Listening Exercise Report from Tamil Nadu, Southern India

Publication date: 7 September 2012
Author: Isabella Jean, CDA Collaborative Learning Projects on behalf of Oxfam

How did Oxfam assistance make a difference in people’s lives during and after the Asian tsunami of 2004?

As part of its commitment to ongoing learning, Oxfam International has made the decision to engage in learning on issues of long-term sustainability and impact within the response of Oxfam and the wider aid community to the Asian tsunami of 2004. In the period following the phase out of humanitarian programs from tsunami-affected regions, multiple program evaluations and reviews were commissioned and carried out by Oxfam affiliates.

To complement the findings from these earlier evaluations and to specifically examine long-term effects of humanitarian assistance, Oxfam International initiated its long-term tsunami evaluation from 2011. Though a wider program of evaluations was initially planned for India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia, including a technical review in Aceh, the India Listening Exercise has been the first longitudinal evaluation to take place.

The Listening Exercise aims to improve Oxfam’s understanding of long-term effects and sustainability issues associated with humanitarian aid by listening to the opinions and experiences of aid recipients and others in affected communities. This evidence-gathering approach is referred to as a ‘listening exercise’.



The broad lines of inquiry guiding the listening conversations with beneficiaries were informed by the areas of focus identified in Oxfam International’s Strategic Plan (2007-13), with an additional focus on resilience:

  • Overall Impact: How has Oxfam’s tsunami response contributed to making a difference in people’s lives? If not possible to identify specifically for Oxfam, has international assistance contributed to making a difference in people’s lives?
  • Gender and Social Equity: How has Oxfam/international assistance contributed to improved (or worsened) equity?
  • Policy and Practice Changes: Where and how has Oxfam/ international assistance contributed to achieving changes in policies and practices, and ideas and beliefs? Where has this not been the case (or less so)?
  • Partnerships: Where, if at all, has Oxfam/international assistance contributed to strengthening its partners, governments, or other actors (including private sector actors) to promote more active citizenship and progressive social change; in holding others – including Oxfam - to account; and in achieving the above? (and where is this less the case or may not have happened?)
  • Capacity and Resilience: How, if at all, has beneficiaries’ capacity to respond to future emergencies/resilience improved since the tsunami (with or without the support of external actors?)

This report highlights the key themes that emerged during the conversations and draws broad lessons from this visit which will help prompt further reflection and analysis across Oxfam on these important issues.

This paper was written by Isabella Jean of CDA Collaborative Learning Projects on behalf of Oxfam. Oxfam acknowledges the assistance of CDA in its production. ¦