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Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium


Hero image description: Ouma weeding this year’s crops that she's just planted Image credit:Harriet Logan/Save the Children Image license:ODI given rights

The Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) is an eight-year global research programme exploring livelihoods, basic services and social protection in conflict-affected situations.

Funded by UK Aid from the UK government (DFID), Irish Aid and the European Commission (EC), SLRC was established in 2011 with the aim of strengthening the evidence base and informing policy and practice around livelihoods and services in conflict.

Phase 1: 2011 - 2017

Our first phase of research was based on three research questions. These research themes were developed over the course of an intensive one-year inception phase between 2011 and 2012.

1. State legitimacy: experiences, perceptions and expectations of the state and local governance in conflict-affected situations

Establishing, building or strengthening state legitimacy is a major element of state-building, and considered important for securing both peace and development. We explored how individuals’ experiences, perceptions and expectations of the state and local governance shape legitimacy, and attempted to identify some of the routes through which improvements in legitimacy might strengthen state-society relations.

2. State capacity: building effective states that deliver services and social protection in conflict-affected situations

Social protection and basic services are important in their own right. Yet, one of the standard modes of international engagement in conflict-affected environments is through programmes where the intention is to build the capacity of the state to a point where international aid actors can hand over to government authorities. There is, however, little evidence on the impacts of international attempts to build state capacity.

3. Livelihood trajectories and economic activity under conflict

Research under this theme asked: what do livelihood trajectories in conflict-affected situations tell us about how governments and aid agencies can more effectively support the ways in which poor and vulnerable people make a living? A major pieces of this research was the longitudinal panel survey to build a picture of how people attempt to secure their livelihoods in different contexts over time.

Phase II: 2017 - 2019

Guided by our original research questions on state legitimacy, state capacity, and livelihoods, the second phase of SLRC research delves into questions that still remain, organised into three themes of research. In addition to these themes, SLRC II also has a programme component exploring power and everyday politics in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

1. What are the underlying reasons for continued livelihood instability in post-conflict recovery situations?

Findings from the first phase of research showed that while diversification of livelihoods was associated with an improvement in food insecurity in some countries, the pattern was reverse in others. Our research referred to this pattern of livelihood improvement and reversal as ‘churning’.

These fairly striking rates of “churning” in levels of food insecurity in areas were still present even in areas where fighting has stopped. While diversification of livelihoods was associated with an improvement in food insecurity in some countries, the pattern was reverse in others. These findings suggest that households in conflict settings seesaw quickly between spreading of risk and development of a stronger income base, to desperation. These findings also invite us to empirically investigate the strong undercurrents of this instability.

2. Through what mechanisms do perceptions, definitions and experiences translate into behaviours that aids or hinders post-conflict recover?

Phase I identified a number of seeming contradictions between people’s perceptions and behaviours and touched on a number of behavioural questions. This behaviour opens up a puzzle between what people perceive their situation to be and how they act on it. Through quantitative, qualitative, and experimental methods this theme will explore how insights into perceptions, decisions and behaviour can be used to shape policies that allow for better decision-making in conflict situations, with the aim to support communal peace-building but also constructive individual choices.

3. How can more inclusive and higher quality-service delivery be achieved in fragile states while supporting evolving political settlements?

The findings from SLRC’s Phase I provide us with a number of insights on the link between service delivery and perceptions of government. Key findings highlighted that people’s satisfaction with services are not simply informed by access – but that it was their relation to services that mattered more. Furthermore, the findings highlighted fairness as a key factor in influencing service users’ perceptions of their experience.

This theme aims to provide greater insights into which investments in improving services are most likely to improve legitimacy or state/society relations by exploring asymmetries in the impact of service delivery and the role of perceptions of government. Case studies under this theme will seek to understand in more contextual detail the Phase I findings on service delivery and perceptions of government, and to explore the wider political economy role that services play in the construction of state legitimacy.

Power, Poverty and Politics in the DRC

Research and policy advice in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been good at describing the dysfunctional realities of how the country is governed, but less helpful in tackling the what, why and how questions that DFID and other donors face every day.

The DRC-PPP is a two-year research programme (January 2017 –December 2018) that seeks to develop an understanding of how outside actors might try and positively influence how DRC is governed, whilst also reducing conflict and poverty.

