Ethics and methods in research for community-based adaptation: reflections from rural Vanuatu (PLA 60)

Journal (part) article
PDF (142.31 KB)
Published: December 2009
Participatory Learning and Action
Product code:G02815
Source publication:
Participatory Learning and Action 60: Community-based adaptation to climate

This article critically reflects on participatory processes in vulnerability research in the context of community-based adaptation to climate change (CBA). CBA focuses largely on empowerment or ‘helping people to help themselves’. Planned CBA aims to reduce vulnerability to climate change by addressing local priorities and building on local knowledge and capacity. Unequivocally, CBA is something done ‘with’ rather than ‘to’ communities. As such, participatory learning and action (PLA) methodologies have an important role. CBA specific toolkits are emerging, based largely on methods established in the disaster risk reduction (DRR) field. Here, the author reflects on the application of various participatory methods in the initial research or scoping stages, where the goal is to establish the problem and reflect local voices in knowledge creation. These reflections are based on the author's experiences in rural Vanuatu, a Pacific island Least Developed Country (LDC). She discusses the strengths and limitations of specific methods and conveys some lessons learnt from undertaking participatory vulnerability research outside the context of a funded project. Vulnerability research is important for advancing knowledge for suitable adaptation and is often an important precursor to planning and action in a project setting.

Participatory Learning and Action (PLA, formerly PLA Notes) is the world's leading series on participatory learning and action approaches and methods. PLA publishes articles on participation aimed at practitioners, researchers, academics and activists. All articles are peer-reviewed by an international editorial board. See:

Article in: PLA 60. Guest-edited by: Hannah Reid, Mozaharul Alam, Rachel Berger, Terry Cannon and Angela Milligan.

Keywords: CBA, climate change, adaptation, participation, DRR, disaster risk reduction.

To read the full table of contents or download whole issue (English and Arabic) please click on More information above.

Cite this publication

Warrick, O. (2009). Ethics and methods in research for community-based adaptation: reflections from rural Vanuatu (PLA 60). .
Available at