Learning from community planning following the Haiti earthquake

IIED has created an online learning archive to document community planning in post-earthquake Haiti.

2014 - January 2020
Lucy Earle

Director, Human Settlements

Urban crises and forced displacement
A programme of work bringing together diverse perspectives on humanitarian emergencies and forced displacement, to inform new directions in urban crisis response
People looking at a map

A wide range of organisations undertook community planning activities after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti (Sylvain Joachim of FAU (Emergency Architects))

On 12 January 2010, Haiti was hit by a 7.3-magnitude earthquake. The epicentre was close to the town of Léogâne, approximately 25km west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Over 300,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged and approximately three million people directly affected. The bidonvilles – informal areas/neighbourhoods – of Port-au-Prince experienced widespread devastation. 

As part of the post-earthquake response, more than 50 organisations and the government of Haiti engaged in an extraordinary collective exercise in humanitarian community planning. Over the next seven years, these actors operationalised and tested a variety of approaches for humanitarian community planning, generating valuable lessons for those preparing to develop community plans in other crisis situations, for governments managing cities in crisis, and for stakeholders in planning education.  

More than 500 people from a wide range of backgrounds were involved in community planning processes across Port-au-Prince’s 28 most damaged neighbourhoods. They produced over 3,500 pages of planning documents, including almost 1,000 maps. In most cases, the data was only saved in working documents on the laptops of those who prepared them. Many of the plans that were published have since vanished from the public domain. 

The Haiti community planning archive

As a contribution to the DFID-funded Urban Crises programme, IIED supported three researchers with detailed knowledge of Port-au-Prince (both pre- and post-earthquake) to retrieve and consolidate the planning data, as well as documentation relating to the broader earthquake response. IIED has now published this data as an online archive.

The archive will be useful both for those working in and studying Haiti, and for wider reference in future urban crises. The archive and a related working paper will provide planning students and professionals with concrete, detailed examples of the initiatives that were implemented after the earthquake, helping to build a more complete understanding of the issues and processes involved in post-disaster community planning. 

The archive comprises published and unpublished, finished and working documents, drawings, maps, photographs, videos and songs relating to community planning and neighbourhood recovery programme implementation and other urban planning efforts. Together, they give direct access to the original data produced through the community planning process. 

The archive also contains selected resources on other post-earthquake urban planning initiatives for Port-au-Prince that were outside of community planning in informal neighbourhoods, as well as background documents on planning and urban development in Haiti. 

This Google map will help users navigate the archive. It highlights the neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince that were the focus of planning initiatives. Areas shaded red and labelled 1-28 on the map relate to the 28 neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince covered in the 'Neighbourhoods' folder. The downtown areas of the city are labelled B1-3 and are shaded amber. Yellow areas labelled C relate to Canaan and D relate to other sites. Corresponding documentation on sites labelled B, C and D can be found in the 'City' folder.

A map showing the neighbourhoods around Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Archive contents

Background information folder – this folder contains resource documents from before and after the earthquake. It provides the reader with background to the Haiti context as well as an introduction to the emergency and recovery phases of the humanitarian response that followed the earthquake. Information is grouped into three sub-folders:

  • Academic
  • Emergency, and
  • Recovery.

Neighbourhoods folder – this folder contains 28 sub-folders of project documentation for each neighbourhood where community planning initiatives were implemented. The sub-folders have been numbered to facilitate the location of the neighbourhoods on the Google map. The amount of documentation in each folder varies, but includes:

  • Diagnostics and assessments
  • Plans and strategies
  • Implementation details
  • Reports and evaluations 
  • Photographs and communication materials, and
  • General/overview documents.

City folder – this folder contains three sub-folders of resource materials for key planning initiatives in areas outside of the 28 neighbourhoods. These are:

  • Downtown Port-au-Prince
  • Canaan, and
  • New sites.

An additional sub-folder contains materials relating to planning education and institutional development.

Videos, photographs and websites – this folder contains three sub-folders, one of which provides links to websites where further materials relating to the earthquake and community planning can be found.

The 'Video' sub-folder contains one video and a document with links to more than 50 videos made by implementing organisations, media and the Haitian government. (Please note that while all links were live when the list was compiled, IIED cannot guarantee that they will all continue to be accessible.)

The sub-folder labelled ‘Music from song competition’ contains 15 tracks that were submitted to a music contest organised in 2010 and 2011 for young residents of earthquake-affected communities who composed and performed songs on their visions for the future of their neighbourhoods.

Working paper 

To accompany the launch of the archive, IIED published a working paper, entitled 'Learning from community planning following the 2010 Haiti earthquake'.

This paper contributes to the emerging literature on urban area-based planning with a case study of community planning projects carried out in 28 neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince. These neighbourhoods together accommodate a population of over one million people, representing around 40% of the city’s population.

The community planning initiatives guided the investment of over US$400 million in humanitarian assistance for neighbourhood recovery activities after the 2010 earthquake. They resulted in practical improvements to living conditions and brought about far-reaching institutional change in both the status of informal settlements and authorities’ and organisations’ planning policies.

The research documented in the working paper sets out to describe how community planning was interpreted and realised, and what was learned-through-doing about humanitarian community planning. 

Urban crises programme 

The Urban Crises programme was a response to a growing awareness among humanitarian and development agencies that there is a strong need to improve humanitarian action when crises hit urban settings. 

IIED managed the Urban Crises Learning Fund, which supported research and fostered new ways of working for urban and humanitarian stakeholders. The fund supported the development of 32 discrete pieces of research and documentation, focusing on urban crises in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

It has also helped to establish two learning partnerships for humanitarian and research organisations to develop and test new tools and approaches, and to document past responses.