Benefits-Harm Profile Tool

  • Objective: To stimulate discussion between those who know and think about community profiles on a daily basis and those who often know or think less about such issues but are responsible for making program decisions.
  • Materials/Preparation: Benefits-Harms Handbook Profile Tools.
  • Participants: It often involves not only field staff, but staff at various positions across the organization. If teams do decide to use tools with communities, teams must consider how communities may interpret or react to sensitive questions.


The team should decide whether one plans to fill in all three tools, or to use the tools selectively to fill in particular knowledge gaps.

As a team, the tools can be used to organize internal discussions about community profiles across the organization, and can be used before a project commences or after it has begun.

Tools include:

Political Profile Tools

I. Political and Social Groups in the Community


Identify the political or social groups in the community

Which individuals/groups have power/influence?

Racial, color, tribe, caste, language or ethnic groups Identify the key groups based on race, color, ethnicity, tribe, national, geographic or social origin. The aim here is to help identify potential discrimination issues. E.g. Seventy percent are Tamil. IDPs from Nuba make up 30% of the community. Identify power brokers from these groups. Give specific identities if you can. E.g. Chief X, or Elder Y.
Political, religious or social change groups Identify the political, armed or religious groups in the community. Focus in particular on majorities with power, and minorities that may be marginalized. E.g. Eighty percent are Christian while traditionalists/animists are marginalized minority. DP is the main opposition party. Identify key leaders from these political or religious groups. E.g. Ivan Torulya is the local head of X Party.
Age, gender, sexual orientation or physically disabled Identify any unusual characteristics about the demographic groups in the community. Are there any groups that are over or under-represented? E.g. Very few young men are in the community. Ten percent of children are amputees. Are there key individuals/groups representing women, children, gays, or the disabled?

II. Political Power and Discrimination


Identify the political or social groups in the community

Which group(s) in the community have most resources/ power? What are the sources of their power? Consider all groups identified in the above question. Identify those that have more power than others. Consider where they get the source of their power? Is it traditional, economic, political, social, racism or groupism of any form? Is it through physical intimidation or force of arms? E.g. X religious authorities exert pervasive control over all aspects of the community's political life.
Which group(s) have least access to resources/power? Do they face discrimination? Why have they been marginalized? Consider all groups identified in the above question and add explanation if necessary. Identify those that have been marginalized or discriminated against. Consider why they are being marginalized. E.g. Women have no access to land. They are not entitled to own or inherit land. This practice is excused as inherent to the X tribe's traditional values and family norms.


III. Community Political Rights and Freedoms
Are people protected equally and fairly by the law? Do they have rights to a fair trial that treats them as innocent until proven guilty? Which people or groups have more or less than equal protection by the law and its agents E.g. The police, the judiciary and other agents of government? Do people have the right to a fair trial, and are they treated as innocent until proven guilty? E.g. In practice, women, particularly in cases of sexual assault, do not have adequate or equal protection of the law. The criminal justice system is totally corrupt-you get what you pay for, including freedom.
How does the community participate politically? Are there free and fair elections? What are the mechanisms that people use to voice their political views (both at the community level and regionally/nationally)? Do they have representatives? How do they elect those representatives? How do political decisions get made? Are these mechanisms free and fair? E.g. The tribal elders remain the most influential politically. They are nominated and elected by the elders' council. The council makes all decisions by achieving consensus that it then shares with the community for endorsement.
How free are people to gather together to share ideas or form organizations or groups? Describe any important restrictions that exist on the ability to form groups of any sort--community based groups, NGOs, trade unions, faith based groups. Describe any restrictions on gatherings or meetings--are there restrictions on who, when or how many people can meet at one time? E.g. One cannot form an NGO or even hold a meeting without a license.
How free are people to express their political or ideological opinions, or practice the religion of their choice? Describe any important restrictions on political or religious activities. Certain groups may be discriminated against, sporadically or in an ad hoc way. E.g. Y group is prevented from practicing their religion. Anyone who voices sympathy for X opposition group can be arrested.

Security Profile Tools

I. Inter-Community Conflict
What are the main forms of conflict between community members and others outside the community? Who are the main adversaries (enemies) of the community? Identify all groups involved. Describe the form of conflict as well. E.g. Government security forces, army, rebel factions, police, informal militias, or ethnic/clan/tribal/religious groups. Forms of conflict may be constant, sporadic, seasonal or resource-dependent. It may be small or large scale.
What are the stated reasons for the conflict? It could be a war of political liberation, conflict over resources, suppression of opposition groups, or tribal animosity/hatred. E.g. Acholi and Karamajong have history of tension, based on cattle raiding and control of land.
How do(es) this conflict(s) directly impact community members? Consider both concrete and hidden impacts. E.g. In terms of physical impact, it may result in widespread sexual assault, displacement or restricted freedom of movement, or cause loss of lives or livelihoods. Psychologically, it may cause fear, depression, fatalism, or hostility.


