Flood Resilience Community Pathfinder Evaluation: Rapid Evidence Assessment

Twigger-Ross, C. [Research team head], Kashefi, E. [Research team member], Weldon, S. [Research team member], Brooks, K. [Research team member], Deeming, H. [Scientific advisor], Forrest, S. [Scientific advisor], Fielding, J. [Scientific advisor], Gomersall, A., Harries, T. [Scientific advisor], McCarthy, S. [Research team member], Orr, P. [Research team member], Parker, D. [Scientific advisor] and Tapsell, S. [Scientific advisor] (2014) Flood Resilience Community Pathfinder Evaluation: Rapid Evidence Assessment. (Project Report) London, U.K. : Defra. 119 p. (Rapid Evidence Assessment)


The increase in the risk of flooding as a result of extreme weather and climate change makes it essential for local authorities and communities to engage with this issue. Defra is providing grant funding to 13 local authorities throughout England under a new Flood Resilience Community Pathfinder (FRCP) scheme aimed at stimulating community action to increase resilience. The measures being developed include property-level protection, flood resilience groups, volunteer flood wardens and community champions, engagement with more vulnerable groups and efforts to increase financial resilience. Collingwood Environmental Planning (CEP) and a consortium of expert project partners are conducting the evaluation of the Pathfinder scheme. Evaluating policy interventions like the FRCP scheme generates valuable information and contributes to a reliable understanding of which actions work and are effective. Rapid Evidence Assessments (REA) or systematic reviews are integral to evaluations (HM Treasury, 2011) to provide the conceptual framework. They have been developed in the context of the rapid growth in quantity and availability of evidence specifically via electronic databases, together with the demand in government for transparency and accountability within evidence gathering (JWEG, 2013). REAs involve a systematic search for relevant literature guided by experts, based on:  Clear criteria for inclusion and exclusion of documents and studies  Measures of quality of research This report provides details of the process and findings of the REA conducted for FRCP evaluation. CONCLUSIONS The way resilience is framed will lead to different actions and emphases. Given the predicted increase in floods and rainfall in the context of climate change, the focus on physical structures and resilience as resistance has been shown to be unsustainable. Floods are predicted to be not only more frequent but also more unpredictable (Defra, 2012b) and call for strategies and actions that can cope with uncertainty and are not only robust but also adaptable. The evidence shows that floods become a hazard with negative impacts because of the inextricable link between physical processes and social systems. Definitions of resilience to guide policy and practice need to be sufficiently nuanced so as to incorporate this complexity and to help provide practical ways through it. Much of the interesting resilience thinking is being developed in the context of disasters in general on the one hand and adaptation to climate change on the other hand, rather than in relation to flood risk in particular which is a further reason why these definitions and theories need more testing. Overall, the evidence is still rather a patchwork of findings, many of which are not framed within a resilience approach, yet clearly are central to understanding and developing resilience. There is considerable evidence about individual risk perception/awareness/actions in relation to flood risk which can be fitted into the characteristics approach of Cutter. Here risk perception/risk actions are seen as part of building “institutional” resilience whilst PLP and other physical measures are part of building “infrastructure” resilience. Flood action groups build both community capital and institutional resilience. At this individual level the evidence shows us that the relationship between awareness and action before during and after a flood is complex. In relation to the community level there is evidence around the relationship between the nature of the community and types of resilience, with the suggestion that networks are of central importance, in terms of both close ties within communities and looser links between members of communities and more formal organisations. Links between people can be seen as resources which can be drawn upon during floods, for example through bringing people together to draw on local knowledge and to empower people to help solve flood risk management issues. It is also necessary to consider how governance structures for flood risk management are resilient Getting to grips with definitions of resilience is a key starting point to be able to measure resilience. The importance of baseline data is also highlighted together with caution attached to over generalisation of findings and the need to understand each situation as a constellation of resilience factors that come together in ways that are unique to each situation. Work on indicators and qualitative measures of resilience using agreed definitions are in infancy. There is a lack of formal evaluation of ‘interventions’. Firstly, there is a lack of evidence around policies, and practical actions that have been intentionally carried out with a specific view to improving resilience. Secondly, where there have been those interventions, they have not been formally evaluated. Flood risk resilience is an emerging, interdisciplinary area of study as discussed earlier and as such has not moved into a more hypothesis testing phase of work although in some areas there is that tradition (e.g. attitude-behaviour research) which could be drawn on. Related to the point above, flood risk resilience, by its nature and because it is dealing with complex socio-technical systems, requires a range of disciplines. We suggest that this needs to be fully discussed in relation to REA methods to understand how quality can be assessed across disciplines so that robust studies are used for evidence reviews.

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