Ranking is a participatory tool used to determine WASH priorities, identify problem areas or assess people`s expectations, beliefs, judgements, preferences and opinions. It is most commonly used as a tool for Assessment (chapter [A]) and, to some extent, as a tool for Monitoring [M.2].
In a Ranking exercise, participants express their views on specific health and hygiene-related issues and prioritise them (usually on a numerical scale such as 1-10). Ranking is a quick way to assess the affected community’s hygiene practices, prioritise interventions and get people discussing hygiene issues. It can help identify common practices or perceptions of single hygiene measures. It rapidly highlights key findings while providing the opportunity for deeper analysis. Ranking with a community can strengthen community engagement and acceptance of hygiene measures; it allows many people to participate. Participants consider multiple criteria simultaneously, prompting trade-offs and compromises to reach a decision. The facilitator first defines the scope of the issue in question and determines the Ranking scale or continuum using, for example, a line drawn on the ground or paper. Participants are then encouraged to rank the options along the continuum in an order that reflects their relative importance. The facilitator then encourages further discussion asking if everyone agrees with the positioning and why or why not. In a group, the aim is to keep adjusting the Ranking until a final order is agreed. Simple Ranking assigns a rank to a list of items, e.g. of diseases according to their severity. Pairwise Ranking uses a matrix to compare items, e.g. each disease, in turn with all the others to identify the most important. The results can be different to simple Ranking and prompt more in-depth discussion about why one disease is more important than another.
Ranking exercises can be applied in all response phases and in a variety of contexts with different target groups. Ranking is a simple and easy tool that makes use of locally available materials such as stones or twigs. Ranking is a quick method of gathering data and understanding issues from the participant’s point of view. It can stimulate discussion, or reach a consensus on people’s priorities, or compare the priorities of different user groups with each other.
Have a good facilitator to stimulate discussion and obtain accurate information
Ensure that everyone in the interest group is involved and integrated into the Ranking process
Make sure findings are recorded, shared, discussed and used
Do not generalise the data produced and apply it to a wider population
Ranking exercises were used as part of a gender, gender based violence and inclusion audit in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. Participants held up a card representing a specific group (e.g. adolescent boy, male with a disability, woman over 65 years). The group then ranked the difficulty the individuals might face to manage their WASH needs, moving people from their relative position and explaining why they had done so. By the end of the exercise, adolescent girls and boys had been placed at opposite ends of the scale, with girls ranked as having the most difficulty managing their needs. This provoked significant discussion and recommendations on how better to support them.
IFRC (undated): Enhanced VCA Toolbox Including a Variety of Participatory Tools
SSWM (undated): Problem and Preference Ranking
Ager, A., Stark, L. et al. (2010): Participative Ranking Methodology: A Brief Guide, ALNAP
House, S. (2019): Strengthening the Humanity in Humanitarian Action in the Work of the WASH Sector in the Rohingya Response. Gender, GBV and Inclusion Audit of the Work of the WASH Sector and Capacity Development Assessment
House, S. (2018): Guidance and Tips for Learning from People Who May Be Most Disadvantaged During the Programme Process, WSSCC Global Sanitation Fund