Scroll across for research findings and considerations for supporting disaster recovery.

Below, you will find outlines of ‘what we know’ from evidence about the role of social capital in disaster recovery, including how it can affect wellbeing and interact with other recovery capitals. These statements summarise academic evidence, but they do not represent the entire evidence base. You can find original evidence sources in the reference list below.

You will also find prompts to consider when applying this knowledge to disaster recovery support efforts.

The recovery capitals are deeply interrelated – look out for the little icons which highlight points of relevance to the other capitals.

Labelled icons for natural, social, financial, cultural, political, built and human capital

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The pilot ReCap guide was released in July 2020 for piloting and is a work in progress. Your feedback is most welcome up until March 31st 2021.

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This resource has been developed through the Recovery Capitals (ReCap) project, which is an Australia-Aotearoa New Zealand collaboration. The ReCap project is being undertaken by the University of Melbourne and Massey University in New Zealand, with the support of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre. Australian Red Cross is the lead partner organisation. Illustrations by Oslo Davis. ReCap logo by Alana Pirrone and Oslo Davis.



  1. Szreter S, Woolcock M. Health by association? Social capital, social theory, and the political economy of public health.  International Journal of Epidemiology. 2004;33(4):650–67.
  2. Aldrich DP. Building resilience: Social capital in post-disaster recovery. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 2012. 232 p.
  3. Aldrich DP. The power of people: Social capital’s role in recovery from the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Natural Hazards. 2011 Mar 18;56(3):595–611.
  4. Gibbs L, Gallagher HC, Block K, Snowdon E, Bryant R, Harms L, et al. Post-bushfire relocation decision-making and personal wellbeing: A case study from Victoria, Australia. In: Adenrele Awotona, editor. Planning for Community-based Disaster Resilience Worldwide: Learning from Case Studies in Six Continents. London and New York: Routledge; 2016. p. 333–56.
  5. Gibbs L, Block K, Harms L, MacDougall C, Snowdon E, Ireton G, et al. Children and young people’s wellbeing post-disaster: Safety and stability are critical. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. 2015;14:195–201.
  6. Chamlee-Wright E, Rothschild DM. Disastrous uncertainty: how government disaster policy undermines community rebound. Mercatus Policy Series Mercatus Center, George Mason University. 2007;(9).
  7. Williamson B, Markham F, Weir J. Aboriginal peoples and the response to the 2019–2020 bushfires, Working Paper No. 134/2020. Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, Canberra; 2020.
  8. Thomassin A, Neale T, Weir JK. The natural hazard sector’s engagement with Indigenous peoples: a critical review of CANZUS countries. Geographical research. 2019;57(2):164–77.
  9. Bryant R, Gallagher H, Waters E, Gibbs L, Pattison P, MacDougall C, et al. Mental Health and Social Networks After Disaster. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2017 Mar;174(3):277–85.
  10. Tuohy R, Stephens C, Johnston D. Older adults’ disaster preparedness in the context of the September 2010-December 2012 Canterbury earthquake sequence. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. 2014 Sep 1;9:194–203.
  11. Iwasaki K, Sawada Y, Aldrich DP. Social capital as a shield against anxiety among displaced residents from Fukushima. Natural Hazards. 2017 Oct 23;89(1):405–21.
  12. Zander KK, Petheram L, Garnett ST. Stay or leave? Potential climate change adaptation strategies among Aboriginal people in coastal communities in northern Australia. Natural Hazards. 2013;67(2):591–609.
  13. Haney TJ. Paradise Found? The Emergence of Social Capital, Place Attachment, and Civic Engagement after Disaster. Vol. 36, International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters. 2018.
  14. Townshend I, Awosoga O, Kulig J, Fan H. Social cohesion and resilience across communities that have experienced a disaster. Natural Hazards. 2015;76(2):913–38.
  15. Himes-Cornell A, Ormond C, Hoelting K, Ban NC, Zachary Koehn J, Allison EH, et al. Factors Affecting Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Using the Community Capitals Framework. Coastal Management. 2018 Sep 3;46(5):335–58.
  16. Van Kessel, G., Gibbs, L., & MacDougall C. Strategies to enhance resilience post-natural disaster: a qualitative study of experiences with Australian floods and fires. Journal of Public Health. 2014;37(2):328–36.
