Note: This is a part of a comprehensive step-by-step approach for creating a Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction (CBDRR) program. Check out the main topic page, CBDRR Practitioners Guidelines, to learn more about the full guidelines.
A “baseline” is an analysis that describes the situation prior to an intervention, against which progress can be assessed or comparisons made during the life of a project or programme. It is also used to help inform the final evaluation and any longer-term impact studies.
In CBDRR, baselines may occur at two levels. One is at the programme strategy level and one may be at the community project level. That is, practitioners may want to measure high level indicators within the programme strategy over time (baseline, mid-line and end-line) and communities may also want to measure their own progress against project objectives at baseline and endline. Together these measures provide a more complete picture of progress, outcomes and potentially impact.
What do I need to know?
Why is this important?
Baselines provide information which can help validate the needs to be addressed by the programme; occasionally they may identify other issues which may not have been identified in the needs assessment and which may need to be included in the programme and project designs. Baselines can be an additional way of ensuring that what the RC along with the community can offer is what the community actually needs.
Baselines provide evidence against which programme targets can be set and progress can be measured. They are a fundamental part of any monitoring and evaluation framework, and can be used to demonstrate accountability for resources. They can be both quantitative and qualitative; they often examine knowledge, attitude and behaviour among target groups.
Baselines are not always a specific activity at a set time. If a programme includes multiple sectors, the baseline will build up over a period of time and should encourage us to look at the relationship between different needs and vulnerabilities.
From a resilience perspective, a baseline enables us to look at needs and identify technical areas which can address them, but can also identify broader, cross cutting dimensions of capacity and vulnerability.
When should the baseline by conducted?
In CBDRR there are varying opinions on when is the best time in the process to conduct a baseline. Some prefer to do it before the VCA (as the VCA process itself can change knowledge and attitudes), while others will do it during the VCA; still others will do it after the VCA, when the full project is designed and when the changes the project can expect are clear.
Users will need to decide for themselves when is the best time for the baseline – what is important is that a baseline is done!
What are key questions to be answered in the baseline process?
This first set of questions pertains to both programme baselines and community project baselines.
- What is the purpose of the baseline?
- What type of information is needed?
- Who will lead the process? Who else will be involved? Is external support needed e.g. local partners, university, consultant etc.
- When will the information be needed?
- What resources are available to support the process?
- What major events or holidays do we need to plan around?
- Are there other internal or external survey, baseline or evaluation events that could be used to help meet our baseline information needs? Can we combine events?
- Will the baseline only measure specific indicators tied to key interventions or will more general resilience indicators be included? Including some general resilience indicators may help identify the cause and effect of our interventions.
- For PROGRAMME: Do we need an organisational baseline? This will identify the current capacity and capability of a branch and headquarters in order to measure the difference our interventions make on NS capacity.
- For PROGRAMME: Does the programme strategy have a few agreed upon indicators at the objective level? These will form the basis for the baseline.
- For COMMUNITY PROJECT: Has the community selected a few things they would like to have measured over time? Has the RC programme team decided on some common project indicators? The community project baseline should include a combination of community-defined indicators with a few standard project indicators informed by the programme strategy.
What are the basic steps in designing and implementing a baseline?
Numerous reference documents exist on how to conduct baselines. See the Tools, Methodologies and Additional reading sections for more detail. Below are additional, basic planning questions.
Establish what is the best way to do it – develop a baseline roll-out plan identifying who, what, where, when and how. This should also include a budget.
- What has worked well before and how can that be used/adapted for use now?
- Will you use in house capacity or bring in an external capacity to lead the process?
- Identify what information is needed and what is the best way of collecting it.
- The lead will need to determine sample size and means of study e.g. household survey, focus group discussion, secondary data review, etc.
- How will it be analysed and presented and who will do this?
- What are the resource and training implications?
- What is a realistic time table for this whole process?
- Be sure to leave time for field testing of the instruments.
Programme and project targets should be set after the baseline; project targets should be set with the community.
What are some success factors or key determinants?
- The whole process should be treated as a project, with a realistic plan of action, budget, timeline and clear line of management.
- Keep the process as simple and as manageable as possible – do not collect baseline information without understanding how it might be used.
- For the project baselines, include a demographic component e.g. gender, age, ethnicity etc.; this is most accurate when done through a household survey but basic data can also be gathered through secondary data, village elders etc.
- The project baselines should be part of the community’s M&E plan. The community should determine what success will look like in their community and advise on the ways they could observe that success. As noted, the project baseline should be a combination of community measures of success with programme measures of success.
- If the needs assessment processes identified potential issues that could be important for the programme but the scope of the problem or the intervention to address are unclear – consider building these in to the baseline. This could include climate trends, shocks, population growth, migration, environmental management, conflict etc. Gender should always be a consideration.
- Triangulate secondary, community and household data where possible and see if the project or programme strategy needs to be updated with this new analysis.
- If consultants are regularly used, consider the cost-benefit of investing in organisational capacity to undertake baselines and assessments as a way of improving consistency and quality.
Documenting the results of baselines
A lengthy report is not always necessary. At a minimum the measures or values of the indicators (programme and project levels) should be recorded in a summary table. There should be a brief description of the methodology used to collect the data. The project measures should be summarized and posted in each community. A community focal point should also be in charge of maintaining this data as it will be used in community-level M&E.
What are some useful tools and methodologies?
- IFRC Baseline Basics provides an overview guide to conduct reliable and useful baseline studies.
- IFRC Monitoring and Evaluation resource page which outlines project/programme planning learning tools, online courses and guidance documents.
- IFRC standard livelihoods baseline tool (also adapted for food security)
- IFRC CBHFA Planning Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting (PMER) toolkit - Arabic - English - French - Spanish
- This toolkit deals with the basics of setting up and using a monitoring and evaluation program using CBHFA approach.
- There are a number of guides on participatory M&E or community-based M&E
- See World Bank, UN, INGOs, etc.
- If the baseline method chosen is a household survey (and this is generally recommended) – there are a number of thorough but concise guides on conducting household surveys on the internet.
- KAP survey tools
- A number have been developed for health, a few are now being developed for DRR by IFRC, German RC, American Red Cross and others)
- John Hopkins University Baseline/KAP (American Red Cross)
- Namibia and Tigre baseline tools (covering WASH, health and food security) – Swedish RC.
- Philippines RC baseline tool.
- Bangladesh baseline tool (covering WASH, health and DRR, and some livelihoods) – British RC.
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