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Shifting power through participation in post-disaster recovery: A scoping review

October 2023

By Heidi Tuhkanen, SEI Senior Expert

Community participation is considered an integral part of Build Back Better (BBB) initiatives and an asset for ensuring equitable resilient outcomes of post-disaster recovery. However, BBB-related practices, as well as recovery research have failed to overcome the challenge of practices reinforcing inequities that require addressing issues of power. This scoping review examines the intersection of power and participation in post-disaster recovery. Using a qualitative analytical approach, this paper presents an overview of the existing power imbalances, participatory activities, and their associated outcomes.

How can participatory processes influence power dynamics? The study identifies five roles that participatory processes can play: raising critical consciousness, reflecting just power relations, developing a culture of change-making, changing relationships between actors, and providing a structure for change. In general, this scoping review finds that the literature does not make use of power as an explicit analytical lens and that the social processes related to participation are insufficiently documented. Correcting for these gaps can generate a better understanding of the possibilities for collaborative disaster risk governance in recovery.