Organisation: Development Workshop France (DWF)
Region: Europe, Asia, SE Asia and Sub Saharan Africa
Managing Director: John Norton
Joined GNDR: 2008
Development Workshop France (DWF) is a French NGO, and provides support and technical assistance to small communities, specifically in the context of human settlements, housing, construction, and planning in developing countries.
For over 30 years DWF has worked to enable local people to deal with environmental challenges and natural disasters in more than 30 countries. Based in France, DWF has worked especially in South East Asia and West Africa, and has a regional office in Vietnam.
DWF promotes solutions based on indigenous knowledge and local resources, and develop local capacities to improve livelihoods. Since clear communication of information with local communities is key to this, DWF has utilised in the past many methods of communication, such as puppetry, cartoons, and films, among others. They have even had large lorries with demonstration ‘safe’ houses on top travelling round vulnerable villages, to help get the disaster preparedness message across – ‘prevent typhoon damage’. DWF has always felt that there was a need to raising awareness first among communities, as well as bringing in technical and financing solutions.
“We used puppet shows and cartoons to deliver the message about the importance of prevention. How to do it, and the practicalities come further down the line”
The origins of DWF go back to 1973, when three architectural students at the Architectural Association (AA) in London founded an organisation called Development Workshop (DW). John Norton is one of the three co-founders of DW and the Managing Director of DWF. John was born in England, and studied at the Architectural Association in London, where he got his qualifications as an Architect; his thesis was based on the ‘problems and potentials of the Indigenous Built environment in a developing country’, which shows his long personal interest in local architecture, and his work in DRR has continued ever since.
“Very few individuals and organisations are currently working on safe housing in relation to disasters”
John established DWF in France in 1989, and has been a key part in the success and achievements of DWF. Development Workshop France has received many awards including in 2009 the UNISDR Sasakawa Award Certificate of Distinction for Disaster Reduction.
Another part of the success of the DW model has been related to the approach of working through fully independent offices worldwide. DW Angola, for example, was founded in 1981 and is the oldest NGO in Angola, having worked for many years in the context of a protracted and complex humanitarian crisis.
“To achieve results, you need to gain, build and maintain the trust of communities”
DWF works now mainly in South East Asia and West Africa. Many areas of Vietnam have benefited greatly from the work of DWF. Their impact and actions gained DWF an invitation from the Vietnamese Government to help revise the national standards for safe housing in flood and cyclone risk areas.
A member of GNDR since 2008, DWF believes in the power of networking and that promoting respect for local action for DRR and development is very important.
Awards and achievements
- 2015: Teheran International Award, 2nd Scientific Conference on Urban Management, 1st prize.
- 2010: ONU-Habitat Urban Best Practices “Prevent typhoon damage to housing, Vietnam”
- 2010: UNDP/UNCHS/BSHF Urban and Housing development South South Transfer certificate of distinction
- 2009: UNISDR Sasakawa Award Certificate of Distinction for Disaster Reduction
- 2008: Thua Thien Hue Certificate of Merit to DWF, Vietnam
- 2008: World Habitat Award for Preventing typhoon damage to Housing, Central Viet Nam
- 1998: World Habitat Award for the promotion of Woodless Construction in West Africa;
- 1992: ONU-Habitat Scroll of Honour – Woodless construction, Niger