being provided by the GNDR global hub. AFL is supported through funding from OFDA.

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