Before you start

The VRA Workshop

When you finish


Objective: To build a common understanding of which hazards are likely to pose the highest risk to women’s and men’s, girls’ and boys’ lives and livelihoods in the particular area/location .

Output: This exercise results in a shortlist of key hazards and social issues which will be the focus for the rest of the workshop.


Time: 4-5 Hours

‘This was an opportunity for different views to come together. Everyone was free to express themselves on any issue they wanted.’Knowledge Group participant from a Vulnerability and Risk Analysis in the Bobirwa sub-district, Botswana November 2015

  1. The Knowledge Group reviews and validates the ‘hazards/issues’ and ‘social groups/livelihoods activities’ longlists. Risks are confirmed or deleted, and new ones added as appropriate. 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. Stay on topic, avoid acronyms and explain technical words so everyone can understand. Give time for everyone to speak and ensure others listen.
  2. The Knowledge Group prioritizes the top 10 ‘hazards/issues’ and ‘social groups/livelihood activities’ through anonymous or public voting. First make time for group discussion so people can hear each other’s views. The top 10 lists need to reflect the experiences and vulnerabilities of everyone, not just those who speak loudest or have the highest status. HELPFUL TIP
  3. The Knowledge Group further analyses the top 10 using the ‘vulnerability matrix’. This involves scoring (low, medium, high or very high) the level of ‘exposure’ and ‘sensitivity’ of each social group/livelihood activity to each hazard or issue, then producing a quantitative score using the vulnerability matrix Excel spreadsheet. This will give you a shortlist of the top three or four hazards/issues – these will be the focus of the remaining steps. For a full explanation of this stage, see pages 24–29 of Finding Ways Together to Build Resilience. HELPFUL TIP

Download the VRA Matrix Tool (.xls)

More guidance and information on how to use this tool is available in the Excel sheet. 

Discussion Exposure and Sensitivity

Category Exposure Sensitivity
Definition The extent to which a social group (or livelihood activity) could potentially be affected/damaged by the occurrence of a hazard or an issue.  HELPFUL TIP The actual impact of a hazard or issue on a social group (or on a livelihood activity) over a set period of time (usually the previous 10 years).
Explanation Ask questions like:

  1. When the hazard next hits, what will be the consequences for [insert social group]?
  2. How badly will this group be affected by this hazard?
  3. Which hazards are you most concerned about happening?
  4. Has this changed over time?

NB: Remember that even within the same community or livelihood group it is important to explore differential impacts and disaggregate the data, e.g. what are the consequences for female vegetable producers vs. male farmers? How are women and men in the same households affected differently?

Ask questions like:

  1. During the time you have been a [insert livelihood] has this hazard or issue occurred and how did it affect you?
  2. Which hazard or issue has had the biggest impact on you/your family/your neighbours? Has this changed over time?
  3. What were the consequences of this hazard/issue on your work/life/opportunities? (This will help people think about how personal choices have also been affected, e.g. higher education, marriage, healthcare, migration for work.)
  4. Have the effects been different for women and men, boys and girls? Which women? Which men? What about marginalized groups?

Whilst sensitivity scoring focuses on what has happened in the past, climate change is making new hazards happen in new places so it is also important to consider if there is a possibility of this type of hazard in the future. Maybe the scale, frequency or location might be different than in the past? Remember to bare this in mind when giving your score so you ensure your vulnerability analysis is future looking and about managing changes that are coming not just what we already know about.

Exercise ideas

Group work where either:

  • If there is sufficient time, each group can review all the hazards and come up with exposure and sensitivity scores, and then collectively compare and accept an average score.
  • Alternatively, each group is given one hazard, and their calculations are recorded for all social groups. With this option, it is important to ensure the groups are representative and that there is an opportunity for plenary so any queries or challenges can be raised.

It can be useful to explore other ways of calculating the scores. For example, in Oxfam’s programme in Ghana, discussions were held using different length sticks that enabled participants to more easily visualize the 0-3 ranking systems (Finding Ways Together to Build Resilience p. 25).

Or you could adapt the ‘power walk’ concept (Training Manual: Gender leadership in humanitarian action p57) – i.e. participants represent their experiences and perceptions of exposure and sensitivity by taking steps forward. This can be a strong visual aid to help the group see how hazards and social issues affect people differently, and to see which hazards affect everyone significantly. HELPFUL TIP

Scoring is done using a ranking system, where 0 is the highest impact (red) and 3 the lowest impact (green). The exposure and sensitivity scores are then cross-matched to give a total ‘vulnerability score’ (see table below). Since this process can be challenging to explain and the calculation process is done automatically, facilitators may find it easier to discuss scores in terms of ‘low, medium, high and very high’. The results can then be converted to the numerical scores by the note-taker or facilitators when they input them into the vulnerability matrix excel spreadsheet.

Ensure the prioritized list accurately reflects the experiences of all groups, as it forms the basis of what will be analysed in the next steps.

Combining exposure (E) and sensitivity (S) scores to give total vulnerability score

S4 (very high) S3 (high) S2 (medium) S1 (low)
E4 (very high) 4 4 3 3
E3 (high) 4 3 2 2
E2 (medium) 3 3 2 1
E1 (low) 3 2 1 1