Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Roger Pielke Jr.

Second Advisor

Michael H. Glantz

Third Advisor

Edward R. Carr

Fourth Advisor

Amanda Carrico

Fifth Advisor

Lisa Dilling


Disaster risk reduction (DRR) programs seek to reduce loss of property and lives as the result of extreme events. These programs invest significant resources in collecting context-specific, participatory information and developing scientific (forecast) information to help them achieve their goals. This is despite significant evidence that such information does not contribute as easily or as directly to stated DRR goals as is generally assumed. Using the Policy Sciences social and decision process frameworks, this research maps program decision processes that seek to produce and use participatory and climate-related information. I begin by evaluating each program in terms of it stated goals and identifying the primary factors that shape project decision-making, influence the use of information in each program, and shape program outcomes. I conclude that although the two programs seek to produce and use very different kinds of information, they share two fundamental characteristics. First, both programs rely on deficit-model theories of change. Those designing and implementing the programs assume the production and use of information will automatically contribute to better decision-making and hence to desired outcomes. Secondly, these limited understandings of project dynamics allow project stakeholders to neglect the role power, accountability, and the incentives they created in shaping program decision-making and implementation. Although both programs seek to empower users and beneficiaries, they fail to establish monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms that ensure those beneficiaries can influence essential program decisions and outcomes. I conclude that given the structures of accountability common to many development programs, donors will likely have to take responsibility for ensuring downward accountability to the users or beneficiaries they seek to empower. By clarifying the relationship between information and the decision-processes in which its production and use are embedded, this research can help program managers develop and fund more effective programs. In particular, it emphasizes the importance of programs with more detailed, nuanced theories of change and greater attention to incentives and downward accountability.