From research to practice

The project’s Philippines case study took place from the 4th until the 18th of March 2017 in several communities in the Philippines that were devastated by Typhoons Haiyan (2013) and Haima (2016). In order to reflect on our initial findings and engage with local actors who were present in the immediate aftermath of these disasters as well as those still involved in the practice of reconstruction and recovery, the PSB team organised a roundtable inviting local practitioners, academics, policymakers and affected communities and get their feedback.

It was important for us to critically reflect and engage with these important actors in how to take this research forward. Revising our initial observations and sharing them with experts in the practice and theory of shelter and disaster recovery was an important step to better understand the place of our research within the context of recovery processes in the Philippines.

By bringing such expertise together as well as the voices of some of the people who have practised (self-) recovery we hoped to (1) promote further understanding and interest in ‘self-recovery’ in the Philippines; (2) promote collective engagement and discussion on safer self-recovery; (3) share some of our initial findings from fieldwork in the Philippines and engage in knowledge exchange on how to move forward with this research; and finally (4) build a local network in the Philippines of different actors involved in the recovery process to contribute to our growing community of practice.

Outline of the day

The day began with an introduction by David Gazashvili to the work of CARE Philippines and its partners in Tacloban and Northern Luzon, followed by an introduction of the PSB team and different participants who attended the workshop. This enabled everyone to identify who was there and what expertise was represented.

The day was split into two main topics, the first being a review of the background of the project and the research questions and methodology; the second part of the day focused on the exploration of ‘(self-) recovery’ as a concept, process and practice.

Key messages from actors involved recovery in the Philippines

The first responders are those affected by disasters, here is what some of them have to say about recovery in the Philippines

Here is what those involved in the practice of disaster response had to say:

Conceptualising (self-) recovery from participants

What does (self-)recovery mean to you?

Local: There was a common understanding that the process of self-recovery initiates at the local level, the teams discussed the importance of local capacities and resources that are central to self-recovery. This theme also includes distinctions made between contexts, rural, peri-urban and urban and how these may affect self-recovery.

Control: This theme emerged from the frequency of terms such as choice, ownership, owner driven, decision-making, participation and community based.

Partnerships and approach: The discussion clearly identified a role for organisations to play in self-recovery. These changed across the groups, namely terms such as beneficiary, money, governments, humanitarian standards, multi-sector integration, response and intervention built up this theme. This discussion also touched on their different approaches, using words such as coverage, inclusivity and vulnerability.

Knowledge and Capacity: The groups discussed the role of technical knowledge, indigenous knowledge and the relationship of these with assistance and support. There was also discussion on availability of manpower and materials as defining elements of self-recovery.

Impact: There was discussion amongst teams about the ‘end result’ of self-recovery, relating to building resilience, a sense of normality, empowerment, self-sufficiency, basic needs met and the capacity to deal with future challenges.

Other terms that also emerged in the discussion were:
Aspirations, sense of security, dreams, goals,  livelihoods, housing, environmental and hazard-related security, planning, health and psychological security, learning, good practices, revenue streams, supply chains, levels of government assistance.

Exploring the practical implications of an approach that seeks to support (self-)recovery

Participants engaged in a series of discussions around the following questions:

  • What has to change in humanitarian practice to support self-recovery?
  • What are the implications of a self-recovery approach in terms of sector integration? What are the opportunities and challenges?
  • How might a self-recovery approach enhance the opportunity for longer-term developmental impacts?


A full report on the workshop was distributed to participants with the initial conclusions from the discussion.

Self-Recovery in the Philippines: Reflections on our research
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