Program overview

The Master of Disaster, Design and Development (MoDDD) provides a global learning platform that enables graduates to work locally and internationally in the disaster resilience and management fields. MoDDD is the only degree in the Asia Pacific region that enables students to work full time, while completing most of their degree online, before transitioning their careers into the humanitarian and disaster management sectors.

Developed in close collaboration with global key humanitarian agencies, including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), UN-Habitat, World Vision International, UNHCR, and RedR, the degree is intended for those with knowledge and skills in built environment, design, project management, engineering, social sciences, communication or health.

Join MoDDD to

Develop skills

Develop competencies in five core courses and then customize your specialisation pathway through a wide range of electives and the capstone Industry Project.

Program structure

Learn flexibly

Learn through flexible online study and gain practical experience via intensive workshops and international fieldtrips with industry experts.

Delivery modes

Make connections

You’ll learn within a strong network of peers, academics and industry connections, and open up potential employment opportunities.

Career pathways

Program structure

Develop core skills and competencies in five core courses and then develop your future career pathway through a wide range of electives and the capstone project.

Complete the following five (5) core courses:

1. Disaster, Design and Development:

This course introduces the links between development, design and disasters and explores how the design of the built environment can lead to effective post-disaster recovery and disaster risk reduction. You will investigate approaches to design as a development intervention that involves decision-making to both protect investments from the impacts of disasters as well as to prevent disasters from exacerbating the existing risks to communities and assets. You will examine how disasters can impact on development initiatives and investments and how ’mal-development’ can increase disaster risk.  You will analyse different roles through exploring case studies of post disaster recovery and development as well as undertake simulation exercises of ’real world ’responses to such complex situations in multi-disciplinary teams.

2. Building Urban Resilience

In this course you will explore concepts and strategies for building and achieving resilience to disasters and climate change in cities for the safety of present and future urban populations.  In particular, you will investigate the link between urban poverty and disaster vulnerability and how addressing that link is the foundation of building urban resilience.

You will engage with practical case studies to investigate how cities achieve goals for building urban resilience and face the challenges in complex urban systems and multi-hazard environments. You will analyse existing tools that aim to support urban resilience, and assess the premises and approaches used. You will also examine key international urban resilience strategic frameworks including those of UN-Habitat, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCRN) and United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

3. Shelter and Settlements after Disasters

This course explores the response and recovery of shelter and settlements after disaster, as well as design strategies that promote sustainability in the context of natural disasters, climate change impacts and conflict. Diverse approaches to designing shelter and planning settlements in disaster-prone or disaster-affected places are investigated at different stages after a disaster and/or crisis, including emergency, transitional and permanent shelter. You will learn how shelter provision by leading humanitarian agencies such as the IFRC and World Vision is provided. Of key focus is the IFRC-led ‘Shelter Cluster System’, established to make post-disaster operations more effective and timely by coordinating the actions of governments and a range of agencies.

You will study how various types of shelter solutions are applied in natural disasters, crises and development situations. You will learn how to effectively plan and coordinate shelter needs assessments, develop strategies and implement plans with international organizations, national authorities, the displaced and the affected population.

4. Industry Project (Research)

In this course you will develop a pre/post disaster or development strategy for a real world scenario project.  You will develop a research project either in a group or individually on appropriate research methodology and investigate it during this course. Through your research project you will explore the links between development, design and disasters, and how the design of the built environment can lead to effective post-disaster recovery and disaster risk reduction. Feedback on your research project will be provided by industry practitioners in leading disaster and international development agencies within the sector.

5. Industry Project (Implementation)

In this capstone course you will consolidate and apply the knowledge and skills you have developed through the completion of your group or individual-based project commenced in Industry Project (Research). Feedback on your project will be provided by industry practitioners in leading disaster and international development agencies within the sector. Through the implementation of your research project you will determine, evaluate and present your findings. You will also review your contribution to knowledge and practice in the disaster and development field.


Select and complete six (6) of the following courses:

1. Climate Change, Design and Disasters

This course is concerned with the links between climate change and disasters, and their implications for design of the built environment. You will build knowledge in anthropogenic versus natural climate change to understand how the intensity and frequency of disasters, and their impacts, have and are increasing over time. Acknowledging the global consequences, the focus is on the Asia-Pacific region, particularly Vietnam, which is severely at risk from climate change impacts. You will explore and reflect on key ideas in the field ranging from scientific literature such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports to narratives of community-based organisations and built environment professionals working in this field. You will examine the key strategies that aim to address climate change related disaster impacts, including climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, and the differences and points of convergence between these strategies. The course will deal with the implications of climate change and disasters for the built environment from a comprehensive set of social, cultural, physical, environmental and economic aspects, as well as the various elements linked to the built environment such as buildings, infrastructure, transport and land-use. Approximately half of the course is field-based and includes either: – a field visit to Vietnam, where you will gain knowledge from the actual situation ‘on the ground’ and from local experts and organisations. A series of guided learning experiences are structured around the field visit; or – a structured field investigation of climate change adaptation in an area familiar to you.

