Paradox of power: The separation of knowledge and authority in international disaster relief work
One of the most obvious problems for those involved with disaster relief work is coordination with other teams in the field, with headquarters, with the mother organization in the home country and having to deal with unanticipated situations. The central dilemma appears to be this: disaster relief workers either have the knowledge to know what to do or the authority to do it. Seldom, however, are the local knowledge of what to do and the authority to do it located in the same person. This mismatch creates instability which generates pressure for change. Such change occurs through what we describe as “renegotiations of authority” – where people or teams who are not officially in charge take authority to act, because they know what to do and how urgent it is to do it. This paper presents the concept of renegotiations of authority through cycles of breaking down qualitative data obtained from disaster workers from multiple organizations and countries.
Disaster prevention and Management