The programme has eight projects, each with an assigned post-doctoral researcher, that look at areas such as urban governance, the extractive sector, family planning, the decoupage of the Congolese state, and livelihoods . For more information on the DRC-PPP programme, please see the DRC country page.

How is SLRC doing the research?

At the heart of SLRC’s research is a survey on livelihoods and access to services, which also explores experiences, perceptions and expectations of the state and local governance. Round 1 of the fieldwork was carried out in 2012 and Round 2 was completed in 2015, thus providing a valuable longitudinal, panel-based perspective. The surveys are complemented by in-depth qualitative research. Full details of all SLRC publications are available here.

Developing capacity is at the core of SLRC’s approach to conducting high-quality research, and we achieve this through a combination of activities, including funding PhDs for students from the global south, holding training sessions and workshops, and facilitating collaboration between our partners (for the development of both northern and southern researchers).

SLRC also pays particular attention to mainstreaming gender throughout its work, both in terms of the content of our research (research questions, methods, analysis) as well as the way in which we carry out our work (management, staffing, uptake). In order to track performance and ensure accountability on this front, a core gender team has been established within the Consortium.

Where is SLRC working?

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is the lead organisation.

SLRC partners include: the Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) in Sri Lanka, Feinstein International Center (FIC, Tufts University), the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Pakistan, Disaster Studies of Wageningen University (WUR) in the Netherlands, the Nepal Centre for Contemporary Research (NCCR), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 

SLRC’s research focuses on eight countries, covering a range of conflict-affected situations:

  • Afghanistan
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • South Sudan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Uganda
  • Sierra Leone

What is done with SLRC’s research?

Through a combination of regular engagement with key stakeholders and disseminating compelling, accessible and relevant research outputs, we work to ensure our findings are used to facilitate better-informed policymaking and practices, and to promote spaces for dialogue.

SLRC pays particular attention to engaging with national and local governments, and national civil society, within our eight focus countries. In doing this we will leverage the strength of Consortium members by building on CEPA’s, SDPI’s and NCCR’s existing capacities and expertise at national levels, and ODI’s, Feinstein’s and Wageningen’s at an international level.

SLRC research also hopes to contribute towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, ongoing efforts by the g7+ to facilitate implementation of the New Deal and its principles, and to influence the International Dialogue on Peace-building and State-building .

How can I find out more?


Research Director: Mareike Schomerus; Programme Manager: Stephanie Buell; Research Fellow: Jessica Hagen-Zanker, Aoife McCullough, Project Officer: Laura Mertsching; Communications Officer: George Richards

Supported by


  1. Youth on the margins: in search of decent work in northern Uganda

    Research reports

  2. Tracking change in livelihoods, service delivery and governance: evidence from a 2012-2015 panel survey in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Working papers

  3. Afghanistan on the brink


  4. After Ebola: why and how capacity support to Sierra Leone’s health sector needs to change

    Research reports

  5. After Ebola: towards a smarter model of capacity building

    Briefing/policy papers

  6. Gender, youth and urban labour market participation: evidence from the catering sector in Lira, Northern Uganda

    Working papers

  7. State capacity and malnutrition: a critical analysis of capacity support to Sierra Leone's nutrition sector

    Book/book chapter

  8. Surveying livelihoods, service delivery and governance - baseline evidence from Uganda


  9. Surveying livelihoods service delivery and governance - baseline evidence from Sri Lanka

    Working papers

  10. Surveying livelihoods, service delivery and governance: baseline evidence from South Sudan

    Working papers

  11. Surveying livelihoods service delivery and governance - baseline evidence from Pakistan

    Working papers

  12. How to study livelihoods: Bringing a sustainable livelihoods framework to life

    Working papers

  13. Gambling on a better future: is international labour migration worth it?


  14. Mapping Sierra Leone’s plural health system and how people navigate it

    Briefing/policy papers

  15. Sierra Leone: Getting beyond nutrition as “a women’s issue”

    Briefing/policy papers

  16. Politics and governance in Afghanistan: the case of Nangarhar province

    Working papers

  17. Gender, youth and urban labour market participation: evidence from the tailoring sector in Kabul, Afghanistan

    Working papers

  18. Surveying livelihoods service delivery and governance - baseline evidence from Nepal

    Working papers