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A spectrum of methods for a spectrum of risk: Generating evidence to understand and reduce urban risk in sub‐Saharan Africa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

David Dodman, Ibidun Adelekan, Donald Brown, Hayley Leck, Mtafu Manda, Blessing Mberu, Mark Pelling, Maria Rusca, David Satterthwaite, Faith Taylor

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Early online date9 Dec 2018
Accepted/In press1 Oct 2018
E-pub ahead of print9 Dec 2018


King's Authors


Many African towns and cities face a range of hazards, which can best be
described as representing a “spectrum of risk” of events that can cause death, illness or injury, and impoverishment. Yet despite the growing numbers of people
living in African urban centres, the extent and relative severity of these different
risks is poorly understood. This paper provides a rationale for using a spectrum
of methods to address this spectrum of risk, and demonstrates the utility of
mixed‐methods approaches in planning for resilience. It describes activities undertaken in a wide‐ranging multi‐country programme of research, which use multiple approaches to gather empirical data on risk, in order to build a stronger evidence base and provide a more solid base for planning and investment. It concludes that methods need to be chosen in regard to social, political economic, biophysical and hydrogeological context, while also recognising the different levels of complexity and institutional capacity in different urban centres. The paper concludes that as well as the importance of taking individual contexts into account, there are underlying methodological principles – based on multidisciplinary expertise and multi‐faceted and collaborative research endeavours – that can inform a range of related approaches to understanding urban risk in sub‐Saharan Africa and break the cycle of risk accumulation.

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