2. Disaster Resilient Landscapes

In this course you will critically engage with the design of disaster resilient landscapes and their role in anticipating, adapting and responding to emergent scenarios of crisis, particularly those related to global warming.  You will explore the notions of resilience and ecological urbanism as well as dynamic landscape systems and analyse their roles in the formation of resilient human settlements and non-human territories. Your learning will be supported through a combination of case studies and design research projects.

3. Humanitarian Architecture

In this course you will profile the emerging movement of’ humanitarian architecture’ and the significant role that designers can play in the aftermath of disaster.  Comparable in intent with the fields of humanitarian law and medicine, the emerging field of humanitarian architecture connotes using design skills to assist vulnerable communities, particularly after the crises of social conflict, war and natural disaster.  You will investigate the different contributions that built environment professionals can make after disaster by examining case studies of ’humanitarian architects’ who have been involved in post disaster recovery and development. Case studies will typically be located in vulnerable, marginal and impoverished communities that are confronted with increasingly frequent and intense disasters, where correspondingly sensitive design approaches are required.

4. International Disaster Relief and Humanitarian Assistance

This course is focused on the theory and practice surrounding responses to disasters and humanitarian emergencies, which are capturing world attention at an increasing rate. It is important to understand that crises such as these do not happen in a political or social vacuum, and the course addresses issues of context before, during and after crises, and how these affect possible and actual actions. This is supplemented by a focus on the diverse actors in such contexts, their differing approaches, and the extent to which they collaborate. The course draws on key publications in this area and input from professionals actively engaged in this work, to broaden your understanding of the core issues.

5. Leadership in Emergency and Disaster Management

This is an external course offered by Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Additional costs are involved not included in RMIT tuition fees.

This course addresses the core competencies and evidence base required to manage Emergency and Disaster Management programs. It will provide an overview of compliance frameworks for Australia, New Zealand and the wider Asia-Pacific region. International agreements and cooperation are also covered in this course, with a focus on regional agreements and case studies.

You will gain an understanding of the management principles and tools necessary to design and implement Emergency and Disaster Management programs.

6. Post Disaster Project Management

This course will focus on post disaster project management. Post-disaster project management is a fast-growing, specialised field which requires high level and sophisticated project management skills and capabilities specific to natural disasters. The objectives of this course are to: introduce you to the specialised field of post disaster management; develop the skills and knowledge required to project manage in a post disaster context, including reconstruction; and apply the tools and techniques specific to post disaster project management.

7. Peace-Building and Reconciliation

Peace remains a basic hope for millions of people around the globe as they seek to escape protracted violence, social upheaval and war. Over the last two decades there has been a fundamental change in how peace is approached by the international community, and yet violent conflict remains a daily reality for many people and communities while attempts at creating a sustained peace vary significantly in terms of success.

By doing this course you will develop your knowledge of contemporary approaches to peace-building and reconciliation. Drawing upon theoretical debates and case-studies from around the world, this course evaluates different techniques used to rebuild communities in conflict and post-conflict settings. The course is designed to equip you with knowledge of basic terms, approaches and key debates, while also being taught from a critical perspective that addresses underlying questions of power. Peace and peace-building has become a central dimension in the work of government and state agencies, civil society actors and community-based organisations and cuts its way across diplomacy, humanitarian work, development and security. The course will give emphasis to the professional practice of people working as part of peace related programs, the ethical dimensions and challenges of such work, with first-hand field experiences will be drawn into the learning wherever possible. Some of the key arguments include that:

• Peace-building is not politically neutral and needs to be understood in relation to power.

• Peace is multi-dimensional and multi-faceted.

• The dominant framing of contemporary peace-building tends to be ideologically grounded and can, at times, undermine other opportunities for peace or even give rise to the possibility of new forms of violence.

8. Culture Sensitivity for Humanitarian Action

This is an external online course offered by Oxford Brookes University, UK. Additional costs are involved not included in RMIT tuition fees.

The course is consistent with the widely and internationally accepted concept that sustainable development, rehabilitation and emergencies projects need to be embedded in local cultures. You will learn about what local culture means and how to be truly culture-sensitive? You will understand that cultural sensitivity requires knowledge, skills and competences, but also a positive attitude towards others.

This course will allow you to understand and deal with core issues related to culture, communication, and culture-sensitivity and also to explore issues related to cultural dimensions such as gender, displacement, identity, space and time. Those issues are even more crucial when working in turbulent and violent environments and you will seek answers to questions such as: Is violence creating a new culture, modifying perceptions, values, and attitudes? How should we take into account those changes in our programmes?

