The Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA) is one of the five tools used to assess the proposed measures in each of the RISC-KIT case studies with respect to criteria that capture the key dimensions of the decision-making process. The purpose of the MCA is to bridge the disciplinary divide between engineering sciences and social sciences, facilitate the communication and dissemination of project results to a broad audience, and to integrate scientific knowledge with local knowledge with the purpose of improving the assessment of coastal risks.

Based on the RISC-KIT Results on MCA and RISC KIT Deliverable 4.2 – Evaluation of DRR plans.

General description

MCA methodologies have been widely applied in environmental studies as they have proven useful tools when assessing performance of options against criteria that are difficult to quantify and involve qualitative aspects. In RISC-KIT, MCA is used in three ways: 1) as a way facilitate the communication and presentation of project results in a coherent and contextualized manner to relevant local stakeholders and decision-makers; 2) as a way to capture other types of knowledge, such as local every-day experiences, socio-economic and political factors that might affect how the proposed measures are perceived; and 3) as a way of facilitating interaction between local stakeholders and raising awareness of risks and potential measures.

Results from the implementation of the MCA in RISC-KIT cases highlights several key lessons for future DRR projects with regards to a) the importance of sufficient preparation for participatory sessions; b) stakeholder interaction and inclusion in the DRR projects; c) the way research results are presented to non-research communities; d) and the challenges of implementing single-approaches to diverse contexts.

In RISC-KIT MCAs are used to decide, among many options, which is the most convenient for most stakeholders in terms of a set of criteria (i.e. in flood and coastal risk management decisions can involve the construction of a flood alleviation channel or dredging a river, or harder engineering solution like the construction of barriers or dams). For RISC-KIT, an own MCA methodology is used to evaluate DRR strategies with respect to criteria that capture the key dimensions of the decision-making problem, involving human judgment and preferences (Saarikoski et al. 2015). MCA is about determining the extent to which options create value by achieving objectives, identify the areas of greater and lesser opportunity, prioritize the options, clarify the differences between the options, and help the key players to understand the situation better. Ultimately the use of the MCA in the project would allow each case study to test assumptions on the dynamics between DRR measures, between these measures and the specific social contexts, as reaction and responses from local actors to these measures. Outweighing different DRR measures in different contexts implies that different criteria need to be considered in order to assess which option is the best, for whom, for what, and when.

Selection of criteria

Criteria have been selected based on a literature review of the most important factors when contemplating, planning, financing, and implementing DRR measures. Studies identify factors such as social acceptance, political will, availability of financial resources and technological know-how, as crucial for increased investments in DRR measures (Davis et al. 2015). For the MCAs in RISC-KIT, three main categories of criteria were selected: Feasibility, Acceptability, and Sustainability. Feasibility refers to that (human, technical, time, and financial) resources required to implement the measure are available or can be acquired, whether the proposed measures address underlying concerns in society, whether the proposed location for implementing the measures is suitable for local needs and plans, and whether the proposed measure could have positive or negative impacts (e.g economic) to society at large. Acceptability refers to the expectations of stakeholders and recipients in the case studies sites. These actors may include civil society, interest groups, and influential individuals in society. Sustainability addresses the relevance of the measures in the present and future, its impact upon human activity and ecosystems, and the resilience of the measures to future changes.


The MCA was carried in a workshop format and consisted of five steps:

  1. Interactively present preliminary DRR measures from model results and agree on Strategic Alternatives: The MCA carried out in RISC-KIT was informed by the results produced through the Bayesian Network regarding the effectiveness of DRR measures to coastal risks. Through the use of the interactive materials, stakeholders were able to learn how the different measures behaved in light of different risk scenarios and their effectiveness in preventing coastal hazards like floods and erosion. Hereon, stakeholders had the possibility to collectively agree on the Strategic Alternatives (i.e., combinations of measures) that would be scored in the MCA
  2. Score measures against criteria: Stakeholders assessed the performance of each Strategic Alternatives (SA) against criteria (e.g. how feasible/sustainable/acceptable/suitable are sand dunes as a measure to prevent coastal erosion in your area?) by first assigning a value ranging between -2 and +2, to each criterion per SA, on an individual basis. Once stakeholders had assigned all scores, they used colored post-it’s with pre-assigned values (-2 to +2) to write their individual scores once again, but this time make them public to the other stakeholders by pasting in a MCA flip chart. Once all scores were visible, stakeholders could engage in a facilitated discussion and agree on one score per criteria. In those cases where consensus could not be reached, individual scores were instead averaged.
  3. Weigh criteria: to indicate criteria’s importance relative to the objective of the process (e.g., what criterion is most important to consider if sand dunes were to be implemented to reduce coastal erosion?). This was done through 2 main steps: first, stakeholders were handed out 8 stickers each which needed to be distributed on an individual basis in between the three criteria to indicate their importance. The more stickers a criterion received the heavier its weights. The second step took place once stakeholders had assigned individual weights. Each participant indicated the individual weights on the MCA flip chart so that they would be visible to the group. Thereafter the group engaged in a facilitate discussion to agree on a weight per criteria. Equal weights could be given to more than one criterion; however, it is common in MCA to give different weightings to different options, reflecting their importance in the overall objectives. In those cases were consensus was not reached, weights were averaged. Criteria were only weighted once, as it is assumed that their importance is constant across all SAs.
  4. Calculate weighted scores of criteria: for each measure by multiplying scores times the weight for each criterion for all measures.
  5. Generate sums per measure by adding the weighted scores for all criteria per SA and entering the total value in the row titled “SUMS” at the end of the MCA Matrix. The SA will the highest weighted scores was stakeholders’ preferred alternative. Picture 1 shows an example of a complete MCA.
Measure category