This toolbox section is part of the toolbox: Reflection-Action Cycle

R-A cycle 1 - Understanding the context

In order to gain a deeper political understanding of their context or of a particular issue, exploring their reality and identifying rights violations and the reasons behind them, the members of a Reflection-Action circle can use a variety of participatory tools and processes.

Just as NGO staff carry out an appraisal before starting a new programme, so the members of a community will also need to carry out an in-depth analysis of the context to help them better understand their situation; the rights violations faced by different groups, the different forms of power, the actors who could be allies or enemies, the communications skills and challenges, and the risks faced. These processes will no doubt be linked and it is important that the analysis carried out by community members and that carried out by the NGO inform each other on a continual basis.

We have identified a number of possible areas of analysis that might be used to deepen awareness and understanding in any particular context. You might choose to use all of these or a selection of five or six depending on the situation or issue to be analysed.

A variety of different participatory tools can be used to carry out these different types of analysis including the problem tree, map, chapatti diagram, body map, daily activity chart and timeline. We suggest possible tools for each area of analysis below. However, it is not necessary to use a separate tools to cover each area of analysis. A selection of four or five tools may be enough to cover all areas, as one tool may be used to explore more than one area of analysis (e.g. chapatti diagram for power and actor & institutions analysis).

Possible areas of analysis

  • Rights analysis - identifying people living in poverty and excluded groups and their condition and positions; the key areas of rights violations; the perpetrators and duty bearers; and the state of people’s rights awareness and organisation. Possible tool: social map, problem tree.
  • Power analysis - identifying the economic, social and political resources people have (disaggregated for men and women); and exploring different forms of power (visible, hidden and invisible; public, private and intimate) and how these are manifested. Possible tool: chapatti diagram.
  • Actor & institution analysis - identifying the actors and institutions that are friends/enemies/neutral/not to be trusted, and analysing the reasons for their action or quietness. Possible tool: chapatti diagram.
  • Gender analysis - identifying the division of labour; productive and reproductive roles; unpaid care; economic status; decision-making power; patterns of violence; and harmful practices that violate rights. Possible tool: body map or daily activity chart.
  • Vulnerability analysis - identifying the disasters people are most vulnerable to (for example, floods, conflict, drought, earthquakes, landslides and loss of productive ecosystems and/or natural resources); the groups that are most affected in such situations; their problems; and institutions that can help them. Possible tool: map, seasonal calendar or timeline.
  • Communications analysis - identifying the most powerful media and the skills people living in poverty have to access them; and developing plans to support people to enhance the skills they need to contribute to changing power relations. Possible tool: communications map or daily activity chart.
  • Risk and feasibility analysis - identifying the risk to people, including frontline rights activists; exploring political risks (harassment and arrests); operational risks (funding, closure of the organisation or inability to deliver, for example); socio-economic risks (social marginalisation in the family or community or risk to future employment opportunities, for example); and risk to human lives. Possible tool: risk matrix.
  • Livelihoods analysis - understanding people’s livelihood patterns, challenges and strategies in order to make sense of what they are doing and understand the opportunities for change. Possible tool: agricultural map.

In this video, Suwiaba Jubrin outlines the context analysis process used by ActionAid Nigeria:


Example from practice

In Myanmar, as part of the Village Book process, community members are supported by fellows (youth leaders) to carry out a comprehensive analysis of their situation focusing on the following areas:

To learn more about the Village Book process take a look the Village Book toolbox and at this video by ActionAid Myanmar:


References

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