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Creating a Community of Practice for Disaster Resilience

We are continuing our month-long focus on disaster resilience with insights from a member of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), Give2Asia’s partner in implementing a multi-year disaster resilience project in six countries in Asia.
By Wilson John D. Barbon (Program Manager, Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Program, IIRR)

Driven by large-scale disasters in Asia and an influx of disaster relief funds, countries have seen the growth of community-driven programs for disaster risk reduction and preparedness. Local Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) across Asia have demonstrated many times that they are able to have a dramatic local impact with limited resources, especially in the face of a natural disaster. Yet funds received in aid rarely reach the groups that are able to use them most effectively. Working together to combine and share resources is a key strategy in building the capacity of organizations in vulnerable regions, especially as natural disasters occur more and more frequently.

Despite shortfalls in funding and capacity, many local organizations are on the frontlines of preparing for and recovering from natural disasters. These groups have great advantages when it comes to reaching out to and working within the most vulnerable communities in Asia. CBOs possess local knowledge and ease of direct access to beneficiaries due to their location, social connections, and familiarity with local languages and culture. It is therefore important to recognize the role of local CBOs as the primary catalysts for disaster preparedness activities and long-term resilience in highly disaster-prone communities.
For the past four years, Give2Asia and the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) have been implementing a program called the NGO Disaster Preparedness Program – which aims to create disaster resilience communities across Asia. One component of this effort is the creation of a Community of Practice (CoP) involving over 100 CBOs in eight countries in Asia to promote knowledge sharing at the local level.

The Community of Practice and its Learning Potential

The CoP is hosted through a virtual platform with content generated by local CBOs. There is a parallel Facebook group that also provides a channel for members to connect. The process involves collaborative learning in which learning themes are defined by members who then share their knowledge and experience via various channels to enrich the discussion around that theme. These learning themes were defined by members during country consultations conducted in 2017.
Since the formal launch of the CoP in January 2018, three learning themes have been discussed collectively.
The first learning theme was about the role of CBOs in disaster preparedness. A guidebook on community-based disaster preparedness has been published to support this learning theme. For the second theme, on facilitating the inclusion of the most vulnerable sectors in disaster preparedness programs, a webinar and publication were produced as resources to guide organizations towards better inclusion practices. Most recently, in June, a webinar and writeshop to produce a publication were conducted surrounding the critical theme of “Fundraising for Disaster Preparedness”. Over the course of the next two months, the CoP will look at innovations in disaster preparedness and relevant policies for scaling up and maintaining programming.

From its Foundation to its Future: The CoP’s Role in Facilitating Long-Term Progamming

Give2Asia and IIRR hope to strengthen the capacities of local organizations in the eight targeted countries through this CoP. As a result of these improved capacities, CBOs will become more efficient and effective in developing disaster resilience programming and handling the response needs of their countries. The CoP will also facilitate partnerships and strengthen relationships among CBOs in Asia, allowing for better options for mobilizing resources and funding.
Most of the current members of the CoP were selected from Give2Asia and IIRR’s existing partnership base. A number of these CBO leaders are alumni of IIRR’s international training courses or have participated in past conferences and learning events organized by IIRR. Other members were selected from fiscal sponsorship network.
Since the launch of the platform, we have seen an increase in users both in terms of traffic volume and the number of countries from which it is being accessed. As the CoP continues to expand, it will regularly improve to be more engaging and useful for its users.

Soon, users of the websites will be able to access country-specific content that consolidates relevant news, updates and learning materials for that region. The country pages will serve as a one-stop shop for electronic learning materials such as training manuals, facilitator guides, best practices materials, and conference reports. The website also provides the names and contact details of the participant CBOs in the CoP to facilitate inter- and intra-country exchanges among members. We have further collaborated with an online learning provider, the online platform of the Humanitarian Leadership Academy, to provide access to hundreds of online learning materials and webinars that the Academy has produced for humanitarian workers.

The CoP is currently being moderated and curated by IIRR and Give2Asia, but this program ultimately envisions that the CoP will become a self-sustaining platform in which each country-level network of CBOs will continuously update materials, curate their own content, and engage with others online. We envision turning over administrative access to a core group of CBOs who will own and sustain the website and learning exchanges. The website name and hosting services have been set up to extend far beyond the project term of the NGODPP, and the program expects to conduct technology transfer sessions to empower CBO partners to independently conduct webinars for their own learning events.
Unlike many of the project websites out there, the CoP is unique because of its strong network of local CBOs who come together to learn from and with each other. In this way, it is a microcosm for the way that we envision all effective disaster resilience programming to operate: by and for the local practitioners whose expertise matters most.

Give2Asia is a San Francisco-based nonprofit that strengthens communities throughout the Asia-Pacific by building trusted networks for charitable investment. Its network includes 2,000 grant recipients and 15,000 donors. To date, Give2Asia has swiftly and thoughtfully responded to over 40 natural disasters in Asia and rebuilt local communities with $50 million in funding. For more information on the Community of Practice for Disaster Resilience, contact Sheena Agarwal, Development Manager of Disaster Programs at +1 415 967 7378 or

The International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) is an international development, research, and training organization with over 80 years of grassroots experience working in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Their mission is to enable communities and those who work with them to develop innovative, yet practical, solutions to poverty through a community-led development approach and widely share these lessons to encourage replication.

This post is part of a month-long spotlight on disaster resilience.
Learn more and explore the other programming from this feature on the disaster resilience resource page.

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