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Ed Hawkesworth/DFID

Chapter 2.1 Institutionalising DRR within organisations

Introduction

Photo: Ed Hawkesworth/DFID

This chapter discusses how DRR can be ‘institutionalised’ or ‘mainstreamed’ within organisational structures and processes. There is relatively little guidance on this subject; much of what is available is limited to general principles, and examples of good or bad practice are rarely documented or shared. Writing on the organisational aspects of DRR tends to present future idealised conditions or criticise existing institutional structures.

Anyone who has tried to change policy and practice within an organisation will know how difficult this can be, but change is possible and there are some encouraging signs in the field of DRR. Institutionalising DRR can seem a daunting task, but it becomes less so if it is approached as a process (see Case Study 2.1: Institutionalising disaster resilience). Organisations cannot be expected to mainstream DRR overnight: it will usually take some time, especially in large organisations, but improvements can be made incrementally. The reviews of policies, strategies and systems that all organisations carry out periodically offer a good opportunity to incorporate risk awareness and DRR practices with minimal disruption. However, gradualist approaches should not be used as an excuse for delay: disasters can strike agencies, and those they aim to help, at any time.

Organisational size is an obvious influence on the rate of change. Small organisations often function as teams of individuals and can adapt their outlooks and systems relatively quickly. As organisations get larger, their structures become more formal and complex, and it becomes more difficult to make substantive changes. A tradition of institutional and cultural barriers between relief and development professionals within the same organisation can also impede progress. Where DRR originates in humanitarian departments, it is more likely to be perceived as an aspect of disaster management than as a developmental question of vulnerability reduction. As a cross-cutting issue, DRR has to overcome the strong sectoral boundaries that exist within some development agencies. It also faces the challenge of integrating with existing cross-cutting themes in development work (e.g. gender, rights) and the risk of being seen as a further complication in an already complicated environment.

Case Study 2.1 Institutionalising disaster resilience

DFID plans to embed disaster resilience into all its Country Offices by 2015. It has produced a short guidance note for Country Offices on how to make this happen, drawing on good practice in DFID and elsewhere. The guidance suggests a simple seven-step process, much of which is based on existing systems and procedures, such as strategies and assessments, and can be integrated with the offices’ current operational plans:

  1. Designate an office ‘champion’ (lead person and cross-disciplinary team) to drive forward development of a disaster resilience strategy and monitor results.
  2. Carry out a multi-hazard risk assessment for that country, looking at disaster threats, vulnerabilities and capacities, drawing on existing analyses by DFID, the national government and other international agencies.
  3. Develop a country/regional disaster resilience strategy covering opportunities and obstacles, expected results, and resources required; this is linked to annual operational planning.
  4. ‘Disaster-proof’ new programmes by including risk assessments in their business cases.
  5. Develop new programmes and adapt existing programmes to support disaster resilience.
  6. Develop emergency plans to facilitate rapid humanitarian response.
  7. Contribute to DFID’s twice-yearly reporting to the UK government on disaster resilience.

DFID’s head office in London provides technical advice and some seed funding to support the process.

DFID, Minimum Standards for Embedding Disaster Resilience in DFID Country Offices (London: Department for International Development, 2012).