"If PASSA Youth is systematically and correctly used it will bring about behavioural change. For this to happen youth need to take full ownership of the process which will happen if they are treated as autonomous beings and not as children depending on other people's decisions."

The Participatory Approach for Safe Shelter Awareness (PASSA) is a methodology developed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) with the support of the British Red Cross, which provides tools to communities to improve their living space, build safe houses, and design better communities through a participatory approach geared towards adults. The aim of PASSA is to develop local capacity to reduce shelter-related risks by raising awareness and developing skills in joint analysis, learning, and decision-making at community level. Working with Habitat for Humanity International, IFRC created the PASSA Youth methodology to provide young people aged between 13 and 17 living in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities with tools to understand the risks to their houses and neighbourhoods, taking steps to make these safer and enabling them to improve overall living conditions both prior and after disasters and crisis. It is a participatory approach that can be applied worldwide to allow collective decision-making and to develop local youth capacity to design and create safer communities. The focus on youth is designed to allow:

  • Greater recognition of the role of youth as first responders and change-makers in their communities, particularly relating to urban violence prevention and social inclusion;
  • Improved awareness among urban actors, including governments, local authorities, donors, and humanitarian organisations, on ways to engage youth and volunteers in shaping more inclusive and safer living environments; and
  • Increased understanding of initiatives that use technologies familiar to and preferred by youth to shape and improve shelter and settlements.
Communication Strategies: 

Ela Serdaroglu, IFRC Shelter Lead, says: "Innovation is at the heart of PASSA Youth, including the use of digital and new media resources to connect, share and engage. In addition, the youth-focused version shows the advantages of linking up to makers' communities, and the viability of digital technologies to increase capacities and resilience, when disasters and crisis strike. The purpose is to develop capacity of youth (leaders, volunteers, members of affected communities) to make positive changes in their communities, by raising their awareness on specific habitat related risks they are exposed to and to articulate their priorities and choices to adult counterparts." PASSA uses participatory methods, which IFRC finds have proven effective in work with communities, among other things because:

  • They enable anybody to contribute to the analysis and planning as an equal, whatever their age, gender, social class, or level of education.
  • They build self-esteem, respect for other members of the group, and a sense of individual and collective responsibility for decisions.
  • They develop understanding and respect for local capacities and knowledge while helping to spread innovations generated by the community, making their adoption of higher value and appropriation.
  • They are fun and rewarding for the facilitators and, in the case of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers, they foster a new and positive relationship with community members.

IFRC explains that the surfacing of digital tools that make communication and collaboration easier, has enriched participatory methodologies and expanded their focus from communities and local issues to global affairs. PASSA Youth activities use closely connected multiple media so young people move from one to another with ease. Starting from orality and collective memory, followed by creative cartography and community journalism, youth use a variety of tools for collecting data about their community in multimedia formats. Presenting group findings is encouraged using transmedia storytelling. Activities are boosted with the addition of an interactive component to PASSA Youth, crystallised in the Digital Track. For example, the historical profile is enhanced with the construction of a digital time-line and community maps with QR (Quick Response) codes.

In practice, PASSA Youth is a process facilitated by trained volunteers who guide a community group (called PASSA Group) of 15-30 youth leaders through 8 participatory activities that enable the youth to do the following progressively:

  • Develop their awareness of shelter safety issues in their community.
  • Identify hazards and vulnerabilities that create risk related to shelter.
  • Analyse causes of shelter vulnerability.
  • Prioritise potential strategies to improve shelter safety.
  • Plan to put those shelter safety strategies into place.
  • Implement improvements based on local capacities.
  • Monitor progress.

Each activity takes about 4 hours. The 8 activities are spread over the course of 2 to 8 weeks. (The manual available at Related Summaries, below, details the process.) Designed to create inspiring and powerful initiatives driven by youth, PASSA Youth can be used as a tool to start immediate action - using flash mob style events and attracting attention on neighbourhood safety conditions - as well as to progressively enable long-lasting change in communities. PASSA Youth can also be regarded as a tool to progress from the shelter relief phase to more long-lasting reconstruction solutions. In both pre-disaster and post-disaster settings, the tool will allow youth to express concerns and demands, and steer their plans into realistic and sustainable outcomes. The artist plays a fundamental role in this process - demonstrating techniques and promoting that youth express themselves and communicate lessons learned to the community, among other reasons, to gather support to complete the enhancements.

PASSA Youth is designed to support programmes to improve shelter safety and thereby reduce disaster risk. It is therefore very closely related to Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA) and may often be built on a VCA where shelter is identified as a source of risk. It is important to acknowledge and build upon community-based programmes that have been previously developed in the country concerned, in particular those involving the youth. PASSA Youth can be implemented at different stages within the disaster management cycle:

  • Preparedness and mitigation: PASSA Youth is used as a tool for shelter risk reduction once VCA has identified risks related to habitat and the built environment.
  • From relief to recovery: As the emergency shelter phase is over, PASSA Youth provides the framework for creating long-lasting shelter solutions by integrating risk knowledge at community level (site mitigation measures, disaster-resistant techniques, etc).
  • Recovery phase: At the end of the recovery phase, PASSA Youth serves to address shelter and settlement issues not covered by the programme and builds on the capacities acquired. PASSA Youth enables the community to approach other actors and to lobby local governments on matters of common interest.

To that end, shelter and youth programmes of the National Society and allies such as Habitat for Humanity carry out activities such as the following: train, supervise, and support volunteers; supply the materials, meeting space, and equipment needed; develop the PASSA Youth illustrations pack with a local artist before and during the activities; discuss and give feedback on reports about PASSA Youth implementation and results; inform local stakeholders of the PASSA Youth process; coordinate with local authorities and other local stakeholders to back the needs of the community; get involved as required if problems arise beyond the volunteers' capacity to manage; and provide essential technical support on shelter and settlements safety.

IFRC says that, to institutionalise PASSA Youth within Red Cross Red Crescent and allies such as Habitat for Humanity, disaster-preparedness tools such as contingency plans at local and municipal levels should incorporate PASSA Youth as standard practice and use it as the tool for shelter safety and community-driven improvement. PASSA Youth should be considered as a tool that strengthens both a "software component" - namely, knowledge and skills development within the community - and a "hardware component" - leading to the physical improvement of housing and infrastructure.

Development Issues: 

Youth, Disaster Risk Reduction

Key Points: 

PASSA is a participatory method of disaster risk reduction (DRR) related to shelter and settlements safety. It is a variation of Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST), which has been used by many Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies in water and sanitation programmes since the late 1990s. PHAST in turn is based on a participatory approach called SARAR which stands for Self-esteem, Associative strengths, Resourcefulness, Action-planning and Responsibility. PASSA Youth is a variation of the original PASSA.

Partner Text: 

IFRC, Habitat for Humanity

See video

IFRC website; PASSA Youth flyer [PDF], February 2017; PASSA Youth manual [PDF], March 2017; ReliefWeb; and the PASSA Youth Digital Track - all accessed on May 19 2017. Image credit: Agostino Pacciani, Jan Marvin A. Goh/PRC, Costa Rican Red Cross, and Jaime Mok