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Urban webinar #11: Area-based Programming and Coordination Approaches in Urban Response

Monday 27 July 2015

The audio of this webinar is also available below.

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Elizabeth Parker: Based on the available literature, area-based approaches in an urban context have three defining characteristics; they are geographically targeted; adopt a multisectoral; and participatory approach. A couple of examples can illustrate these features; One, is the ‘integrated neighbourhood approach’ of Delmas 19, which is a British Red Cross project in Port au Prince; and the other is the ‘integrated shelter led humanitarian intervention’ known as Kabul Area Shelter and Settlement (KASS) by CARE in 2006.
Area-based approaches are neither good nor bad. Their positive and negative effects depend entirely on the context in which they’re conceived, their programme design, and the manner of their delivery and the appropriateness of adopting such a strategy.

• What are the barriers or challenges that you’ve found related to an area-based approach in an urban context?

Holly Fuller: Firstly, with regards to the multisectoral piece, the challenge is how to schedule all of the different activities without overlapping, or causing neighbourhood official fatigue, or beneficiary fatigue.  Secondly, there are challenges coming from surrounding areas especially with informal settlements.  Moreover, being dependant on the city government can pose challenges. Finally, the approach does really take long time but managing a variety of different sectoral programmes may take longer sometimes so the challenge here becomes to understand better what the possible timeline is for a project to be entirely implemented.

• What defines an area and what are the implications of this?

Andrew Cusack: In defining an area, administrative boundaries have accepted convention. Then to go on, population densities can help defining individual areas for the purpose of the humanitarian response.

Elizabeth Parker:  In addition to the above, especially in informal settlements where formal government structures are lacking, often physical features, social communities, or social relations can become boundaries.

• How do area-based approaches increase the inclusion and participation of the population?

Holly Fuller: The huge variety of living arrangements in an urban context such as Tacloban is a big challenge.  The main lesson here is trying to get more buy in from the neighbourhood officials and from the leaders, as well as the community, to fully understand the inclusiveness of the project, while at the same time having clear beneficiary selection criteria to manage the variety.

Andrew Cusack: This question falls into two primary elements. One is accountability to population that we’re trying to engage with, and sustainability of the project. Understanding community leaders and structures, and or facilitating the establishment of those structures in order to engage the population is the cornerstone. So the main tool, essentially, is ensuring adequate empowerment of the population in all sectors of the response in a formal site, to move forward.

Do we need an area-based coordination structure to replace the clusters?

Andrew Cusack: From a CCCM perspective, the answer is absolutely yes. Still, some form of coordination mechanism is definitely required.

Holly Fuller: From a programmatic implementation standpoint, I would definitely say that an area-based coordination mechanism would have been extremely useful

Elizabeth Parker: I would probably have a caution about changing a system that hasn’t been established too long in order to adopt one specific approach. I think what we need is a coordination system that’s flexible and works at a city level so that we can look at overall, who’s doing what within that city.

P.S: A transcript can be found at


Elizabeth Parker



Andrew Cusack

Senior Coordination Officer


Holly Fuller

Program Manager

Catholic Relief Services

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