Neighbourhood Approaches in Humanitarian Programming


This research seeks to unpack area-based, settlements, and neighbourhood approaches in humanitarian programming used in disasters and conflicts, exploring the effectiveness of these strategies in promoting recovery of communities. Potential areas of focus will include unpacking organizing principles of integrated humanitarian approaches, cross-case comparison of community recovery outcomes, or organizational change of humanitarian organizations to adapt to new delivery mechanisms. Findings will inform best practice for international donors and humanitarian organizations seeking to fund and implement programs using one of the considered approaches.


Dr Aaron Opdyke

Research Location

Civil Engineering

Program Type



As the humanitarian community evolves to become more accountable and effective in delivering assistance to disaster-affected communities, coordination across sectors continues to be a key challenge. Humanitarian assistance efforts are often siloed by sector, affected communities and local stakeholders are inadequately included in response and recovery processes, and there is often a lack of adequate consideration for the long-term impacts of humanitarian assistance on communities and neighbourhood – most notably on livelihoods and social ties. New strategies that encourage integrated, multi-sectoral approaches, create platforms for meaningful engagement of communities, looking beyond the household to the neighbourhood to improve the quality of humanitarian assistance and lay the foundation for building back safer, healthier, and more resilient neighbourhoods.
Area-based, settlements, and neighbourhood approaches were developed in response to this need for a more integrated, holistic, and inclusive approach to humanitarian programming. However, despite an emerging consensus among humanitarian actors on the importance integrated approaches, their applications have been sparse in the face of sceptics of their operational efficacy. This is partially due to a lack of consensus or understanding among humanitarian actors and donors of the broad purpose of the approach, how NGOs collaborate to meet multi-sector humanitarian needs within neighbourhoods, and how the broader humanitarian community coordinates responses across larger geographic areas. There is thus a need to understand the organizing principles of integrated humanitarian approaches, the impact of such approaches, their suitability to contexts.

Additional Information

The research project will involve the study of humanitarian shelter and settlements projects in post-disaster or post-conflict states. Qualitative and/or quantitative methods will be employed, and the student should have an eagerness to work across disciplines in a multi-cultural team. Possible research methods may include surveys or qualitative analysis involving households and organizations and comparative case studies. Previous work or volunteer experience in international contexts is preferred. 
The position will involve periods of time (months) living in the field conducting research. Candidates must be able and willing to travel and live overseas in developing countries in the Asia Pacific, Central America, and/or Middle East regions (maximum 12 months over the PhD). A full scholarship is available from the University of Sydney that can be used for either student fees or a living stipend that is equivalent to $27,082 p.a. (2018 rate) for 3.5 years. Eligible students are also encouraged to apply for competitive funding via the Australian Government Research Training Program.

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Settlements, shelter, humanitarian, housing, WASH, disasters, hazards, organisations

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2434

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