MSc International Disaster Management / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Citizen Participation in Disasters

Course unit fact file
Unit code HCRI63322
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


If and what forms of democratic possibilities do disasters trigger? How do disaster-affected communities, civil society actors and citizens pursue post-disaster reforms and to what ends? The course will engage with these overarching questions to explore the opportunities and challenges sparked by disasters. It will draw on multidisciplinary theoretical and empirical evidence spanning sociology and anthropology of disasters, and participatory and accountability literature, to understand the nature and potential of socio-political activism triggered by disasters. The module will draw on case studies and empirical insights from various disaster contexts to critically examine the tools, tactics and testimonies deployed by activists and advocates in demanding accountability and justice for disaster-affected communities. Through engagements with academic and non-academic literature, students will explore ‘theories of change’ that underpin various advocacy initiatives, their ‘successes’, and the inertia, indifference, and inaction that pose challenges to or interfere with the vision to build back safer and resilient communities.


This course unit aims to:

  • Equip students with the theoretical understanding of the notions of social change and status quo in the wake of disasters;
  • Develop a critical understanding of the interplay between participation, accountability and advocacy in disaster preparedness and recovery;
  • Develop a critical understanding of the causes, contexts and consequences of participatory and accountability movements in post-disaster scenarios;
  • Interrogate the theories of change, tools and tactics deployed by various actors to shape post-disaster decision-making and reforms; ·
  • Understand the barriers to bottom-up and citizen-driven advocacy efforts in post-disaster context;
  • Draw link between course concepts and real-world disaster advocacy and activism.

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be delivered through 10, 2 hour sessions, which includes lectures and discussions. A panel discussion will be held in week 9. The module will draw on a mix of academic and activist literature. It will be based on pedagogical and learning techniques, ranging from discussions on pre-assigned readings, critical analysis of case studies and scenario planning. Students will also be encouraged to draw on or bring their personal and professional experiences of engaging in or contributing to post-disaster advocacy and reforms.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand the interplay between participation, accountability and advocacy in disaster preparedness and recovery;
  • Through empirical evidence, develop a critical understanding of the political potential that underpins various forms of participatory and accountability movements in disaster and post-disaster contexts;
  • Deepen critical understanding of the barriers to or pitfalls of rights-based and advocacy efforts and how they shape state-societal relations in response to and recovery from disasters

Intellectual skills

  • Ability to critically engage with theoretical literature on the interplay between participation, accountability and advocacy in disaster preparedness and recovery;
  • Develop critical understanding of academic, activist and non-profit scholarship surrounding various principles and practices of post-disaster advocacy;
  • Consolidate research skills to examine a range of possibilities and challenges facing advocacy actors in post-disaster contexts.

Practical skills

  • Develop an understanding of various forms of practical tools, techniques and techniques of post-disaster advocacy and accountability, including those related to new media and social media platforms;
  • Use theoretical tools and empirical insights to produce evidence-based, post-disaster activism;
  • Demonstrate independent and collaborative thinking through essay-writing and group work.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop communication skills for a variety of advocacy audiences;
  • Work effectively in a team;
  • Develop analytical skills and the ability to articulate ideas verbally and in writing;
  • Develop confidence articulating ideas and opinions during group discussions.

Employability skills

· Prepare students for a career in investigative research and advocacy sector; · Equip students with skills for coalition building, policy reforms and activism.

Assessment methods

Assessment Task

Formative or Summative





Advocacy Brief




Feedback methods

Feedback method Formative or Summative
  • Oral feedback on individual essay
  • Written feedback on advocacy brief
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment



Recommended reading

1. Curato, N. (2019). Democracy in a time of misery: From spectacular tragedies to deliberative action. Oxford University Press.

2. Dhungana, N. (2020). Doing civil society-driven social accountability in a disaster context: Evidence from post-earthquake Nepal. Politics and Governance, 8(4), 395-406.

3. Dreze, J., & Sen, A. (1990). Hunger and public action. Clarendon Press.

4. Fortun, K. (2009). Advocacy after Bhopal. University of Chicago Press.

5. Hilhorst, D. (2002). Being good at doing good? Quality and accountability of humanitarian NGOs. Disasters, 26(3), 193-212.

6. Remes, J. A. (2015). Disaster citizenship: Survivors, solidarity, and power in the progressive era. University of Illinois Press.

7. Schuller, M., & Morales, P. (Eds.). (2012). Tectonic shifts: Haiti since the earthquake. Kumarian Press.

8. Xu, B. (2017). The politics of compassion: The Sichuan earthquake and civic engagement in China. Stanford University Press.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nimesh Dhungana Unit coordinator

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