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DPM 18,1

The role of knowledge management in post-disaster housing reconstruction Rajendram Thanurjan and L.D. Indunil P. Seneviratne
Department of Building Economics, University of Moratuwa, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka Abstract
Purpose – A disaster is a serious disruption for the operation of a society, causing extensive life and property losses. Since construction activities are highly knowledge-intensive, knowledge management (KM) practices will encourage continuous improvement, distribute best practices, quick response to beneficiaries, share valuable tacit knowledge, reduce rework, improve competitiveness and innovations, and reduce complexities in post-disaster housing reconstruction. Therefore, this research aims to study and explore the degree to which KM is involved in post-disaster housing reconstruction and the effect that KM has on post-disaster housing reconstruction in the Sri Lankan context. Design/methodology/approach – The study was conducted by systematically reviewing the literature in Knowledge and KM to highlight the basic principles. Data collection mode for the study was close-end questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. Data were collected from donor and consultancy organisations which are involved in post-disaster housing reconstruction in Sri Lanka. Findings – The results show that most of the donors and consultancy organisations carry out permanent disaster housing reconstruction for tsunami devastation. Further, the study reveals that organisations use competences and repositories as the main sources of knowledge internal and external to the organisation. Project reviews, task teams, face-to-face interactions, and electronic mail systems were greatly used to support KM. Even though the performance of the work was improved through KM, lack of compiling and synthesizing the accumulated data, information and knowledge, storing and organizing would be the main challenge faced by these organisations. Practical implications – It is evident that a more concerted and formal approach will improve disaster housing reconstruction. Since knowledge gatekeepers have extensive tacit and explicit knowledge, the organisations have to use it as a significant source. Even though the majority of the donors and consulting organisations used competencies and repositories as main sources of K, the identification and exploitation of a variety of appropriate sources are of central importance. Further, organisations have to focus more on a variety of IT tools in order to store Knowledge for future use. Since there were challenges for KM, the organisations have to identify proper solutions in order to move towards and achieve the benefits of KM. Finally, the organisations have to provide an appropriate rewards system to encourage their employees in participating in KM. Originality value – The disaster housing reconstruction will not end on a certain point and it will be a continuous process. Formal KM systems will help to improve the present state and further provide proper Knowledge in the future. There should be a standardised practice in order to improve the performance and give good value for beneficiaries. The study makes it quite evident that proper KM will improve the status of post-disaster housing reconstruction. Keywords Knowledge management, Natural disasters, Sri Lanka, Construction works, Housing Paper type Research paper

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Disaster Prevention and Management Vol. 18 No. 1, 2009 pp. 66-77 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0965-3562 DOI 10.1108/09653560910938556

1. Background 1.1 An overview of disaster A disaster is a serious disruption of the functioning of a society, causing widespread human, material, or environmental losses, which exceed the ability of affected society

to copy using only its own resources (Disaster Management Centre of Sri Lanka (DMC), 2007). Disasters can be...
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