Before you start

The VRA Workshop

When you finish


Tasks to prepare for a VRA (allow six weeks)

  • Agree purpose, remit, scale and scope of the VRA
  • Form the dedicated facilitation team
  • Appoint a support team (if helpful!) to arrange workshop logistics
  • Invite the Knowledge Group the participants in the workshop)
  • Compile ‘hazards and issues’ and ‘social groups and livelihoods activities’ longlists using existing information
  • Schedule a run-through the day before to ensure the facilitation team is prepared and you have all the materials you will need.

Knowledge Group members discuss which key ‘hazards and issues’ and ‘social groups and livelihood activities’ will be prioritized in the exercise, grabbing the interest of members from the nearby community in the Upper East region of Ghana, who have gathered round. Photo: Oxfam in Ghana

As a team, agree why and where you want to hold a VRA and the roles and responsibilities of those involved.  To help guide this process, consider the following questions:

  • Why do you want to do a VRA? Who will it benefit?
  • What question/s are you hoping to answer through the VRA?
  • What change do you want the VRA to contribute to?
  • Who do you want to involve in the VRA and in what capacity? Do you need to do a stakeholder power analysis to inform who should be invited to participate.
  • How will recommendations made by stakeholders participating in the VRA be implemented?
  • What commitments do team members have for the relevant two months?
  • What support is needed from management; country, regional and global advisers and from external actors? What will this cost?
  • Where will the workshop take place and other logistical issues e.g. what safety and security protocols need to be followed? And what supplies are needed (e.g. catering, IT, stationery and transport)?

Refer to existing power analysis, or for guidance on power analysis, please read Quick Guide to Power Analysis.

We would also recommend trying the Netmap methodology to conduct stakeholder mapping and analysis.

The facilitation team is responsible for:

  • Overseeing the organization of the workshop, including supporting the Knowledge Group members.
  • Preparing the pre-workshop materials, such as reading and summarizing secondary data.
  • Facilitating the two-day VRA workshop
  • Producing the final report. To ensure accurate recording, you will need two note-takers who are fluent in the language(s) selected and who have some knowledge of the context and issues being discussed.
  • Following up on actions and commitments from Knowledge Group members and partners.

The facilitation team can be made up of people from Oxfam or a partner organisation and other stakeholder. Ideally some facilitators should already have a relationship with the community/key stakeholders, and can support all voices to be heard. What is vital is that the facilitation team is gender balanced and operates under strong principles of inclusive participation.  Each person must have enough time to dedicate to the tasks, and the technical know-how to support the VRA process.

It is a good idea to schedule a run through of the workshop the day before; this helps decide roles and responsibilities, gives staff a chance to practice facilitating the activities and means you can verify the venue is fully setup/all materials are ready.

For further information about techniques and advice on facilitation, see here: (link).

Good preparation is key to an effective workshop, e.g. invitations, venue bookings, catering and transport support. It may help to appoint a dedicated support team whose members, along with the facilitators, are responsible for making arrangements and communicating these to all participants. The support team will need to think about the safety and comfort of participants, for example:

  • Appropriate facilities, such as separate male/female latrines.
  • Participants’ ability to fulfil different commitments, including paid and unpaid work and care responsibilities.
  • Women’s ability to travel alone.
  • Whether the venue is accessible to all.
  • Any conflict dynamics which affect security and/or the viability of multi-stakeholder dialogue.

The team needs to gather any pre-existing information from relevant reports or government documentation, to avoid duplicating work or making assumptions. Start collecting additional information up to six weeks before the scheduled workshop. This stage isn’t about generating new information – it is just consolidating/synthesizing what already exists. Initially the facilitation team should use this information to inform a draft of the longlists of ‘hazards and social issues’ (natural and human-induced) and ‘vulnerable social groups and livelihood activities.

You can find example of longlists on pages 19-20 in Finding Ways Together to Build Resilience: The VRA methodology.’

At this stage it can be useful to discuss the longlist with some key informants or with community members you have an existing connection too e.g. women’s group or savings committee to help validate the secondary data and begin building consensus before the workshop.

Once you have your verified longlist, this will be taken to the workshop and presented during Step 1, the Knowledge Group will then work together to prioritize the hazards/social issues and affected groups that the VRA should focus on.

Knowledge Group members spend two full days together completing the four steps of the VRA workshop. The Knowledge Group needs to consist of roughly 15–25 who represent the diverse community in the area covered by the VRA. It should have a strong representation from marginalized and vulnerable groups. Depending on the purpose and context of the VRA, it may be appropriate to do a stakeholder power analysis to inform who should be invited to participate. Having the right people in the room is critical for the outputs to be productive and relevant.

The Knowledge Group:

  • Creates an opportunity for meaningful consultation between different stakeholders. Without this, the outputs will not be locally-driven and it will be harder to gain cooperation from communities.
  • Enables people to access new information, which in itself can build their capacity to manage change and reduce vulnerability.
  • Ensures the VRA is inclusive, diverse, gender-balanced and participatory.
  • Gives legitimacy to recommendations and enables future accountability.

It is often a good idea to have a chair to manage the group discussions. He/She has an important role in making sure all views are heard.

What to consider when selecting Knowledge Group participants

  • Which men and which women have been invited, and who do they represent? Does this cover all sections of the community?
  • Can they participate safely and equally?
  • What pre-existing inequalities might hinder women’s or indigenous communities’ ability to participate in consultations and contribute to decision making? Do they have the knowledge and capacity to support the VRA tasks? In a conflict-affected context, it is vital to consider the affect of any real and perceived allegiances
  • Make the process transparent and explain to the community why some people and not others have been invited.
  • Ensure the Knowledge Group participants feel confident about participating by holding meeting/s to explain the process.