Threats brainstorm: assessing risk: threats, vulnerabilities, capacities

Group exercise review
Required materials: 
Flipchart with definitions of ‘capacity’, ‘risk’, ‘threat’ and ‘vulnerability’ as well as the risk assessment formula.

This provides an introduction to and an explanation of the following group exercise.

Key explanation points:

Facilitators select two key threats from the group (either raised in previous discussions or during the discussion after the threats presentation). These are the ‘what’. Write them up on the flipchart. Ensure that one threat is a traditional ‘public’ threat and that the other is a ‘private’ threat.

Then, as an example for the following exercise, facilitators should ask the group to analyse:

  • who are the sources of the threat; and
  • the ‘why’ – what is behind the threat.

Next, ask the group to list the:

  • capacities to address the threat; and
  • vulnerabilities to the threat.

Ask the group to assess the level of risk that these threats pose, given their list of capacities and vulnerabilities. They can refer to the Threshold of acceptable risk handout.23

Alternative option:

In addition to these questions, ask the group to describe the potential impact/consequences of the threat – that is, if the threat is realised, what will happen in the ‘public’ sphere and the ‘private’ sphere?

Example structure: 






Risk level

Graffiti on the wall next to the house of a woman human rights defender, denouncing her as a Western spy or saying she is rich

Local criminal groups, probably encouraged or paid by the government

To discredit her, ruin her reputation in the community

Access to media, international support

Neighbours already uncomfortable, family is nervous


Harassment at a checkpoint that she has to cross every week to get to villages


To intimidate her, extort money

Good reputation and support from villagers

Often travelling alone, transport is unreliable


  • 23. Using the model adapted from Van Brabant, K. (2000) Operational Security Management in Violent Environments, Good Practice Review No. 8, Humanitarian Practice Network (HPN), Overseas Development Institute, London. http://www.odihpn.org/report.asp?id=2108 See Part Three: Facilitator's Toolkit.