Pelling M.. 2007. Learning from others: the scope and challenges for participatory disaster risk assessment. Disasters. 31(4)


To examine the potential contribution of participatory disaster risk assessment (PDRA) processes to global disaster risk assessment and policy

Geographic Focus: 


Key Findings: 

The paper argues that communities can and need to be involved in participatory disaster risk assessment (PDRA) throughout all stages of the process. The examination of PDRA looks at processes of empowerment, knowledge generation, scaling, and the use and combining of multiple methodologies. For participatory disaster risk assessments to be more effective, the article suggest the need for self-critique in procedural, methodological and ideological aspects of assessments to realise its potential as a tool for: (i) bringing disaster risk reduction into the Millennium Development Goals and; (ii) triangulation for national and global vulnerability and risk indices. The article also suggests that lack of clarity in language or logic, provides greater opportunity for political manipulation.


This article contends that participatory disaster risk assessments can provide a vehicle for negotiating local change as part of a multiple-methods approach to disaster risk identification and reduction. From an adaptive learning perspective this creates an opportunity for empowering local communities based on local knowledge. The need for consistency and clarity in language and logic is an important lesson, not only for PDRA, but in any domain of adaptive learning.