Kenya + 1 more

Measuring self-reliance among refugee and internally displaced households: the development of an index in humanitarian settings


Ilana Seff, Kellie Leeson & Lindsay Stark



Humanitarian practitioners have recently expanded their focus from the provision of assistance only to working to ensure refugees and internally displaced peoples (IDPs) can develop sustained ‘self-reliance’. However, few tools measure self-reliance, and even fewer capture non-financial dimensions of self-reliance or measure the construct within refugee and IDP populations. To help address these gaps in measurement and provide organizations with a tool to track households’ self-reliance over time, the Self-Reliance Index (SRI) was developed. The index component of the tool comprises 12 domains of self-reliance, including housing, food, education, healthcare, health status, safety, employment, financial resources, assistance, debt, and savings, and social capital. This paper presents the methodology used to evaluate the tool’s internal consistency and scoring validity, shares the corresponding findings, and offers a practical approach for developing a culturally relevant and robust tool for humanitarian settings.


Data were collected from 57 and 59 refugee households in Nairobi, Kenya, and Palenque, Mexico, respectively; repeat follow-up interviews were held with 34 and 33 households in Kenya and Mexico after a period of 3 months. Cronbach’s alpha was found to be 0.66 in Kenya and 0.64 in Mexico, both of which met the a priori minimum threshold for internal consistency of 0.6. A data-driven process was used to inform the design of the scoring rubric for the SRI, prioritizing the tool’s validity such that the final score would signal useful information about a household’s overall level of self-reliance while also keeping the process as straightforward for users as possible. Final descriptive statistics and score distributions, considered alongside organizational knowledge of sample households and sensitivity analyses, suggest good score validity.


The SRI aims to serve as an important step in measuring the complex subject of self-reliance in a comprehensive way and over time. Results suggest that, with some contextualizing for each setting, the universal tool offers a measurement approach that is feasible, reliable, and valid. By encouraging relevant stakeholders to more holistically conceptualize and measure self-reliance, the SRI also aims to promote a more cross-sector, all-inclusive approach to programming.