Fostering Resilient Recovery in Displaced Communities via School-based Hubs

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Division of PALS


This project seeks to foster the resilient recovery of the poorest communities of Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, displaced by the 28th September 2018 earthquake and tsunami. During this disaster 184 000 pupils were affected by the damage or collapse of 12 000 schools in Palu and 164 000 people were displaced from their homes. These communities are highly vulnerable and marginalised from decisions made concerning their recovery and it is this marginalisation that this project seeks to address.

An interdisciplinary team of academics and NGO practitioners from the UK and Indonesia will co-develop an innovative intervention that targets psycho-social disaster support, hygiene and the safety of the physical environment, and which centres on schools as hubs for fostering community empowerment. Schools play a major part in shaping future generations and thus a community's future. Safer school can save the lives of children in future disasters; they can serve as a temporary shelters; and help to bring normalcy back to society in times of disaster, thus increasing community resilience.

This multi-pronged intervention will recreate not just the former status quo for these displaced communities but a more resilient future in which their needs and aspirations are put centre stage, and in which their wellbeing is fostered. The intervention will be created via three work packages: one targeting the psycho-social aspect, one for the water and sanitation hygiene aspect and one for structural infrastructure. The intervention involves four sets of stakeholders: pupils, their caregivers, their teachers and the contractors who build schools. It takes place over three sites in the poorest, most devastated parts of Palu. In order to devise a survivor-centred intervention an assessment phase will take place first. The goal will be to assess the aspirations and needs of these survivors - psycho-social, hygiene services-related and infrastructural - in order to devise and implement an intervention that will foster their recovery and simultaneously empower them to make decisions around their future disaster resilience.

Through this work we aim to establish a sound evidence-base for what works to improve the capacity of disaster-displaced people, and develop tools and education material to foster dialogue concerning disaster resilience and safer schools. The project builds the research capacity of two Indonesian Universities, and the collected evidence will enable them to further their mission of influencing the Indonesian Ministry of Education to implement an effective, compulsory disaster recovery and preparedness program in all Indonesian schools. No such program has been implemented yet, though our Indonesian team are at the forefront of devising this. The interdisciplinary evidence base that emerges from the proposed project will ensure that this disaster recovery and preparedness program, and others in different regions of the world that target similar contexts, are based on sound scientific evidence and knowledge of local contexts gleaned from survivors themselves. The research involves close collaboration with the Humanitarian sector, and so the proposed research will not only produce traditional academic output but also practice-based reports and guidelines, which will be developed with the aim of improving the efficiency of future disaster response and resilient recovery programs.

Planned Impact

The combination of internationally recognised expertise, gathered to tackle urgent and high-profile interdisciplinary research challenges, guarantees considerable opportunities for impact on:

Society: the project is highly relevant to Indonesia (and other ODA countries) in tackling the grand challenges of sustainability and resilience, undertaking adventurous interdisciplinary research and promoting dynamic and informed decision-making processes by the agencies in charge of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and recovery. The ultimate and major stakeholders in the project are the children from marginalised and displaced communities in Palu attending schools, their teachers and their families. The project will endeavour to empower them so that they have more control over their decision-making with increased strategies for dealing with future disasters. It will also look to influence school curricula to strengthen understanding and implementation of DRR. Other important stakeholders in the project are the Education Authority, both at provincial and district level, and the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB). The project will develop tools for school assessment that can support the existing program of building safety certification that has been started by the Indonesian Ministry of Public Works and Housing (PUPR). The project will also benefit the Ministry of Health (water) and Ministry of Public Works (sanitation) for building capacity on resilient and socio-culturally acceptable WASH solutions. All these agencies will be consulted as key-informants during both phases of the project and will be invited to the two in-country beneficiary workshops. By involving multiple stakeholders at international, national and local levels, output from the project will strengthen the adaptive capacity of local institutions, civil protection and communities to identify, assess and respond to present and potential shocks and stresses, with special focus on school facilities.

Economy: the project will provide several Indonesian and UK industries, such as local engineering consultancies and construction companies, with a characterised, practice-oriented framework (and related implementation tools) for assessing and increasing multi-hazard resilience of school facilities and for building-back better. UCL EPICentre's wide network of industrial collaborators will be used for the promotion of the project outputs to the insurance and re-insurance industry (e.g., Willis Re., Insurance Development Forum), NGOs (e.g., Save the Children, Build Change), and multidisciplinary consultancy firms (e.g., ARUP, Buro Happold). The ultimate goal is to create a vibrant core of activities in which research is driven by genuine user priorities, and industry in turn benefits from access to state-of-the-art techniques and innovation assembled by world-leading experts.

Knowledge and People: the project will address major intellectual challenges by bringing together the currently largely separate research disciplines of psychology, environmental and structural engineering. By so doing, and through strong community engagement, the project will advance knowledge on psycho-social and physical recovery, and on multi-hazard risk assessment. This work aims to inform the future design of culturally appropriate resilience-increasing solutions for marginalised disaster-displaced communities, through the strong involvement of NGOs, promoting more interdisciplinary, evidence-based approaches to the delivery of aid and recovery assistance. The project will directly build the research capacity of local partners TDMRC (Tsunami and Disaster Mitigation Research Centre) and TU (Tadulako University in Palu), through the creation of dynamic research collaborations amongst both the UK and Indonesian investigators, as well as between TDMRC and TU themselves. The latter will create south-south transfer of knowledge and capacity building.


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