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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

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. Sustainable Development Goals: Real-World Solutions and Strategies

In this course you will explore the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the targets associated with each one. This will be an opportunity to clarify their relevance to your developing professional knowledge, skills and commitments within your specific discipline.

The United Nations’ SDGs provide a practical, solutions-focused vision for local, national and international action to improve social and economic well-being whilst conserving (or wisely managing) the natural resource base upon which all development depends.

You will investigate the nature, scope and purpose of selected SDGs, and develop expertise in sustainability problem-solving using several tools, including Risk Assessment, Systems Analysis, Design Thinking, Systemic Design and Appreciative Enquiry.

You will analyse different perspectives through exploring case studies of communities and organizations working towards one or more SDGs, especially in relation to disaster and climate resilience. You will then have the opportunity to apply your knowledge and skills to plan a project that uses one or more SDG tools to achieve a chosen SDG target through a ‘real world’ challenge.

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.

AND

Select and complete four (4) of the following courses:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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. It also provides you with the opportunity to further investigate a particular area of scholarship and professional practice in the DDD field.

The course is offered in partnership with industry and may include placements in organizations involved in post-disaster reconstruction, disaster risk reduction or community-based development. It can also involve undertaking training programs with industry partners.

This course provides you with an opportunity to work with NGOs, community groups, local or national government agencies, the private sector, philanthropic groups, foundations or campaigns, particularly committed to development and/or humanitarian assistance issues. You may choose to align your project with your professional work if you are already employed in the sector, or you may conduct the project in conjunction with an organisation that you have a relationship with.

The aim is for you to reflect on and extend your knowledge and skills in professional work situations and develop an applied understanding of DDD industry practices. You will receive feedback from clients and supervisors, develop professional work practices, and experience workplace culture in the humanitarian sector whilst you explore career options and

develop a professional network. You will conduct research to underpin and support your time on placement and to facilitate your own learning.

Placements or training opportunities can be undertaken in an international or national setting. Placements 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.

4. 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.

5. Disasters and Humanitarian Assistance

Disasters and humanitarian crises are increasing in duration, complexity and impact. This course develops your understanding and basic skills relating to mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery for a wide range of emergencies. You will engage in contemporary theoretical debates and the practical application of tools and strategies to real and imagined emergency scenarios.

You will learn how crises amplify inequality and poverty, and about their uneven impacts on economies, livelihoods and stability. In addition to addressing the diverse actors affected by and responding to crises, you will learn about the political and social contexts in which crisis and recovery take place.

6. Urbanisation Issues in the Asia-Pacific Region

This course is designed to enhance your knowledge and understanding of key urbanisation challenges confronting cities in the Asia-Pacific region, as they pursue more sustainable development whilst competing in the global economy. Urbanisation is making people living in Asia Pacific, more vulnerable to climate change impacts, posing threats to global sustainable development goals.

Through the use of both theoretical texts and real-life case studies, you will challenge the framing of terms such as poverty , slums , resilience and nature-based solutions . It is anticipated that you will develop critical evaluation skills to understand a context from a systems perspective, be able to empathise with the locals and able to create strategies and/or recommendations to address some of the identified challenges for a nominated case study city.

In this course you will address issues associated with UN Sustainability Goals such as SDG 1 (reduce poverty), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG 13 (climate action).

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Intercultural Knowledges and Practices

This course is primarily concerned with challenging narrow disciplinary thinking about the role of different knowledges, cultures and lifeworlds in development, planning, security and disaster management discourses and practices.

It aims to nurture the practice of deep reflexivity and critical thinking as transformative modes of inquiry and learning; understanding that the nature of the intercultural discourse is, at its core, ideological, epistemological and political. However, identifying a difference of perspective is much more complex than it may appear. The course explores reciprocal dialogue and meaning produced by relations between ways of knowing, cultural processes, people and places. It draws insights from deep ecology, decolonial theory, sensuous philosophies, literary and critical theory, performance, theories of marginality and difference, landscape urbanism, political ecology, environmental justice, and diverse ontologies and cosmologies on human and more-than-human relationships.

In this course you will critically examine a wide range of readings, case studies, and visual material to think more broadly about the construction of plural, non-hierarchical, reciprocal and enriching discourse, practice and action to address the complex local and global inter-cultural challenges.

The course will, most importantly, provide you with the practical insights and skills to engage reflexively about your own knowledge, positionalities and cultural histories and how these relate to your self-identity, your work/vocation and the engagement with the world around you.

10. International Law for Development

This course is designed to introduce you to the intricacies of international law and the relevance of international legal instruments to development practice. In international development settings you must grapple with the immediate demands of aid delivery while at the same time strive to uphold humanitarian principles even where both objectives appear to be in conflict.

As a practitioner, you must also learn to navigate through the sensitive interface between national laws and international humanitarian law. This course examines the essential features of key international legal documents, from the Universal Declaration to The Hague and the Geneva Conventions, the Law of the Sea, transnational crime conventions, biodiversity treaties and other environmental laws. It then goes on to analyse the application of these laws in developed and developing countries.

You will explore how the dynamics of interstate relations frequently confound international norms and how the uncomfortable expediencies of conflict and post-conflict environments often compel development professionals to act unlawfully.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. 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.

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.

17. Global Urban Transitions: Processes and Outcomes

We are living in the urban age with close to 54% of the world’s population living in cities. By 2050, this proportion is anticipated to grow to 84%, with most of this growth in China and India, which are projected to become the two largest economies in 2050.

At the same as our population and economic activity continues to grow, scientists argue that to avoid dangerous, runaway climate change, we must greatly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

At present, approximately 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide is being emitted worldwide annually. If emissions continue at this rate, the global carbon budget could be exhausted as early as 2035. The window of opportunity to begin the transformation society to shift away from fossil fuels is closing, and emissions must begin declining before 2020. This energy transition, from fossil fuels to renewables, will impact on how our cities are organised and function. From a more positive perspective, there is research to show that there are pathways to achieve deep decarbonisation available for many countries.

In this course, the main capability developed is a skill in examining possible future directions for cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Bangkok, Melbourne, Honolulu and Apia to respond effectively to the interconnected concerns for climate, energy, food security and other pressing global issues.

18. Social Impact Assessment and Community Engagement

This course introduces you to the principles and practices of social impact assessment and of community engagement practices more generally, in the areas of urban and environmental policy and decision-making. The principles and history of SIA will be reviewed as a context for examining contemporary practices.

In this course you will also critically examine how the notion of community engagement and communicative and collaborative decision-making processes are used either in these areas of policy and practice.

19. Children in Development and Humanitarian Practice

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Children’s experiences and nutrition in their first 5 years of life are critical to brain development, significantly influencing their capacity through the rest of their lives, yet young children receive little attention in tertiary programs on development and humanitarian assistance. Similarly teenagers experience a vitally important surge in brain development yet receive little more attention.

This course therefore explores the actual and potential intersections between child development and the programs and strategies of international development and humanitarian practice. You will analyse contemporary and historical practices from a child-centred perspective, and will work to develop thoughtful and effective responses in the form of both mainstreamed and child-focused practices.

This course will be delivered by RMIT staff with experience in development and education, as well as professionals from NGOs, international organisations and government. Like other courses in the International Development program, it has a very practical focus and delivery mode, integrating theory and practice to engage you with real issues facing children in these challenging environments and the organisations seeking to enable them to thrive.

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.

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.