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Sistematización in urban disaster risk reduction

Juan-Pablo Sarmiento (Department of Health Policy and Management, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA)
Dimmy Herard (Department of Politics and International Relations, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 7 April 2015




The purpose of this paper is to provide an analysis of sistematización’s use as a research tool in the operationalization of a “neighborhood approach” to the implementation of disaster risk reduction (DRR) in informal urban settlements.


The first section highlights sistematización’s historical origins in Latin America in the fields of popular adult education, social work, and rural development. The second explains why sistematización was made a required component of project implementation. The third section addresses the approach to sistematización used. The final discusses how this experience both contributes to sistematización’s theoretical development and practical application as a methodology.


The introduction of “sistematización” as a research tool facilitated real-time assessment of project implementation, providing timely information that positively influenced decision-making processes. This on-going feedback, collective learning, and open-exchange of know-how between NGOs and partner institutions allowed for the evaluation of existing practices and development of new ways of collaborating to address disaster risk in complex and dynamic urban environments.

Practical implications

Sistematización transcends the narrow focus of traditional monitoring and evaluation on final results, emphasizing a comprehensive understanding of processes and contexts.


Its use in the implementation of DRR initiatives in informal urban environments is particularly novel, highlighting the capacity of the methodology to be tailored to a variety of needs, in this case, bridging the gap between NGOs, local governments, and vulnerable communities, as well as between urban, development, and disaster risk management planning.



The authors acknowledge the contributions of colleagues at USAID/OFDA, particularly Mr Phil Gelman, Regional Advisor, who has been the focal point for the urban DRR neighborhood approach initiative in the Latin American Region, and at the USAID-sponsored urban DRR project teams: Project Concern International (PCI) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Mixco and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, respectively; World Concern (WC) in Port-de-Paix and Anse-à-Foleur, Haiti; and Save the Children (SC) in Villa El Salvador, Peru. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of FIU or USAID.


Sarmiento, J.-P. and Herard, D. (2015), "Sistematización in urban disaster risk reduction", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 221-229.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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