II. Conflict between Groups in the Community


Group(s) & Explanation

What are the main forms of conflict within the community? Here we are looking for group based conflict within the community. Which groups are in tension with each other? E.g. There may be tensions between political, tribal, ethnic or other social groups that present an ongoing significant physical threat to persons or property. What forms does the conflict take? E.g. Is it sporadic or systematic, widespread or limited to certain groups?
What are the stated reasons for the conflict? What reasons do different community members give for the conflict? E.g. There may be conflict over resources or power, or there may be traditional practices of oppression of a particular group.
How do(es) this internal conflict(s) directly impact community members? Again, consider both concrete and hidden impacts. E.g. In terms of physical impact, it may result in widespread domestic violence, abuse of children, or sexual assault. Psychologically, it may cause fear, depression, fatalism, or hostility.


III. Conflict Resolution Profile
What are the forms of conflict resolution, and judicial enforcement relied upon by the community, both legal/judicial and/or traditionally/cultural? Are they effective and fair? Describe important conflict resolution and judicial protection systems. The aim is not a review of the systems so much as an evaluation of what works and what doesn't. E.g. Do existing conflict resolution methods achieve their goals? If not, why not? Does the local justice system punish the guilty and provide protection to the innocent?

Economic, Social and Cultural Profile Tools

I. Key Economic Assets/Deficits in the Community

The rights to...

Assets, Capabilities

Deficits & Vulnerabilities

Work & adequate income What are the major sources of income, types of employment and/or skill base in the community? What are the levels of poverty or unemployment? What skills are missing? Which groups are particularly poor or have high unemployment?
A healthy environment What are the most important environmental assets belonging to the community? What are the natural resources most relied upon? What are the major environmental problems: pollution, overpopulation, etc?
Health & health care What are the major practices for maintaining health? What are the available health services, both medical and traditional? What are major health concerns, shortcomings in health services?

II. Social Attitudes
Which groups have a significant number of members that show these capacities: self reliance, independence, confidence, partnership, shared values, cooperation, mutual respect. In addition to any groups that come to mind immediately, you may want to consider all those groups identified by using the political profile tool. E.g. Many women and settled groups are more self-reliant, more interested in self-help. Most leaders work together well, especially community elders.
Which groups have a significant number of members that show these vulnerabilities: dependency, fatalism, lack of confidence or energy, distrust, hostility, fear, lack of shared values. Again, you may want also to consider the groups from the political profile. E.g. Most IDPs lack confidence and seem less interested in engagement. Some of the X religious group are very fatalistic. Social norms have broken down for young men. Many community members are very distrustful of most outsiders, including aid actors.

III. Cultural Practices and Coping Mechanisms
What are the key traditional ways in which the community has addressed project-related needs? The "project-related needs" are the issues which the project aims to address. For a health project, for example, the community might have traditionally sought out traditional healers.

Rights, Responsibilities and Underlying Causes

I. Identify the Issue to be Considered

Identify the symptom or issue

Identify the human rights concern most closely related to the symptom

Note here the issue or concern you identified from your use of the profile tools. What is the human rights issue that has been raised? E.g. The community's right to/freedom from X is being denied.


II. Analyzing Actions, Attributes and Artifices


Issues & human rights concerns

Who is responsible for this situation?

What are the actions, or failures of action, that led to this human rights concern? What actions or failures to act led to the problem?

What human right was denied through this action or inaction?

Which person(s) or body(ies) caused the concern?

Which person(s) or body(ies) is/are responsible for addressing the concern/human rights issue?

What are the attitudes or behaviors that caused these actions? What behaviors or attitudes caused the actions above?

What human rights concern(s) do these behaviors or attitudes reveal? Which person(s) or body(ies) is/are responsible for these behaviors and attitudes?

Which person(s) or body(ies) is/are responsible for addressing this concern/human rights issue?
What artifices, (systems or structures) cause these behaviors or attitudes?
What systems or structures cause, reinforce, enable, or perpetuate these attitudes or behaviors?

What human right was denied through this action or inaction?

Which person(s) or body(ies) is/are responsible for causing the failure of these systems or structures?

Which person(s) or body(ies) is/are responsible for addressing the concern/human rights issue?