You will learn how to mainstream culture and culture sensitivity through all the project cycle, particularly during a feasibility study when assessing community needs and planning participation; during the implementation of a project; and in the end phase when evaluating results and measuring impacts. You will explore the key tools of communication and trust-building for culturally sensitive approaches within teams in conflict areas or with the local population.

9. Communication for Social Change

In this course, you will explore communication in global social change contexts. Topics may include sustainability, public health, disaster management, infrastructure development, energy production and the development of genetically modified foods.

You will investigate how communication can be used to enhance public participation in decision making, empower communities, and disseminate organisational and local knowledge to facilitate dialogue between stakeholders. You will work with various industries and groups to apply participatory communication techniques within the context of your own discipline and industry.

10. Urbanisation Issues in the Asia-Pacific Region

This course is designed to enhance student knowledge and understanding of key challenges facing cities in the Asia-Pacific region. The course is essentially a survey of major trends in relation to the development, governance and planning of cities in the region. It is anticipated that students would develop the following:

  • An understanding of planning challenges facing cities in the region related to economic development, housing issues, informal settlements, poverty, resilience, vulnerability, and environmental degradation.
  • An ability to critically evaluate policy responses and create strategies to deal with these urban problems based on real examples from the across the region.
  • Knowledge about institutional challenges and political complexity in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Awareness of the socio-economic, geographic and political processes occurring in urban areas of the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Insights on the problems of urban growth, mega-city formation, community participation in urban management, sustainability of human settlements and the sectoral issues.
  • The role of governmental policy and strategies to manage these urban issues.

This course critically examines some of the major forces brought about by the process of economic globalisation that planners, bureaucrats and politicians must be aware of when devising policy. It investigates the social and environmental repercussions of the integration of cities and nations into the global economy. Through the use of both theoretical texts and actual case studies, students will explore the major obstacles confronting cities as they pursue more sustainable forms of development whilst competing in the global economy.

11. International Regeneration Workshop

This is an external course offered by Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (UIC), Barcelona, Spain. Additional costs are involved not included in RMIT tuition fees.

This course incorporates projects related to topics which offer students the opportunity to apply different tools and strategies in accordance to diverse approaches and contexts. The common objective is recognising and valuing the main arguments that are the foundation of contemporary urban regenerating and growth projects in the global south. Themes addressed include:  international cooperation, sustainable urban development, community participation and human settlements. The methodological approach incorporates analysis, diagnosis and strategic guidelines or proposals at the urban scale.

You will learn to provide useful analysis and feedback that can serve clients in the processes of monitoring, evaluating, reforming and innovating plans, programs, policies and/or projects. You will acquire scientific knowledge based on international research and perspectives from different sectors that contribute to a global vision on sustainable urbanism and development.

The course is field-based and includes a field visit to a developing country, where you will gain knowledge from the actual situation ‘on the ground’ and from local experts and organisations. A series of guided learning experiences are structured around the field visit.

12. Conflict and Humanitarian Intervention

Military-Humanitarian interventions have become an integral part of the political make up of the post-cold war world, often situated at the intersection of the demands of development, human rights, and security. You will be introduced to different forms and definitions of intervention, exploring in particular ’Humanitarian Interventions’ undertaken by military forces, the United Nations, and a range of global institutional actors. Drawing on historical precedents you will particularly examine the key debates and case examples of humanitarian interventions over the last two decades.

The primary questions underpinning the course are ’why’ do interventions occur and ’how’ do they unfold in practice, with ethics a central point of consideration. Conceptual mapping will allow you to determine what does and does not constitute a humanitarian intervention, what is its relationship to international law, the character of peacekeeping missions, as well as consider key questions of gender, doctrines such as R2P, as well as state-building. A range of contemporary case studies will be drawn on from around the world, assisting you to make connections between the theory and practice of interventions.

13. Humanitarian Action and Urban Crisis

This is an external online course offered by Oxford Brookes University, UK. Additional costs are involved not included in RMIT tuition fees.

The course deals with the major global concern of sudden crises in urban spaces caused by various phenomena such as natural disasters, conflicts arising from social and economic discontent, bad governance, and terrorism. You will learn to understand that whatever the causes and whichever form crises take, populations suffer serious damage – physically, spatially, socially, psychologically or symbolically. Given that with rampant urbanisation new forms of vulnerabilities have appeared, forcing people to increasingly settle in unstable, dangerous, extreme, or fragile environments, you will understand that focussing on urban spaces becomes increasingly important for the efficiency of humanitarian actions.

