Resource Guide for Community Vulnerability Assessment

A Resource Guide for Community Vulnerability Assessment IACC Project April 2005   This is a short resource guide for researchers and research assistants involved in community vulnerability assessment in the context of the IACC Project.  A fundamental research activity in the IACC project involves assessing the current and future exposures and adaptive capacities to climate conditions of rural communities in Canada and Chile. In to do this, we have decided to use an approach that requires the identification of those  climate  related  conditions  that  are  relevant  and  problematic to  people  in  the community, the ways the community has dealt or is dealing with those conditions, and their evaluation of the role that public institutions have played in helping the community. In to do this we have opted for an open qualitative participatory action approach, or what has been commonly defined as an ethnographic style of research. This guide seeks to describe the main components of ethnographic research and act  as  a  guide  to  different  sources  containing  more  detailed  discussion  of  these  
components.    This  guide  will  not  provide  definitive  directions  in  the  field  or  resolve problems that researchers will  encounter in  the field; it should  only be used as an introductory overview of research process. Many of the decisions made during fieldwork activities  will  have  to  be  taken  in  consultation  with  other  researchers.    For  more information  about  this  process  of  consultation,  see  the  Fieldwork  Guide. Since  each community represents a particular case, researchers will not be able to apply the same procedures  in  each  instance.  Researchers  will need  to be  flexible  in  adapting  to the circumstances  that  arise  in  each  community.  What  is  important  is  to  get  enough information to provide good answers to the central questions or issues that will guide our work. Ethnography is a qualitative research method that focuses on the study of groups, cultures, or  subcultures.  Ethnographic research  is characterized by  the  researcher’s  
immersion into the social setting, dynamics and structure of the group being studied.  In this case, researchers will live in and study communities in the South Saskatchewan River Basin  in  Canada  (Southern  Alberta  and  South  Western  Saskatchewan)  and  the  Elqui River  Basin  in  Chile  with  the  objective  of  understanding  the  present  and  future vulnerability of these communities to climate change. The following brief guide to  ethnography draws on  various web resources and texts that  users  are encouraged  to access for more  information.    The  web  resources included in the  guide are primarily  taken from a  website maintained  by Mary Sue Stephenson of the University of British  Columbia (UBC) listing  numerous research  
method  resources  on  the WWW.    Her website  also  has  a  list  of  websites  specifically  
dealing  with  qualitative  ethnographic  research.  These  websites  provide  long  lists  of  
links, sorting through which might take a long time.  For the ease of the user, many of these links have  been  provided in  the  text  for  each of  the specific stages  of  research. However, these lists of resources maybe helpful if you are looking for more information on a specific topic.  It is also important to note that the web resources used in this guide are primarily to provide research assistants with a basic understanding of ethnography – these resources are not heavily academic in nature and serve only as an introduction to the key components and elements in the process.  

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