Community members providing reciprocal support for housing reconstruction, Budhathum, Dhading District, Nepal 2017

The majority of disaster affected communities self-recover.. Families and communities rebuild using their own resources with little or no support from outside agencies. Research shows that the number of shelters constructed by aid agencies within the first year after a major disaster is likely to meet about 15% of shelter needs and is often less[1]. As a result, rebuilt homes incorporate the same vulnerabilities, poor building practice and hazardous siting.

This initiative seeks to achieve safer homes and more resilient communities by developing and promoting evidence-based research and practice to support the inevitable process of self-recovery after disasters. The project is a collaboration between the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), CARE International UK, EPICentre, British Geological Survey (BGS), Loughborough University and a growing community of practice that includes NGOs, academia, policy-makers and the private sector.

The work of PSB (in co-leadership with CRAterre) has been adopted by the Global Shelter Cluster (GSC) as a Working Group. The Working Group’s main purpose is to address the needs of those who self-build by understanding their recovery processes, learning from best construction practices, and improving technology transfer and public education approaches for promoting safer construction before and after disasters. Through the Working Group the research and guidance developed by the team is disseminated to a wide network of humanitarian practitioners across the globe. The ‘supporting self-recovery’ approach was championed and tested by CARE Philippines in their shelter programming after Typhoon Haiyan, which won the 2017 World Habitat Award.


Working Paper Self-Recovery from disasters: An interdisciplinary perspective (2017)

Report Resilience Scan  January – March 2017 (2017)

Article The case for Self-Recovery (2017)

Article Whose Recovery? Power, roles and ownership in humanitarian shelter assistance (2017)

Article Mapping (self-) recovery: reflections on people’s trajectories, perceptions and aspirations of recovery in the Philippines (2017)

Report Stories of Recovery (2016)

In addition to the above, the PSB team and CARE Country partners have participated in several high profile conferences around the world.

Looking at urban environments, Lalitpur, Nepal 2017

Objectives and Activities

The team is now in the second phase of its programme. The first phase developed and tested inter-disciplinary research methods, collected evidence from the field and established a community of practice. A major output of this phase has been a working paperSelf-Recovery from disasters: An interdisciplinary perspective” (2017). The second phase will build on evidence gathered from the first phase with further research focused on urban environments. It will develop tools and guidance that bridge the gap between the theory and practice of supporting safer self-recovery.

Our objectives are:

  1. To take an interdisciplinary approach to develop a joint understanding of how scientific, engineering and construction knowledge currently support or could support the self-recovery process and how this can be improved in future.
  2. To identify key gaps in knowledge and understanding of self-recovery after disasters to inform future research.
  3. To build on and improve analytical methods for understanding self-recovery after disasters. Identify drivers for, and barriers to, self-recovery and inform decision-making about how humanitarian actors can intervene to effectively and meaningfully support self-recovery and construction of safer houses.
  4. To identify and develop implementation tools and guidance needed to undertake programmes that support self-recovery of safer shelter.
  5. To build on the growing network of multi-disciplinary actors to collaborate on research, development and dissemination of knowledge, tools and good practice.
  6. To disseminate the findings of the research through existing humanitarian and academic networks, through the global network of CARE country offices and through workshops and conferences.
Reconstruction and densification, Dhading District, Nepal, 2017

Specific activities to achieve these objectives include:

  1. Two multidisciplinary case studies of post-disaster responses in urban environments of the Philippines (2013 Typhoon Haiyan) and Nepal (2015 Gorkha earthquake).
  2. Science, engineering and humanitarian symposia held in the respective countries. Particular effort will be made to include local partners.
  3. A conference in the UK to conclude this phase of the study and discuss plans for future work.
  4. Several discipline and multi-discipline peer-reviewed papers (engineering aspects of self-reconstruction; differences between rural and urban self-reconstruction; influence of physical environment on urban self-recovery; role of geoscience in self-recovery; recovery interventions; synthesis paper)
  5. Further (multi-)discipline reports/articles/briefing papers for policy/practitioner audiences
  6. Developing technical advice and support for self-recovery programmes in disaster response through CARE International’s country offices, Working Group activities and other initiatives from partners in the network.
  7. Continued active involvement in the work of the Global Shelter Cluster Working Group and the production of a protocol for arriving at adequate, appropriate and timely Build Back Safer/Better messages.
  8. The incorporation of learning into UCL Earthquake Engineering MSc course.

Continued engagement in international and cross-disciplinary learning by participating in conferences and academic learning organised within and outside the community of practice.



[1] Parrack, C, Flinn, B and Passey, M (2014) Getting the Message Across for Safer Self-Recovery in Post-Disaster Shelter. Open House International Vol39 No3 p 48.


PSB2 What we are doing and where we are going with the research…
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