Participatory Vulnerability Analysis

Date of Design: 
Pathway Component: 
Agricultural Income, Diet, Food Access, Food Expenditure, Food Production


Brief Description: This guide helps field workers and communities analyze people’s vulnerability, create action plans, mobilize resources, and enact appropriate policies, laws, and strategies to reduce their vulnerability to disaster. 

Uses: The PVA guide is for field staff in emergencies and development-related programs. Using PVA to analyze vulnerability brings tangible benefits:

  • It reveals different aspects and causes of vulnerability and offers mechanisms for follow-up programs.
  • Using vulnerability as an indicator allows for better targeting and/or establishment of project baselines. This can increase effectiveness of emergency and long-term activities.
  • It can be predictive, as planning and mitigation efforts are made to offset potential future vulnerabilities. 

Tool Components: The guide includes three phases for conducting a Participatory Vulnerability Analysis (PVA):

  • Phase 1: Preparation. Provides insight on preparation for a PVA exercise. This phase includes developing terms of reference, analyzing secondary data, and identifying stakeholders for the exercise and briefing them on the objectives.
  • Phase 2: Analytical framework. There are four analytical steps carried out in this phase: i) situation analysis; ii) analysis of the causes of vulnerability; iii) analysis of community action and capacity and; iv) drawing action from analysis.
  • Phase 3: Multi-leveled analysis. During this phase, users conduct analysis and generate action at the community, district, national, and international levels using the step-by-step analytical framework.


Number of Staff Required: Not specified; this will depend on the purpose of the PVA, the information required, and the funds available. 

Time: The time required will vary according to the specific objectives of each PVA. In the example Terms of Reference, the Zimbabwe PVA took six days, from the initial workshop/training to the field work. Note that this does not include the planning and secondary data review. 

Cost of Assessment: Not specified; this will vary depending on the purpose and context of each PVA. 

Training: A preparatory workshop of 2-3 days is recommended to ensure common understanding of both the field exercise and the PVA process among team members. 

Geographic Targeting: The multi-level analysis takes place at international, national, district, and community levels. The community chosen will depend on the purpose of the PVA.

Type of Data Collection: The specific information required will depend on the purpose of the PVA. General information includes: prevalence/extent of vulnerability; coping strategies; present threats/vulnerabilities; unsafe conditions; dynamic pressures; root causes; sources, assets and entitlements used to reduce vulnerability; and external assistance used to reduce vulnerability. 

Degree of Technical Difficulty: The guide explains the process clearly, but the assumption is that the PVA team is already conversant with Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and REFLECT tools. 

Complements other Resources: As noted above, it is expected that staff are already familiar with the PRA methodology; if not, PRA guidance would be a useful complement to this guide. Additionally, the results of the PVA could be feed into the design of a wide range of projects.

This summary is part of a larger resource called the Context Assessment Tool Locator.