When coastal hazards bear down on seaside informal settlements in developing communities, residents are often mandated to relocate to inland socialized housing projects. Such involuntary mass-relocation to previously undeveloped land, where large numbers of households are transferred to settlements they consider significantly distant from their original community, often fail to adequately separate communities from natural hazards and expose their lives and livelihoods to new stresses. Humanitarians often advocate against relocation, but it remains the top choice for governments recovering from a disaster, especially in low and middle-income countries. In this disconnect, there is a break between process and outcome. Little is known about relocation implementation processes that precede relocation outcomes, creating a gap wherein narrow and inadequate relocation attempts are repeated. 

The objective of this research, therefore, is to investigate relocation implementation decision-making, comparatively evaluate project process and outcomes, and, finally, to strengthen recovery at relocation sites through community outreach and engagement.


  • United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) Humanitarian Shelter and Settlements Fellowship 

  • National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)

  • CU Boulder Office for Outreach and Engagement

Research Questions

  • How is relocation implementation decision making influenced by the overarching recovery institution?
  • What are the discrepancies between relocation policy and its implementation, and how does the implementation process evolve?
  • Have relocated community members experienced (1) decreased exposure or (2) increased preparedness, and if so, in what ways?
  • What leads to recovery at relocation sites?

Research Methods

Centered around relocation following Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines, our research is progressing in four phases. First, drawing on extensive participant observations and interviews with decision-makers, we examined the contextual institutional environment influencing relocation decision making. The institutional environment is overlooked in recovery studies, despite its ability to constrain implementation processes. In addition to the macro-level institutional environment, there is also a need to expand empirical investigations of how decision-makers prioritize objectives and manage constraints throughout the planning, design, and construction of household and community infrastructure. In the second phase, we systematically compared post-disaster relocation policy to implementation though classic content analysis. Combined, the first two phases build knowledge of the contextual and decision-making environment driving relocation outcomes. 

While implementation is itself an under-researched area, there is a disconnect between implementation processes and site-level outcomes.  Zooming in to the project-level, we conducted a comparative survey of over 900 households across 13 different Tacloban City sites. Coupled with over 100 in-depth semi-structured community interviews, this third phases of research provides a comprehensive picture of both socioeconomic and built environment outcomes at relocation sites. We are challenging the core assumption of relocation -- that it inevitably reduces risk -- by comparing prior exposure and preparedness to that experienced at relocation sites. Finally, building off results from the first three research questions, we will investigate what combinations of various institutional, decision making, and risk factors contribute to recovery at relocation communities. 


Few studies of post-disaster relocation attend to decision making throughout relocation. Most commonly, studies critique the decision to relocate, or the state of relocation upon move-in, largely in an allegorical sense, passing over the intermediary phases of planning, design, construction, and pre-move beneficiary participation and management. Little is known about the relocation implementation decision-making process, including the diverse range of actors involved in the decisions, what constraints they face from their institutional environment, what responsibilities they take on, how they prioritize their tasks and options, or coordinate and negotiate with each other. Furthermore, we will uncover comparative outcomes at relocation sites and trace them to variations in their implementation, identifying opportunities to improve recovery. 


  • Palagi, S., and Javernick-Will, A. (2019). “Institutional Constraints Influencing Relocation Decision Making and Implementation.” International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 33:310-320. 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2018.10.016.

  • Palagi, S. and A. Javernick-Will (2020). "Discrepancies between post-disaster relocation policy and implementation" Journal of Management in Engineering. 36(4).

  • Palagi, S. and Javernick-Will, A. (2020) “Pathways to livable relocation settlements following disaster”. Sustainability. 12(8), 3474; 10.3390/su12083474