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The purpose of our study is to explore the social construction of authority in disaster relief coordination. We emphasize the ways in which stakeholders draw upon various discursive resources in order to establish or preserve their authority to act within a certain problem domain. We review literature on authority, coordination, communication, and collaborative work to provide a theoretical framework that informs our empirical examples. Next we present a case study of disaster relief coordination in the Philippines following Typhoon Yolanda (known internationally as Haiyan). Our case focuses on home reconstruction in the Cebu province of the Central Visayas region of the Philippines, one of the areas hardest hit by the storm where most of the homes were destroyed or severely damaged. This case demonstrates organizations do not have authority within this problem domain, but instead construct authority through practice and sensemaking in order to accomplish a variety of individual and collective goals; authority is in a constant state of negotiation as various organizations coordinate with each other (or not) to provide effective disaster relief. We conclude with a discussion about the contributions and implications of our research.

Koschmann, M., Kopczynski, J., Opdyke, A., and Javernick-Will, A. (2017). “Constructing Authority in Disaster Relief Coordination.” Electronic Journal of Communication. 29 (1-2).