The use of Data Envelopment Analysis to calculate priority scores in needs assessments

Benini, A.
Publication language
Date published
08 Jul 2015
Tools, guidelines and methodologies
Evaluation-related, Needs assessment, Research methodology, Targeting, Identification and Profiling
Philippines, Syria

This note introduces the concept and use of a scoring method called "Data Envelopment Analysis" (DEA) method as a tool for identifying humanitarian priorities (i.e. affected communities, geographical areas or sectors), using examples from Syria and Philippines.

In humanitarian action, "setting priorities is part of strategic response planning" (UNOCHA 2014). This is a difficult task. Numerous tools have been developed to aid it, but a universally suitable algorithm to establish priority indices has not been established.
This note introduces a method known as Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) as a tool for computing priority measures for affected communities, sites or social groups. It is attractive because it circumvents some of the issues in classic index formation altogether. It avoids pre-defined indicator normalisation, weights and aggregation functions in favor of data-driven parameters. It is attractive also because a freeware application is available that works closely with MS Excel, the workhorse of humanitarian data analysis.

In addition to the technical note, demo workbooks are available here.