Cross-faculty collaboration builds stronger communities

Thursday, 16 March 2017


Teams of researchers across Construction Management and Social Work at UON have come together to team up for interdisciplinary research that’s making an impact on communities locally and globally.

Dr Amanda Howard and Dr Jason von Meding
Dr Amanda Howard, Head of Discipline for Social Work, and Dr Jason von Meding, senior lecturer in the School of Architecture and Built Environment

Dr Jason von Meding, a senior lecturer in the School of Architecture and Built Environment was introduced to Dr Amanda Howard, Head of Discipline for Social Work, by one of Jason’s PhD students Jai Allison in mid-2015.

Recognising that the two had a shared research focus, albeit from different perspectives, Jai also brought Andrew Richards from the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) to the table.

The SES were keen to work with UON researchers to provide research support for the work they do in the community in times of floods and extreme weather events.

Within six months of meeting, Amanda and Jason had tendered for and won the first of a range of different projects on community-led disaster preparedness and resilience.

The quick turnaround of the project, in a rapid six-month period, saw promising results and promptly led to two more projects involving the university and NSW communities.

Now the collaborators are taking their work globally, after winning a tender with Save the Children in South East Asia to ensure educational continuity in schools in during urban flood events.

These intense six-month projects are taxing on the teams, but enable quick results and the ability to quickly move onto the next project.

“We’ve just had the momentum from the initial project and the chance introduction to each other, that’s just continued,” Jason says.

“This isn’t a typical collaboration,” says Amanda, “but it’s worked really well. There’s a common space around the work in disasters and we’ve been able to bring different aspects of each of the disciplines into play when working on projects.”

Collaboration in this area provides scope for even more ambitious partnerships, as the problems are shared across both disciplines. “We’re finding when we bring together both teams, we have a much wider range of skills and ideas,” Jason says.

“The question we ask is ‘what can we each offer in terms of the demands of the project’,” says Amanda.

“We each bring such different skillsets and methodologies,” adds Jason. “We learn a lot from each other.”

“It’s exciting”, says Amanda. “With the projects that we’ve done you can really see an immediate impact on those places and the people that are impacted by natural disasters.”


The teams involved in the projects are:

Post Disaster Research and Innovation Project – Stronger for the Storm (funded by NSW State Emergency Service)
  • Dr Amanda Howard – Social Work
  • Dr Tamara Blakemore – Social Work
  • Dr Milena Heinsch – Social Work
  • Dr Jason von Meding – Construction Management
  • Jai Allison – RA
  • Simon Cavaliere - RA

Critical Factors for Post-Disaster Educational Continuity in Urban Flood Impacts in South and Southeast Asia (funded by Save the Children)
  • Dr Jason von Meding – Construction Management
  • Dr Amanda Howard – Social Work
  • Dr Ifte Ahmed – Construction Management
  • Dr Giuseppe Forino
  • Dr Indrajit Pal, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand
  • Professor Humayun Kabir, BRAC University, Bangladesh
  • Dao Hai Nam, National University of Civil Engineering, Vietnam

Community Severe Weather Response Plans (funded by Community Resilience Innovation Program)
  • Dr Amanda Howard – Social Work
  • Dr Tamara Blakemore – Social Work
  • Dr Milena Heinsch – Social Work
  • Dr Jason von Meding – Construction Management

Dungog Community Disaster Preparedness and Resilience Strategy(funded by Community Resilience Innovation Program)
  • Dr Amanda Howard – Social Work
  • Dr Tamara Blakemore – Social Work
  • Dr Milena Heinsch – Social Work
  • Dr Jason von Meding – Construction Management