Electronic Thesis/Dissertation


Of Hell and High Water: Longitudinal Case Studies of the Internal and External Recovery Efforts of Non-Governmental Organizations after Hurricane Katrina Open Access

Abstract of DissertationDisaster Management consists of five main phases: prevention, preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery. This dissertation investigates the disaster recovery phase. The purpose of the research is to advance knowledge about the practice, models, organizational context, and management strategies employed by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in disaster recovery operations after a catastrophic event. The size and scale of Hurricane Katrina impacted individuals and organizations alike. Non-profit organizations on the Gulf Coast lost their centers of operation, much of their personnel, and ultimately, their pre-storm missions (what they do, who they serve, and their purpose for existence). The radically changed environment in which they struggled to re-build, re-make, and re-invent themselves was characterized by infrastructural collapse, resource scarcity, massive devastation, and uncertainty about the future and what needed to be done. What was certain was that no single organization was capable of addressing the magnitude of problems left in Katrina's wake alone. This dissertation is concerned with the difficulties of post-disaster recovery that manifested at organizational and programmatic levels. The non-profit organizations that fall under the aegis of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) are the object of a set of case studies about programmatic responses to Hurricane Katrina, as well as organizational resilience and the capacities needed for organizations to recover from a catastrophe and function as engines of community recovery. The first case study explores the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the Southeast Louisiana Chapter of the American Red Cross and the type of organizational change that is necessary to generate resilience and regain a sense of safety, control and effectiveness in a context of continued crisis. The unit of analysis is the organization. The second case study examines a collaborative network of non-profit organizations that was created to address the damage that Hurricane Katrina had wrought in the communities they serve and the programs they put in place to provide for unmet needs. The organizations, network management strategies, and the disaster recovery programs implemented by the collaborative network are the units of analysis in the second case study. The case studies are the basis for a layered interpretivist methodological strategy that uses qualitative research methods of analytic induction to investigate the impact of disaster on non-governmental organizations and to better understand the practitioner frameworks these organizations use in their disaster recovery operations. The interpretive framework that forms the theoretical underpinning of this study privileges the perception, meanings, and interpretations of actors involved in disaster recovery operations and looks for the creation of consensus around an interpretation of the events that unfold. This research project constitutes a longitudinal study carried out over the course of five years, and focuses on two time periods in the recovery process: early (short-term) recovery and long-term recovery. The data gathered from the case studies will be categorized, coded, analyzed, and interpreted through different methodological lenses to reveal multiple perspectives that will ultimately help to build an understanding of the disaster recovery-related operational concepts and models being adopted and implemented in the U.S. non-profit community, their nature and effectiveness, and the post-Katrina Lessons Learned from this sector. The research will be augmented by a comprehensive analysis of the disaster recovery literature. The study will also produce a set of factors that are necessary to sustain effective disaster recovery processes, problems with U.S. non-profit models that prevent this from occurring, and a comprehensive analysis of the Action Training and Research method of Organization Development as applied to non-profit organizational resilience and recovery.

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