About this Blog

This is the Blog of Live Project 11 - Shelter Library, a live project undertaken during autumn 2008 by MArch Students from Sheffield School of Architecture.

Shelter Library is the key information resource for the humanitarian shelter sector. Shelter Centre the client for this Live Project are an International NGO based in Geneva. They work to support communities impacted by conflicts and natural disasters by serving collaboration and consensus in the humanitarian shelter sector.

Our project wrapped in late November 2008 the work of shelter centre continues however as does the Live Project Programme at SSoA, for further information please follow the links.

We hope you enjoy, play safe now

16 Feb 2012


7 Nov 2008

Presentation, Feedback and Wrap

The LP 11 team presented the culmination of the past 6 weeks work in Sheffield this morning to a packed audience of our tutors and students of the School of Architecture. The Shelter Library presentation provoked an animated debate from the floor, questions covered by elements of our work excluded from the presentation or by features already present on the Shelter Centre Website. Clearly, the early concerns we harboured as a team, as to the challenge we faced in communicating the complexities of the project, paid off and our audience appeared to grasp the nature of what we'd been engaged in.

Graphic used in the presentation to explain our searching methodologies
The presentation outlined briefly what Shelter Centre is, how they fit into a picture of the Humanitarian Shelter Sector and how this fits into the wider mesh of Humanitarianism. Lorenzo then outlined how we'd undertaken content sourcing and our achievement of 450 documents at an upload factor of over 80%. Tom covered the expansion of our remit into the development of a Standard Operating Procedure to ensure a legacy document for the Live Project and as sustainability guarantor for the Shelter Library, this document, as discussed by Sarah Considine, opens up the chance, to Shelter Centre, to engage external volunteers in content searching without a fear of mis-communicated quality control levels.Printed copies of our S.O.P.
Our conclusion to the presentation and the project as a whole was put by Sarah Hunt, who pointed out that whilst not overtly architectural in appearance, this project called upon not only the strategic and managerial skills of every team member, it demanded constant engagement of our design sensibilities. The 'Product' is not a formal confection rather it is an informational structure of some elegance and on a virtual level beauty.

This post comprises the closing of our activities on this project and weblog. Funding forthcoming, our results will be presented to the bi-annual Shelter Meeting, being held in Brussels on November 19-22 and our entries will be uploaded some time during November to join the Shelter Library.

Thanks for reading

3 Nov 2008

Stakeholder diagram

Shelter Centre Stakeholder Diagram

This diagram outlines Shelter Centre's partner agencies. Unlike other stakeholder diagrams with a leading organisation or an agency at the top of the chain, the Shelter Centre stakeholder relationship can be better described by a spider diagram. Shelter Centre acts as the body providing information and support to the overall Humanitarian Shelter Community.
The group have divided into three smaller sub-groups today to target the following tasks:

Team One
Are continuing the content search
Team Two
Is starting work on our other main deliverable the S.O.P. for maintaining the libarary
Team Three
Is starting the overall Live Project documentation and presentation.

1 Nov 2008

Content Progress Update

After another week's hard work, the intensive content seach raises the teams document tally to 255 fully tagged entries. With searching operations expanding into events and training, the team is operating efficently.
Looking forward to the next few days the teams' content resourcing will be streamlined as documentation and reporting tasks are picked up.

31 Oct 2008

Content Filtration

One of the tools devised by the group, in collaboration with Shelter Centre, to aid the content filtering was series of "client profiles" to help tune the Live Project Teams' understanding of the Library's constituency. These profiles are essentially avatars of potential Shelter Centre Library users. Following our discussions with the Shelter Centre, we have proposed the following four profiles:

A Shelter Sector Field Operative who needs info on specific materials and subjects (e.g. bamboo, land rights).

A desk manager who is a generalist but occasionally needs specific info on shelter issues.

A sanitary (or other non Shelter Sector) Field Operative with specialist knowledge who needs to construct some form of shelter as a satelite project.

A government trainer needing material and an extensive bibliography in order of relevence.

These profiles will be developed throughout the remainder of the project. A refined versioned of these profiles is targeted for inclusion in one of the Delivery Documents the team is preparing for Shelter Centre

30 Oct 2008

165 Entries Approved

As our 'approved' document tally rises to 165, the Document Controller took a break to describe the information processing stages being followed to prepare documents for addition to the Shelter Library.

The chain in essences is:

The mechanics of the searching process has been discussed previously this process takes up the story once a document has been downloaded

Step 1:
Once a document has been sourced and downloaded it needs to be analysed. Through discussion with Tom Corsellis a number of document 'themes' can be excluded straight away. These include:

- Academic Papers without any field trials or case studies.

- Health Documents / reports with no reference to Shelter
- Documents about conflict, civil war etc
- Annual reports for specific organisations

Step 2:
Following approval, the Content Identifier then inputs relevant information from the document into a spreadsheet entry. This entry includes document name, language, keywords, contacts etc. Continuity of entry information across different team members is ensured by a entry guideline which the Document Control team have drafted.

Standardised Entry Guide

Step 3:

The entry is then sent to document control for inputting into the Entry Database and the document is transferred to FTP document store. The entry is placed at the bottom of the database ready for checking.

Step 4:
Document control move entry to its alpahabetical position, at the same time the entry is evaluated via the following criteria:

Duplication - Whether its already been entered in the Shelter Library or the google docs
Language - Spelling and grammatical errors
Formatting - checked against guidelines above

Consistency - Whether authors, organisations and keywords are already in the Shelter Library search options. If they are not they are highlighted in green for Chris Tolles to add to the database.
Link relability - That URLs are shortened to the shortest possible term
PDF name - checked against guidelines

Step 5:
Document store and Entry Database are transferred to Shelter Centre for final approval, upload and inclusion in Shelter Library.

