Building Back Better

Following crises such as disasters and conflicts, rebuilding work should adopt practices that:

  • Promote a decentralised and participatory approach to reconstruction;
  • Make best use of local skills, institutions and resources in order to build back better,
  • Include disaster risk assessments and decentralised disaster risk reduction into reconstruction processes to lessen vulnerability to future risks;
  • Promote the recovery of market systems that will build back local livelihoods;
  • Enable a more cost-effective and sustainable recovery.
The Access to Infrastructure Services programme is working with our other programes - Reducing Vulnerability and Access to Markets - on this objective.

People-Centred Reconstruction

After a disaster, reconstruction often fails to adequately support community and economic development – it deals better with the needs of elites than of the marginalised poor.

Now the focus on reconstruction is turning to alternative, more participatory approaches, such as People-Centred Reconstruction (PCR). However, many agencies still struggle to put this into practice as there is relatively limited experience on PCR. Reconstruction agencies need examples of what does and doesn’t work, and proven PCR tools to help them implement this process.

Practical Action is collaborating with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and London South Bank University (LSBU) on three key outputs: a conference, a book and tools for practitioners. We have also been working with LSBU, UN-Habitat and others to produce advocacy materials.

What is People-Centred Reconstruction? Read more ...


Tools for Practitioners
This toolkit focuses on People Centred Reconstruction by and for poor people in urban and rural locations. The links will take you to an information page for each specific tool in the kit or alternatively you can visit our Practical Answers: Disasters and Mitigation Reconstruction page for the entire kit and other useful resources.

PCR Position Paper - Putting People at the Centre of Reconstruction(PDF, 719k)
Michal Lyons and Theo Schilderman (eds)
The overriding aim of reconstruction programmes should be to make people more resilient to future risks and change. That requires both making their buildings more resistant and safer to live or work in, and helping people themselves become more capable of adapting to risk and change. Where it comes to housing, building back better is narrowly interpreted by many agencies as reconstructing houses that are more resistant to disasters than previous types. That concern for quality is a key reason for them to prefer reconstruction designed by architects and engineers, and built by contractors. Such an approach is not only expensive, but does little to make people become more resilient.

Download PDF (719k)

Building Back Better: Delivering people-centred housing reconstruction at scale (PDF, 2MB)
Michal Lyons and Theo Schilderman (eds)
This book asks whether large-scale reconstruction can be participatory and developmental; can rebuilding be truly people-centred, contributing to breaking the cycle of poverty and dependence? Building Back Better examines the context for reconstruction, and shows how developments in the fields of housing, participation and livelihoods have changed and enriched approaches to reconstruction.

This is the product of institutional collaboration between the IFRC, LSBU and Practical Action.

Download PDF (2MB)
Order hard copy from Development Bookshop

Development from Disaster

Owner-Driven Approaches to Reconstruction for the 21st Century

On 19-20 March, 2009 Practical Action held a conference on Development from Disaster: Owner-Driven Approaches to Reconstruction for the 21st Century in London. This conference looked at research findings and practical experience of People-Centred Reconstruction, analysed them in terms of their political, economic, social and cultural contexts, and discussed a number of tools that various agencies are already using in ODR such as planning, participation, design, technologies, supplies/logistics, quality control and housing finance. More ...

Further information on What is People-Centred Reconstruction?

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