Sustainable infrastructure that is used and maintained by communities over time, and resilient to hazards, is sorely needed in developing countries where disasters cause disproportionate damages and mortality as well as impede development efforts. Shelter is universally recognized as a foundational element of disaster recovery; and while its ability to provide protection from the elements is a core function, it also affords broader social and economic benefits. Unfortunately, conventional approaches in post-disaster shelter reconstruction focus primarily on rapid and recognizable results over long-term outcomes, perpetuating pre-existing vulnerabilities and failing to provide acceptable standards of service. There exists a need to better understand how shelter recovery processes employed by stakeholders lead to eventual infrastructure system outcomes.

This research longitudinally analyzed 19 humanitarian shelter projects following Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines over a three-year period, seeking to answer the overarching research question of what combinations of coordination, stakeholder participation and training across project delivery phases lead to resilient and sustainable community infrastructure systems? A multi-method approach consisting of case study methods and fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) was employed to analyze the impact of combinations of project processes in leading to infrastructure outcomes. This research:

  1. identified key factors influencing inter-organizational coordination in post-disaster contexts

  2. identified types of household participation that arise in shelter projects and analyzed their impact on project outcomes

  3. identified methods of construction training used in shelter projects and their impact on household knowledge acquisition

  4. analyzed combinations of coordination, participation, and training across the planning, design, and construction phases of shelter projects that led to infrastructure resilience and sustainability, in isolation and combination

The results contribute to understanding of shelter processes and organizing structures necessary for resilient and sustainable systems, building theory of reconstruction process pathways. Practically, findings can aid practitioners identify more effective modalities of delivering shelter assistance in post-disaster humanitarian response.


Research Questions

  • How do post-disaster inter-organizational communication practices influence coordination boundaries?

  • What types of household participation occur in post-disaster shelter projects? How, and when, do different types of participation affect post-disaster shelter outcomes?

  • What construction training methods are used in humanitarian shelter projects? How do training methods impact the acquisition of household construction knowledge?

  • What combinations of coordination, stakeholder participation, and training in different project phases lead to resilient and sustainable infrastructure systems?

Research Methods

A multi-phased, mixed-methods approach was used to collect and analyze data on the processes and networks from Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), which struck the Philippines in November of 2013. Phase 1 identified key players coordinating infrastructure reconstruction. Ego-centric network analysis then mapped the coordination network of these players at the national and level. From this network and data, and on the ground consultations with organizations, comparable projects and communities were selected for in-depth study. Phase 2 used a quasi-longitudinal research approach to collect and analyze data in communities on coordination, stakeholder participation, and training efforts at three points-in-time: planning, design and construction. In addition, indicators for sustainability and resilience were measured at project completion. This phase addressed what processes were employed and how networks formed over time. Phase 3 performd cross-case analysis using fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) to determine what reconstruction processes and networks, combined or in isolation, aid sustainability and resilience of the infrastructure and social systems required to support the infrastructure.

Research Data Collection


This research develops a theory of post-disaster reconstruction process and coordination network pathways that enable resilient and sustainable infrastructure. Using a longitudinal, multi-method research approach that includes network and fuzzy-set qualitative analysis, the research identified processes that are employed and the networks formed to mobilize resources and coordinate work in various rebuilding phases, including planning, design, construction. Furthermore, it analzyed the evolution of post-disaster coordination networks, stakeholder participation, and training processes over time. Finally, it determined the necessity and sufficiency of individual processes and networks, as well as the combinations of reconstruction processes and coordination networks, that result in sustainable and resilient systems.


Post-disaster contexts present one of the most challenging functional environments for organizations. The effective allocation of resources and harmonious synchronization of reconstruction activities are considered paramount factors in effective recovery. Past findings have suggested that the dynamic and adaptive structures that result from emergent coordination are more effective in handling the demands of post-disaster complexity, however there is little evidence to show how these practices develop. Our findings point to the importance of geography and sectors under the humanitarian clusters as being the most influential in shaping coordination structures while informal relationships and institutional policies were the defining factors in the emergence of communicative processes. Characterizing these organizational behaviors as they evolve in real time has yet to be documented and serves to better inform future organizational communication strategies in humanitarian contexts and theory on social movements of organizations under time-pressured environments.

