Risk Landscapes and International Development


Risk Doctor Briefing Series

By Magda Stepanyan

Risk Society
The Risk Doctor Partnership

The Netherlands

Everyone has their own “risk landscape”, representing a set of opportunities that we can benefit from along with challenges that can limit us or threaten our development. The risk landscape differs for each of us as individuals, and different communities, professional associations, social or ethnic groups also have their own risk landscape.

This is particularly true in the context of international aid and development. The risk landscape of a farmer in Malawi, for example, will be very different from that of a Dutch farmer. Similarly, the risk landscape of Ebola-affected communities will be different from that of a fragile community.

When we initiate a development intervention we may heighten some challenges and remove some opportunities, or vice versa. As a result, development interventions will inevitably change the risk landscape of the direct beneficiaries, as well as influencing the risk landscape of those indirectly affected. This is known as risk proliferation, a kind of ripple effect, which will result from any development intervention.

Development partners have devised structured ways to define the priority objectives of development interventions and the course of action to be taken, including LogFrame and the Theory of Change. But are the risk landscapes of those who will be impacted by the intervention also taken into account? Do we monitor the changes triggered in the risk landscapes of our beneficiaries to ensure that, ultimately, we don’t leave them worse off? Do we take responsibility for our interventions by ensuring responsiveness to the changing risk landscapes?

Development programming could intentionally consider risk landscapes by including the following simple steps in the planning process:


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About the Author



Magda Stepanyan, MA, MSc, CIRM

Risk Society

The Netherlands




Magda Stepanyan is founder & CEO of the Risk Society consultancy (http://www.risk-society.com/). She holds an MA in Sociology from Yerevan State University, Armenia, an MSc in Public Administration from Leiden University, the Netherlands, and the International Certificate in Risk Management from the Institute of Risk Management (IRM).

Magda’s expertise is in resilience programming, integrated risk management (IRM), risk-informed strategy planning and implementation, disaster and climate risk management, horizon scanning for strategy and policy development, monitoring and evaluation. She has more than 15 years of management and consultancy experience, working with organizations such as the EC, UN, WB, Red Cross, and others. In 2012 Magda authored a UNDP Technical Paper on “Risk Management for Capacity Development Facilities”.

Magda can be contacted at [email protected]