Acquiring knowledge

In an age where continual political conflicts and natural disasters displace populations from their homes all over the world on a recurrent basis, it might seem surprising that young architecture students hoping to enter the field of humanitarian aid work are far from in demand. Conversely, it isn’t until the age of 25 that young people become ‘useful’ to the humanitarian field, once they have gained the appropriate experience and knowledge.
For many of us taking part in the Shelter Library project, this is our first time working within the humanitarian sector. Therefore, to a certain extent, our process of sourcing relevant resource material, whether mission specific reports or hard UN technical field guidelines, is one that we have been conducting ‘in the dark’ so to speak. Our lack of experience or intrinsic knowledge of the subject has presented us with a whole mass of information that is often difficult to specify as either useful or not. The internet is a sea of information and there is a danger of being overwhelmed with material that is seemingly appealing to us yet practically useless to aid workers in the field. ‘Nice ideas’ that remain untested or unsupported by credible agencies are a source that we are learning to be wary of.
As such, some sort of ‘filtering’ or feedback system is paramount to the library’s effective growth. Sending a current list of sourced titles, with author and publisher details, to Shelter Centre is a way of getting quick and immediate feedback on the types of material we are proposing for the library. This feedback system was instigated at the start of the week, and involves a daily email bulletin at the end of the evening listing the day’s findings, followed by a quick lunchtime conference call with Tom Corsellis the following day for title-by-title feedback in the form of ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and more importantly, ‘why’.
Naturally, the more feedback received, the more informed the continuing search. We become more self-critical about what we select as we become more aware of the credibility of certain sources. Thus, while the goal of achieving 500 titles might seem ambitious, we are becoming more efficient day by day as the feedback process expands. And while the subject matter is vast and new, we are in fact acquiring knowledge every day, whether consciously or not.
-FTP Document Store

28 Oct 2008

Sector Memory

The term sector memory refers to the transfer of experience from one operation to another or from veteran Shelter professionals to individuals entering the Humanitarian Shelter Sector.
It is an important goal of the Shelter Centre and Library to act as a central repository for the Shelter Sector of lessons learned from the operational experience. The humanitarian sector comprises largely of nomadic individuals moving between operations, organisations and often out of the professional altogether. Unlike in fixed professions, architecture for example, the corporation of professionals themselves can’t be relied upon as a continuous memory resource. In most sectors of humanitarian relief this is not a issue as the major organisations operate permanent departments with recording and reporting mechanisms to act as their memory. None of the major NGO’s or UN agencies, however, have Shelter departments. There are no institutional mechanisms for recording success or failure in past Shelter Sector actions. This compounds the logistical difficulties facing the Sector: without an effective process for avoiding previous mistakes, each new operation and the professionals involved in it must learn these lessons anew each time.
As discussed below the content sourcing process is structured around different distinct search strings rather than specific keywords. Into these strings have been added past operations as specific targets for available content.
Bam Earthquake | Gujurat Earthquake | Yugoslavian Civil War | South East Asian Tsunami | Pakistan Earthquake | Sichuan Earthquake

Shelter centre have given us direction as to what content is needed: the emphasis is on quantative operational reporting, targeted at the Humanitarian Sector, rather than qualitative reporting intended for publicity and fundraising use. This reporting should fall into two categories which can act as an indicator of relevant content to the teams when searching, these catergories are:
Archived from when the operations were current – off the cuff reports of how operational progress is being effected by local conditions [geography/indigenous materials/level of local economic development/nature of disaster] and what measures the shelter professionals are implementing to cope with unforeseen challenges
Operation Reports
Giving overview of shelter sector actions in completed operations. In the case of ongoing relief efforts, periodic progress reports are also of interest.

Content Busting

Sourcing over 500 items of relevant information in a particular field is a task that is simultaneously both numbing and interesting: Whilst (though some may refuse to admit it) monotonous tasks are inherent in architectural culture, especially in certain stages in the construction and making of buildings, it becomes easy to overlook the substance of a particular fragment or piece of information. Thus the assignment of a door schedule becomes not about a lesson in the possibilities involved in the design of doors, but in the completion (through numbering, arranging or whatever) of the task at hand. It becomes easy to ignore, or even abstract, the immediate content and its significance as part of a wider whole.

The tracing and preparation of practical material for the library is for direct use by NGO workers and humanitarian agencies working in the global field of humanitarian shelter. The hope is to build momentum for the library and work towards creating an open location for a memory for the humanitarian shelter sector (currently non-existent). Library items are identified not only for the content section of the website but in other areas; providing information on events and training for NGO workers for example, perhaps with a view to developing a semblance of a distance learning setup, where the library acts more as an active portal than a mere repository.

The management of the sourcing has thus been broken down into different teams exploring different strands of research. A more structured approach produces teams that are better informed in specific areas. Each team has a more focused field of knowledge regarding a particular area, and is thus able to navigate it more efficiently. The research strands are as follows:

- Searching through NGO databases
- Through library / document bibliographies
- Within training + Events

In addition, the management of an increasingly large repository of information requires tight control and checking. This is maintained by a document controller, whose role it is to ensure the clarity, quality and consistency of the entries for the library. A clear goal for the project is the delivery to the client of a substantial database which contains clear and useful information, ready for uploading to the Shelter Centre Library.

Compiling an Individual Research Strand Master Document of Library Entries