Of specific emphasis in the course is how conflicts impact the way people produce, understand, and inhabit spaces and places. During a conflict or in the case of imposed displacement, forced migrants, fighters, or the civilian population are forced to rebuild socialised spaces either in areas void of any a priori social significance such as camps, or areas from which they feel excluded. Understanding such a context, you will gain knowledge on rebuilding social links and re-inscribing solidarities in meaningful spaces in a way that makes collective life possible again. You will learn about specific tools for developing humanitarian programmes in urban environments and about action research methods to develop specific issues related to urban settings and specificities of humanitarian projects.

14. Humanitarian Design Thinking

Designing systems and services inside disaster management and recovery situations involves a complex mix of products, infrastructures, logistics, human-capital and technologies. The efficacy of these systems and services is contingent on two scales of design activity: the macro-scale which deals with the needs of a whole population, and the micro-scale which deals with the daily experiences of individuals and groups.

This course introduces you to user-centred design methods from industrial and service design discourse where you will engage with problems and propose possible solutions in a range of disaster management and recovery situations. Drawing on literature and case studies from product service system design, service design and design for development you will deploy various methods of stakeholder engagement and participatory models of fieldwork and ethnographic design research. You will map, devise and visualise systems scenarios that deal with issues of service delivery including shelter, mobility, education, food, health care and sanitation, personal and economic security and enterprise development.

You will explore these methods remotely in the field or within existing scenarios and develop new strategies, tools and specific types of design thinking useful for your work within complex humanitarian causes. You will use a variety of contextually appropriate technology platforms and data gathering techniques to apply design thinking and strategy methods to your investigation.

15. Designing for Dynamic Landscapes

In this course you will research and critically analyse the dynamic capacity of landscape systems in relation to disaster and preconditions for disaster scenarios. You will assess the relationship of landscape conditions and systems and settlement patterns with socio-economic processes of inhabitation. Your understanding of dynamic landscape systems will be acquired through design based mapping of disaster scenarios, patterns of settlement, and landscape systems.

The course is field-based where you will gain knowledge from situations ‘on the ground’ and from local experts and organisations. A series of guided learning experiences are structured around the field visit.

16. Industry Engagement for Disaster, Design and Development

This course aims to link academic with practical workplace learning and/or training in the Disaster, Design and Development (DDD) field.

The course is offered in partnership with industry and may include internships in organizations involved in post-disaster reconstruction, disaster risk reduction or community-based development. It can also involve undertaking training programs with industry partners. The aim is to provide opportunities for you to reflect on and extend your knowledge and skills in professional work situations, develop an applied understanding of DDD industry practices, receive feedback from clients and supervisors, develop professional work practices and experience workplace culture in the humanitarian sector, explore career options and develop a professional networks.

Internships or training opportunities can be undertaken in an international or national setting. Internships should be between 40 to 80 working days. However, the meaningfulness of the internship is determined less by duration than the quality of the learning experience.

The duration of training programs should be no less than 39 hours contact and will need to be approved by the program manager.

Delivery mode

MoDDD is primarily ONLINE study combined with face-to-face workshops and optional field courses. The program’s unique delivery modes are designed to help students achieve a balance between work, life, and study.

  • Online learning – A majority of classes are completed online, meaning you can study much of the course from anywhere in the world
  • Face-to-face workshops – Students attend two intensive 3-5 day workshops in Melbourne during the degree.
  • Field courses – Students can elect to undertake optional field courses in Vietnam, South America, and other locations.

Career pathways

Graduates will be able to work in leadership, management, and consultancy roles in the local and international disaster and development sector with specialised knowledge of planning, decision making and design processes related to:

  • Disaster and emergency management
  • Design-focused post-disaster management
  • Planning and policy
  • Urban resilience
  • Community engagement
  • Advocacy and communication in humanitarian response
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Climate change and environment
  • Recovery and reconstruction


1. Do I have to be an Architect or Designer to study MoDDD?

Not at all, MoDDD aims to bring together professionals from various backgrounds that have diverse knowledge and skills in the fields of design, built environment, project management, design, engineering, social sciences, communications and health.

2. Can I work full time while also studying MoDDD?

Absolutely, MoDDD is primarily an online study program combined with a few face-to-face components and optional field trips. The course structure was designed to help you balance your studies with your work and life priorities. Most MoDDD students choose to work full-time while studying.

3. Are there opportunities to work with industry partners?

Yes, MoDDD’s mentorship scheme this is one of many reasons that sets MoDDD apart from other courses. You have a number of opportunities to work with industry partners as part of the course. You may work on simulated and real-world projects with IFRC, UNHabitat, UNISDR, UNHCR and RedR or take up an opportunity for an internship elective.

4. Where will the course take me?

MoDDD aims to position you with the specialist knowledge and skills to work in management or leadership roles in the international humanitarian and development sectors. Future employers may include the private sector, local and national government agencies responsible for disaster response and recovery along with NGOs. MoDDD students whose achievements (in a short time after graduation?) stand as an example of what is possible with doing this degree.