To examine the inter-organizational networks that form to coordinate resources for infrastructure reconstruction, we employed social network analysis in nineteen communities in the Philippines following Super Typhoon Haiyan, at six months and twelve months post-disaster. To build these networks, we analyzed interview, field observation and documentation data collected from non-governmental organizations, local governments and communities. A survey questionnaire was also administered to organizations working in selected communities to validate networks. Results from network analysis established that information was the most commonly shared resource by organizations, followed by financial, material and human resources. Government agencies had the highest actor centralities; however, qualitative data suggests that these roles were the result of obligatory consultations by international organizations and lacked legitimacy in practice. Our findings further demonstrate that networks become more decentralized over time as actors leave and roles become more established, influenced by short-term expatriate contracts and the termination of supported cluster coordination.

Stakeholder Participation

Participation in disaster practice and theory has long been considered important for recovery; but establishing what constitutes participation in post-disaster shelter projects has remained elusive and the links between different types of participation and shelter program outcomes are not well understood. Further, recent case studies suggest that misguided participation strategies may be to blame for failures. Drawing from our case projects, we used fuzzy-set comparative case analysis (fsQCA) to examine how household participation in planning, design, and construction phases led to shelter outcomes of household satisfaction and safe shelter design. We operationalized participation via eight central project tasks, finding that participation of households in early planning stages of projects and control over construction activities was important for satisfaction and design outcomes, while participation during the design phase of projects had little impact on the selected outcomes.


The incorporation of safer building practices into shelter after disasters continues to plaque recovery efforts. While limited resources are one potential cause, evidence from case studies suggests that poor adoption of safer construction may stem from a knowledge deficit. Despite these shortcomings, previous research has done little to examine the current state of construction education and training in shelter and housing, and there is lacking evidence to support how households acquire new knowledge of construction practice. Examining nineteen shelter projects in the Philippines following, training methods were categorized using Kolb’s experiential learning theory poles. Fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis was then used to analyze the impact of these methods on community construction knowledge. Our findings reveal that households acquired knowledge either through a combination of formal training methods that encompassed reflective observation, active experimentation, and concrete experiences or alternatively through observation of on-site construction activities.

Pathways to Resilience and Sustainability

The delivery of post-disaster shelter assistance continues to be fraught with challenges derived from the coordination of resources, involvement of project stakeholders, and education of households and builders. While recent literature has started to explore post-disaster shelter from a management perspective, there remain gaps in understanding what project elements are most crucial to the delivery of post-disaster shelter projects. We again employed fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) to operationalize coordination, participation, and training across the planning, design, and construction phases of projects and assess their impact on building resilient and sustainable community infrastructure systems. Findings show that early involvement of households in planning efforts, combined with subsequent training, was important to build local capacity and situate recovery efforts within local priorities. Recommendations point to the need to: (1) promote shelter processes over products; (2) integrate construction training into shelter projects, (3) link support to long-term recovery efforts.

We found that participation in planning and construction, combined with either training or coordination across phases, was influential for resilient and sustainable infrastructure outcomes. Theoretically, this points to the need to attend to different types of participation, coordination, and training, and understand the interaction between project elements in achieving outcomes. For instance, training is often necessary to be able to participate in construction processes – only attending to participation neglects the importance of knowledge transfer and skills need for this participation to be effective.

Pathways to resilience and sustainability included 1. planning participation and 2. construction training as well as either 1. construction participation or 1. planning participation and 2. design coordination

Practically, our findings point to three main recommendations that include: (1) shifting from product delivery approaches to individual household recovery processes; (2) more fully integrate construction training and skills development into humanitarian shelter assistance, (3) identify and support long-term linkages to recovery. In regard to the first recommendation, our findings point to the need to broad what constitutes shelter programming. In place of envisioning shelter as ‘four walls and a roof,’ practitioners must begin to bring livelihoods, disaster risk reduction, and other sectors into proposed shelter activities. Rather than wait for broader reform in the humanitarian system, such as restructuring of the cluster system, organizations need to proactively seek out opportunities to bring beneficiary services together. Secondly, shelter projects must begin to include a training component. Less than half of the projects we studied had a formal educational component focused on safer building. Not only is an effort needed directed at households, but also at local contractors. Lastly, there is a need to align humanitarian shelter projects with long-term recovery objectives. In practice, this means ensuring linkages to transition from the start. For example, if transitional shelter is selected as a modality, it is imperative to identify needed steps to ensure sufficient upgrading or transfer to permanent solutions. Too often, the humanitarian shelter sector has hidden behind the veil of its mandate without consideration for repercussion of actions taken. Establishing a cohesive agenda for the humanitarian and development sectors should continue to emerge as priority at an institutional level (Ki-moon 20016).