  17. Kaniasty K. Predicting social psychological well-being following trauma: The role of postdisaster social support. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. 2012;4(1):22–33.
  18. Gallagher C, Block K, Gibbs L, Forbes D, Lusher D, Molyneaux R, et al. The effect of group involvement on post-disaster mental health: A longitudinal multilevel analysis. Social Science & Medicine. 2019;220:167–75.
  19. VanLandingham MJ. Weathering Katrina: Culture and Recovery among Vietnamese Americans. Russell Sage Foundation; 2017.
  20. Kenney CM, Phibbs SR, Paton D, Reid J, Johnston DM. Community-led disaster risk management: A Māori response to ōtautahi (christchurch) earthquakes. Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies. 2015;19(Special Issue):9–20.
  21. Moreton MRJ. A study of four natural disasters in Australia: how the human response to fire, flood and cyclone contributes to community resilience and recovery. 2016;
  22. Aldrich DP, Page-Tan C, Fraser T. A Janus-faced resource: Social capital and resilience trade-offs. In: Trump BD, Florin M-V, Linkov I, editors. IRGC resource guide on resilience (vol 2): Domains of resilience for complex interconnected systems. Lausanne, CH: EPFL International Risk Governance Center; 2018.
  23. van Kessel G, MacDougall C, Gibbs L. The Process of Rebuilding Human Resilience in the Face of the Experience of a Natural Disaster: A Multisystem Model. IJEMHHR. 2015;17(4):678–87.
  24. Johal S, Mounsey Z, Tuohy R, Johnston D. Coping with Disaster: General Practitioners’ Perspectives on the Impact of the Canterbury Earthquakes. PLoS Currents. 2014;(APR):1–9.
  25. Camilleri P, Healy C, Macdonald E, Nicholls S, Sykes J, Winkworth G, et al. Recovery from bushfires: The experience of the 2003 Canberra bushfires three years after. Australasian Journal of Paramedicine. 2010;8(1):15.
  26. Sadri AM, Ukkusuri S V, Lee S, Clawson R, Aldrich D, Nelson MS, et al. The role of social capital, personal networks, and emergency responders in post-disaster recovery and resilience: a study of rural communities in Indiana. Natural hazards. 2018;90(3):1377–406.
  27. Urmson K, Johnston D, Kemp S. Asking for help and receiving support after a disaster. Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies. 2016;20(1):3–14.
  28. Mooney M, Tarrant R, Paton D, Johal S, Johnston D. Getting through: Children’s effective coping and adaptation in the context of the Canterbury, New Zealand, earthquakes of 2010-2012. Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies. 2017;21(1):19–30.
  29. Harms L, Gallagher H, Gibbs L, Bryant R, Lusher D, Richardson J, et al. Conceptualising post-disaster recovery: Incorporating Grief Experiences. British Journal of Social Work. 2015;45((suppl 1): i170-i187).
  30. Aldrich DP. Challenges to Coordination: Understanding Intergovernmental Friction During Disasters. International Journal of Disaster Risk Science. 2019 Sep;10(3):306–16.
  31. Dibley G, Mitchell L, Ireton G, Gordon R. Government’s role in supporting community-led approaches to recovery. 2019.
  32. Aldrich DP. It’s who you know: Factors driving recovery from Japan’s 11 March 2011 disaster. Public Administration. 2016 Jun;94(2):399–413.
  33. Aldrich DP. Black wave: how networks and governance shaped Japan’s 3/11 disasters. University of Chicago Press; 2019.
  34. Ahangama N, Prasanna R, Blake D. The influence of relational and cognitive capital on knowledge networks: Disaster drill experiences in Ratnapura, Sri Lanka. Resilience: International Policies, Practices and Discourses. 2019 Jun 18;
  35. Fraser C, Blake D. Valuing Voices: Sex workers’ experiences following the Canterbury earthquakes. Disaster Research Science Report; 2020/01. Wellington (NZ); 2020.
  36. Aldrich DP, Crook K. Strong civil society as a double-edged sword: Siting trailers in post-Katrina New Orleans. Political Research Quarterly. 2008;61(3):379–89.
  37. Williamson T. Beyond social capital: Social justice in recovery and resilience. Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy. 2013;4(1):28–31.
  38. Yang J, Yang Y, Liu X, Tian J, Zhu X, Miao D. Self-efficacy, social support, and coping strategies of adolescent earthquake survivors in China. Social Behavior and Personality. 2010;38(9):1219–28.
  39. Thomas DSK, Phillips BD, Lovekamp WE, Fothergill A. Social vulnerability to disasters. CRC Press; 2013.
  40. Dominey-Howes D, Gorman-Murray A, McKinnon S. Emergency management response and recovery plans in relation to sexual and gender minorities in New South Wales, Australia. International journal of disaster risk reduction. 2016;16:1–11.
  41. Smiley KT, Howell J, Elliott JR. Disasters, local organizations, and poverty in the USA, 1998 to 2015. Population and Environment. 2018;40(2):115–35.
  42. Hughey J, Speer PW, Peterson NA. Sense of community in community organizations: Structure and evidence of validity. Journal of community psychology. 1999;27(1):97–113.