Collaboration in Disaster Management


Collaboration is a working practice whereby individuals work together to a common purpose to achieve business benefit.

Collaboration enables individuals to work together to achieve a defined and common business purpose. It exists in two forms:

  • Synchronous, where everyone interacts in real time, as in online meetings, through instant messaging, or via Skype, and
  • Asynchronous, where the interaction can be time-shifted, as when uploading documents or annotations to shared workspaces, or making contributions to a wiki

Jones pointed out that the concept of “collaboration” across sectors has long been assumed, expected, advocated, romanticized, and even scapegoated in the face of failure. True collaboration, she claimed, remains largely misunderstood. Jones asserted that most of the struggles and failures around collaboration stem from unrealistic expectations and a lack of understanding of the component pieces involved. Collaboration is made all the more insurmountable because of silos created by nonprofits, academia, utilities, health, government, and business. The “people” involved make or break collaboration, with personal and institutional relationships being essential. Collaboration depends first on understanding an organization’s partners, then making commitments, communicating, cooperating, and coordinating.

In terms of lessons learned, forming true collaborations requires at least eight elements, observed Jones:

  • Choose to collaborate: enter a collaboration with eyes wide open by making the collaboration an intentional act, alert to its pitfalls, costs, and multiple steps in a pathway.
  • Be honest: be brutally honest because without honesty there is no trust between partners; acknowledge the weaknesses of each collaborating partner.
  • Celebrate/leverage differences: understand and honor each collaborating organization’s diversity as a genuine competitive advantage.
  • Stay focused on common goals, values, and needs: do not deviate from these shared purposes. Avoid veering off into goals that only the strongest voice wants.
  • Protect your collaborators from idiosyncrasies of one’s own bureaucracy: when entering a collaboration, it is essential to know each collaborating organization’s pitfalls, and then actively protect collaborative partners from experiencing them.
  • Create micro-successes: most organizations cannot sustain a long process to reach a goal; each collaborating organization has to break down the long process into tiny steps along the way for which they can achieve success.
  • Embrace technology: use technology to create an electronic “place” (e.g., Google Docs, Dropbox, or “the Cloud”) that every collaborating partner can access.
  • Seek clarity: spell out the path for all collaborating partners and agree on the level and depth of each organization’s responsibilities, procedures, and communication standards.

Collaboration at the conceptual level, involves

  • Awareness – We become part of a working entity with a shared purpose
  • Motivation – We drive to gain consensus in problem solving or development
  • Self-synchronization – We decide as individuals when things need to happen
  • Participation – We participate in collaboration and we expect others to participate
  • Mediation – We negotiate and we collaborate together and find a middle point
  • Reciprocity – We share and we expect sharing in return through reciprocity
  • Reflection – We think and we consider alternatives
  • Engagement – We proactively engage rather than wait and see

Collaboration relies on openness and knowledge sharing but also some level of focus and accountability on the part of the business organizations. Governance should be established addressing the creation and closing of team work spaces with assignment of responsibility for capturing the emergent results of the collaborative effort.

Importance of Collaboration

Work together to strengthen the domestic legal and policy framework for disaster management in Bangladesh and its implementation through utilization of the DRR and Law Checklist to conduct an assessment and gap analysis of local level implementation, impact of the paradigm shift and accountability of disaster management laws in Bangladesh, with recommendations to be presented to the government.

Enhance collaboration between the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and other key local stakeholders, including women’s networks, on gender based violence and disasters, including through working together to ensure effective local implementation ( at the community level) of legal frameworks and/or other mechanisms on prevention and response on sexual and gender based violence in disasters, including through educational institutions, youth networks and health services.

Enhance or develop community led initiatives, solution banks and information channels that facilitate meaningful joint action through community participation and coordination among different stakeholders, to inform early warning and community preparedness plans as well as law and policy development through partnerships, including with communities in particular with children, young people and volunteers.

Create an enabling environment for volunteers to take part in law and policy decision making as well as emergency response mechanisms that are being developed by Government, including Red Crescent Volunteers in the National Volunteer Platform, and to enhance their capacity through providing technology, equipment and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) knowledge, tools and training.

Revitalize the Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) defining clearly the roles and responsibilities of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

Ensure a sustained government budgetary allocation for Bangladesh Red Crescent Society for resilience, preparedness and emergency response interventions.

Collaboration helps to reduce the after effects of disaster. Again, people can build their houses if they work together because It takes less time.

Replicating micro-level initiatives: The community-focused approach, which is the main strength of NGOs, can be a limitation without conscious efforts to replicate successful micro-level initiatives for wider impact. This can be achieved only through continuous dialogue and engagement between state and NGOs, which would create greater understanding amongst them and facilitate policy changes for replication of micro-level experiments.

Optimal use of resources: In Asian countries, where limited resources, logistic and infrastructure facilities cause many problems, optimal use of available financial and human resources, organizational energies and support systems is a must for timely disaster response and effective disaster reduction measures. This can’t be achieved without effective GO-NGO partnership.

Check Overlapping, Duplication, & Confusion: Timely response to natural disasters remains a difficult task in South Asian countries, where a majority of people live in dispersed rural settlements with inadequate communication facilities. Involvement of multiple actors, especially NGOs, makes it possible to reach humanitarian aid to marooned victims and initiating restoration work in cut-off zones. However, without coordination, such engagement of multiple actors could result in duplication, over lapping, and confusion. Adequate coordination of efforts made by govt. and NGOs can only ensure proper sharing of responsibility in the disaster response process.

Strengthen Community-Based Disaster Preparedness: In South-Asia poverty and low awareness explain higher human casualty and deeper adverse impact of disasters. Techno-intensive solutions for disaster response and reduction are hard to adopt in view of higher economic costs and uncertainties surrounding their adaptability to local socio-cultural situations. Success of disaster preparedness in such contexts depends more on effective community-based approaches to risk reduction and management, in which NGOs have a bigger role to play.