Understanding Factors that Influence Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation Strategies and Their Impact on Effectiveness of Disaster Response in High-Risk Contexts

Naomi Wanjiru Gikonyo, Fordham University


A crisis is an opportunity riding a dangerous wind. Chinese Proverb The dominant ideology in humanitarian organizations assumes that any system/situation has underlying, direct relationships between cause and effect. This thinking is underpinned by a dual ontology of order and chaos, with all actions seeking to maximize order and minimize chaos. As such, Snowden (2005, p. 47) aptly reminds us: The objective is to control the future on the basis of an understanding of the past. In effect, it assumes that there is a right answer and a failure to achieve a desired outcome is a failure of analysis, data capture/distribution or execution. My thesis builds upon this dual ontology and introduces and explores a third ontology; complexity and its applications to disaster risk management, with specific emphasis on disaster preparedness and mitigation strategies in high-risk contexts. Chapter 1 provides the necessary background material to situate and offer a thorough context of disaster risk management research. It introduces the general ideas and developments surrounding this area of inquiry. Chapter 2 mines the conceptual literature in this issue area and tracks the evolution of thinking and scholarship in disaster research from its early deontological roots towards rationalism, empiricism, as well as social theory. Chapter 3 explores disaster models/frameworks that help operationalize the abstract concepts identified by the dominant theoretical perspectives in disaster research. Chapter 4 utilizes the knowledge gained from that examination of the literature, and selects and explores a conceptual sense-making framework (Cynefin framework) for understanding and managing different forms of complexity in disaster situations. Here, the focus is on the research design and methodology employed when seeking to analyze empirical implications of the framework, and identifying and tracing the observable implications of disaster preparedness through a hybrid social constructivism, vulnerability and complexity lens. Chapter 5 then applies this approach using a qualitative comparative case study design. It analyzes two case examples of community management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) programming as applied to the Kenyan context. The final chapter 6 comprises a summary of my research outcomes, focusing on their relevance to disaster risk management. I draw a series of conclusions and potential opportunities for further research on the basis of my work, and offer limited prescriptions that should be useful to both scholars and practitioners whose work intersects with the subjects under study.

Subject Area

Social research|International Relations

Recommended Citation

Gikonyo, Naomi Wanjiru, "Understanding Factors that Influence Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation Strategies and Their Impact on Effectiveness of Disaster Response in High-Risk Contexts" (2017). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10270171.