New Orleans Case – Kennedy School

This course sparked my interest in the role of the built environment in the outcome of a disaster, disaster management, and disaster planning. Since this was a Kennedy School course it was more policy than design, but I want to believe there is room for design in the conversation.  New Orleans and Phnom Penh share a background in French occupation and urban development, as well as deltaic landscapes.

Harvard Kennedy School of Design
SUP-606: Disaster Recovery Management and Urban Development: Rebuilding Cities After a Disaster

Presents disaster recovery theory and practice at the federal, state, city, and neighborhood/community levels. Focuses on the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as a recovery case study. The course can best be thought of as the detailed examination of the anatomy of a disaster – an end to end look at the rebuilding process of a post-disaster city. The course blends the case method of classroom teaching with field-based team projects working in disaster damaged communities. The lessons learned in the classroom from studying the rebuilding of New Orleans and other past recoveries will then be applied to current recoveries during the field-based team projects.

New Orleans recovery cases are the backbone of the course, with cases from Aceh (Tsunami), the Haiti Earthquake, the Chile Earthquake, the Gulf Oil Spill, and speakers from New Zealand and Japan incorporated to broaden the discussion of recovery to how recovery varies by place, political system, economic system, type of disaster, and extent of damage. During the semester, students develop and complete real-world, field-based team projects that assist the residents of communities (the Clients) that are struggling to recover after a disaster. Students are assigned to teams, with each team working on one of the following projects: the Chile earthquake recovery, Haiti disaster recovery, earthquake recovery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Japan earthquake and tsunami recovery, or the recovery of the Broadmoor neighborhood of New Orleans. Team field-based projects may also include working with the cities of San Francisco and of Los Angeles on planning in advance of a disaster to be better able to recover quickly after a disaster.

The project teams will work on real-world, high impact recovery projects for these “clients” – projects designed to help these communities in their recoveries. Concepts covered in the course include: principles of disaster recovery management, the economics of disaster, risk management, loss estimation, hazard mitigation and land use planning, disaster recovery planning, short and long-term housing, repopulation dynamics, community development, U.S. federal and state recovery programs, and infrastructure and capital projects reconstruction and finance.

Doug Ahlers
Doug Ahlers, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, teaches a course on the management of disaster recovery which blends case teaching with field-research. He founded the Harvard Kennedy School Broadmoor Project, a collaborative redevelopment effort between the Katrina-devastated Broadmoor New Orleans neighborhood and the Kennedy School. San Francisco in preparing to recover faster after a disaster strikes. Ahlers has been a Fellow at the Preventative Defense Project at Stanford Universitys Center for International Security and Cooperation, a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs, and a Fellow at the Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard. Mr. Ahlers is the cofounder of Modem Media (now Publicis Modem) and is on the Smithsonian Institutions National Board and the board of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. He attended Simon’s Rock College and received his BA from URI and MJ from LSU.


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