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Organizations and Participatory Development: Post-disaster Recovery in Haiti


Participatory approaches increasingly are being emphasized in post-disaster recovery projects. Many organizations engaged in this work promote the use of a participatory approach as if it were a single solution, even though the ways in which they engage local communities often varies significantly. Research focused on the variation in participatory approaches, especially for post-disaster recovery development efforts, is scarce in the literature and, thus, we know little about the impacts of different approaches on the post-disaster recovery process. In an effort to fill these gaps, the central aims of this study are to better understand the use of participatory approaches by organizations in the post-disaster setting, determine the influence of various participatory approaches on the post-disaster recovery process, and to contribute to development theory and practice. Specifically, this is done by utilizing the capabilities approach, as developed by Sen (1999) and expanded by others in the literature, as an evaluative framework for assessing the impacts of variations in participatory approaches towards post-disaster recovery.

Haiti, near the capital city of Port-au-Prince, was rocked by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake on January 12, 2010, bringing death, destruction and chaos to an already poor and vulnerable community. A large influx of organizations responded to this disaster shortly after the earthquake. Many of these organizations, as well as more recent groups, continue to work on recovery projects in Haiti. For this reason, the country presents an excellent case for assessing the work of a large number of post-disaster recovery initiatives working in the same context.

This study uses a multi phased, mixed method approach including survey methods, statistical analyses, and interviews with organizational representatives and community members affiliated with organizations working in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. The research results focus on contributing to the organizations, planning, and hazards literatures in an effort to improve the work undertaken by organizations in the post-disaster setting.

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