The lessons learned document describes the lessons learned, recommendation and good practice from National Societies.

Vulnerability and capacity assessment (VCA) has become widely used by many National Societies over the past ten years. Between 2003 and 2005, the VCA process was evaluated and revised by the International Federation’s secretariat. In 2005, a practitioners’ forum was organized to review and collect good practice and lessons learned.


Community-based work has a very powerful effect on the National Societies involved. It is clear that VCA:

  • often revitalizes the National Society at branch level, and sometimes at national level;
  • changes people’s attitude towards the Red Cross Red Crescent in a positive way;
  • frequently brings in more volunteers, who are often motivated to be “social volunteers” (i.e., without specific specialities);
  • can alter relationships with government and other institutions in a positive way;
  • brings more respect for and better integration of the Red Cross Red Crescent in the community, increasing the potential for better partnerships;
  • makes the National Society realize that it can integrate existing programmes more effectively;
  • can reduce the artificial barriers between work on health, first aid, water and sanitation and disaster preparedness;
  • means the National Society becomes more capable of working with people rather than for them;
  • helps fulfill the mission of assisting the most vulnerable people through the power of humanity.


On the other hand, it was noted that:

  • VCA always raises the expectations of people in the community, so it must be matched by action and projects that meet at least some of these expectations soon after the investigation is carried out;
  • more volunteers mean increased demands for training and integration that the National Society must meet;
  • links with the political system are sometimes awkward: local politicians or even governments can hijack VCA in order to boost their own agendas;
  • donors sometimes use VCA (and PCD) funding to pursue their own priorities rather than those of the National Society. As a result, National Society action may be diverted into activities that attract foreign funding for VCA and PCD, rather than focusing on their own priorities. This can increase dependency on donors, when in fact VCA should be about enhancing the participation and motivation of people in communities.

Usage: Guideline for implementation

Audience: National Society staff and volunteers

For the other series of VCA guides:


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