Much of the literature on participation in emergencies focuses on the role of community engagement in disaster preparedness. However, the literature that does address participatory approaches in disaster-affected contexts highlights the advantages, which include better analysis, effective programming and implementation, and increased accountability. In addition, such participation creates linkages between relief, rehabilitation and development work, and allows members of affected populations to emerge as social actors in their own right, with valuable knowledge and insights on their situation, as well as competencies and ideas of their own.
Important ways of ensuring community engagement include providing timely and regular access to information, and recognising the capacity of local community organisations. Much of the literature shows that while there is widespread theoretical recognition of the importance of community participation, this has rarely translated into reconstruction practice, and grassroots participation in recent crises has remained insignificant.