Knowledge into action: British Red Cross' experiences going urban (Urban webinar #3)

20 Jun 2013
12:15 - 14:15, GMT

This webinar explored British Red Cross' experiences responding to urban disasters, with a focus on Port au Prince, Haiti. Topics discussed included operational challenges, innovations, and lessons learned, demonstrating the complex nature of urban contexts.

Key Points
  • The BRC Study 'Learning from the City' suggested 5 key ways forward for the organisation that share much in common with ALNAP's own 9 Lessons in 'Responding to Urban Disasters':
  1. Sharpening context analysis and assessments
  2. Understanding cash and markets better
  3. Engaging and communicating with complex communities – this is particularly absent in much of current practise
  4. Adapting to the challenges of the land and built environment
  5. Engaging with urban systems and partnering with local groups and institutions
  • Operational challenges and innovations in the representative urban context of Port-au-Prince, Haiti:
    • Integrated sectoral approaches are hard to avoid, but urban contexts encourage collaboration with operational partners.
    • The urban context also encourages integrated and participatory approaches, but such approaches require proper investment of time and resources. For example, the Community Mobilisation Team (CMT) works as an interlocutor between the BRC and beneficiaries.
    • The CMT is also critically important in engaging with and strengthening the complex systems of land ownership, rather than attempting to circumvent and undermine such governance.


Q&A Snapshot

How is BRC balancing the needs of detail over time for context analyses?
Urban contexts are characterised by a large and transient population, so data quickly goes out of date. CMTs are an excellent asset to provide an ongoing context analysis.

We've heard many challenges of the urban context, but what are the opportunities that contexts like Port-au-Prince provide that rural areas cannot?
It is mainly related to markets and the ubiquity of businesses, so an in-depth understanding of such markets is essential.

To what degree has the BRC been able to incorporate its work into the Haitian government's many longer term, urban planning processes?
The IFRC has an effective programme to 'de-congest' many of the shelter camps, which does build new buildings but also accesses rentable housing stock. This again has a knock-on effect, with longer-term benefits lasting longer than the lifespan of the rent grants. Urban planning is a complicated issue, which ultimately must come from government.

If you could be granted one lesson that could be firmly embedded in your organisation's approach, what would it be?
It would be the ability to continuously adjust, since this is the defining characteristic of the urban context that organisations like BRC will be operating in.