Project snapshot

"Highlights on informal governance in Katmandu and Sendai"

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Project Team

Informal Governance Systems (IGS) are constituted by individuals and groups connected to each other by non-institutional channels, such as family, neighbours, churches, schools, etc. Cases studies across the globe show that IGS play a fundamental, yet not-well understood, role to cope with disasters, since information, knowledge and goods often flow across not-official channels. A better understanding on IGS is therefore critical to launch effective actions for Disaster Risk Reduction. 


In this context, the City Leadership Laboratory, in collaboration with the Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction of the World Bank, is producing evidence on the role of IGS in disaster preparedness, response and recovery in hazard-prone cities through the following pilots.

Pilot I (2016): the case of Kathmandu (Nepal)

This pilot examined the role of Informal Networks during disaster ‘respond’. We investigated the disaster caused by Gorkha earthquake, which left over 5,000 casualties and 3 million people displaced in Kathmandu valley in 2015.

A fieldwork campaign was conducted during June-July 2016, collaborating with a local Nepalese research team and a consortium of UK-Nepal universities and organisations. Preliminary results show Informal Networks provided access to varied components of crisis relief (e.g. shelter, medicines, food, water, energy, psychological support). In addition, evidence from Kathmandu suggests informal channels might be equally important than formal interventions from government or international organisations under certain circumstances.


Pilot II (2016): the case of Sendai (Japan)

This pilot focused on the role of Informal Networks during disaster ‘response and recovery’. We analysed the case of the devastating Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which caused over 15,000 victims and countless material and not material losses in the Northeast of Japan in 2011.

A fieldwork campaign was conducted during July-August 2016, collaborating with different Japanese Governmental Bodies (including the Sendai City Government) and over a dozen local NGOs and grassroots organisations as well as Japan-based researchers. Preliminary results indicate that Informal Networks were not only fundamental during the initial response, but also facilitated access to other needs (e.g. psychological support, legal advice, housing reallocation) in the recovery phase. Evidence from Sendai also shows Informal Networks are able to respond, react and adapt to the specific and evolving local needs.


Pilot III (2017): the case of Manila and Quezon City (The Philippines)

This pilot will analyse the potential of Informal Networks for disaster ‘preparedness’ in fragile urban communities. Keeping the collaboration with our global partners together with new local partners in The Philippines, this pilot intends to increase our understanding on the processes by which Informal Networks emerge and operate in different urban communities, before and after disasters.

A fieldwork campaign will be conducted during Spring 2017 and cases such as typhoon Haiyan (Nov 2013) or the recent typhoon Nina (Dec 2016) will be taken into account in this research.


With the combined evidence from Nepal, Japan and The Philippines we aim to generate evidence on the role that Informal Networks have played in disasters in different geographical and socio-political contexts. Moreover, we aim to facilitate a dialogue and knowledge exchange between different actors involved in DRR –from international bodies and national governments to grassroots organizations- about how informal processes and practices can be acknowledged and effectively incorporated into DRR strategies, plans or community-led actions.


The ultimate purpose of this research is to inform Disaster Risk Reduction policy-making in hazard-prone and fragile cities.