Adapting Professional Practices for Post-Disaster Reconstruction


By Owen Podger 

Bali, Indonesia


This paper explores the potential for professions involved in post-disaster reconstruction to influence the way reconstruction is governed, in order to be more effectively and accountably. Using two well-regarded references to identify policy issues, the paper concludes that crisis situations require that the practice of many professions should differ from normal practice; by gaining special knowledge and skills related to that difference, these professions can contribute to the ongoing professionalization of humanitarian relief. Project managers constitute a critical force in all reconstruction, thus they can have great impact, provided that the profession continues to adapt its practices.

1         Introduction

1.1    Intention

Professions involved in post-disaster reconstruction may have considerable influence on the way reconstruction is governed, making reconstruction more effectively and accountably. Governance of disaster management has advanced greatly since 1990 when UN introduced the decade for natural disaster reduction, and especially since the Indian Ocean Tsunami, which triggered so much international response and academic interest. And yet both practitioners and critics see the need for major changes in the way in which nations and the international community prepare themselves for recovery from future disasters.

The paper uses two references to identify issues of governance of post disaster situations: the World Bank’s valuable handbook for reconstructing after natural disasters, Safer Homes Stronger Communities (Jha et al, 2010), and CDA Collaborative Learning Projects’ Time to Listen (Anderson et al, 2012). It then discusses a number of professions involved in reconstruction, noting how their professional practice should adapt under crisis conditions, and suggests changes within the professions that will affect the governance of post-disaster reconstruction. Particular attention is given to project managers, as they have the most opportunity to adapt and have the most opportunity to impact change. Other professions discussed are accounting, quantity surveying (cost engineering), land-use planning, and environmental planning, crisis informatics, building industry groups and politicians.

When these professions develop special knowledge and skills related to the differences needed in disaster reconstruction, they can contribute to the ongoing professionalization of humanitarian relief. While the paper focusses on reconstruction (ie long-term recovery), some of the professions discussed are involved in immediate and intermediate response; further discussion on this topic may deserve coverage of both response and recovery, and inclusion of other professions involved primarily in response.


To read entire paper (click here)

About the Author

owen-podgerflag-australiaflag-indonesiaOwen Podger

Bali, Indonesia

Owen Podger began his career as an architect at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, studied urban design at UCLA and construction management at UNSW. After a career in urban development in Australia and Indonesia, and in academia in Singapore and Papua New Guinea, he has advised the Indonesian government on reforms since the downfall of Soeharto. He was planning adviser to the Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR), and supported the Aceh Government in establishing its special autonomy. More recently he has advised the Indonesian Senate on drafting laws on local government, the office of the Vice President of Indonesia on effectiveness of government, and Indonesia’s national planning agency on urban development policy and programs. Owen is an independent consultant, currently living in Badung Bali, Indonesia.  He can be contacted at [email protected] and [email protected].