The impact of protracted crises on attitudes and aspirations


Describe the evidence on the impact of protracted crises on people’s attitudes and aspirations. Describe the scope of approaches and methods to understanding attitudes and aspirations in international development. Review the current initiatives to understand and respond to attitudes and aspirations in Uganda and Karamoja.


The review draws on both academic and grey literature, which reflects the variety of approaches to understanding attitudes and aspirations and how they are formed. Of particular importance are discussions of social norms, networks and capital and how these shape relations between individuals and groups and thus influence the formation and evolution of attitudes and aspirations. Despite the evidence for the importance of social norms, networks and capital, much of the existing qualitative and quantitative research on their role in crisis has focused on quick-onset events, such as natural disasters. Much less empirical research exists on precisely how social connections influence attitudes and aspirations in contexts of protracted crisis.

Key findings of this report include:

  • Conflict and crisis can transform existing economic or socio-cultural practices (e.g. on livelihoods, social norms, community power dynamics etc.), which can have a profound effect on attitudes and aspirations. ‘Cultural depression’ has been used to describe the major disruption to norms and values, including attitudes and aspirations, that crisis-affected people and societies face.
  • There is a need to move beyond the conflict and post-conflict frameworks that dominate analysis in the Karamoja region as new challenges emerge. More knowledge on the changing dynamics of Karamoja society, and people’s attitudes and aspirations on issues such as gender norms and violence, is required to inform future programming.

The report includes examples of approaches and methods for understanding attitudes and aspirations in international development from programmes in South Africa, the Great Lakes region, Zambia, Rwanda, Yemen and Syria.

Examples of initiatives to understand and explore attitudes and aspirations of the people in Karamoja include: a DFID-funded strategy review, a conflict assessment and a gender and conflict analysis toolkit test from Saferworld, analysis from Human Rights Watch and research about issues such as male youth engagement, urban migration, and the impact of armed conflict.

Suggested citation

Avis, W. (2016). The impact of protracted crises on attitudes and aspirations (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1,388). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.