PP2: COMMUNITY RESILIENCE TO EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS THROUGH IMPROVED LOCAL DECISION MAKING

Summary

This programme package has involved a stakeholder-led research project that has sought to understand better how community groups (policy makers, households and SMEs) respond to extreme weather events and study the complex relationships between these groups in order to improve understanding of the impact that these relationships have on community resilience.

The aim of the research has been to understand reasons for uptake, or not, of coping strategies and to develop an integrated decision making framework that supports the individual and collective actions of local policy makers, households and SMEs, in such a way that the actions result in the improved resilience of local communities to EWEs.

PI: Keith Jones1; CIs: Roger Few2; Bingunath Ingirige3; David Proverbs4; Robby Soetanto5; Duncan Thomas6; Anita Wreford2
1University of Greenwich; 2University of East Anglia; 3University of Salford; 4University of Wolverhampton;
5Loughborogh University; 6The University of Manchester.

Rationale

In the UK extreme weather events (EWEs) are increasing in frequency and severity. The ability of local communities to cope with the immediate to long term impacts and recover from the aftermath of EWEs is critical to their prosperity. Whilst the immediate responsibility for protection of life resides with the emergency services, and the restoration of basic services with the utilities, the short to medium term success of the local community resides with its constituent members: individuals, businesses (predominately small and medium sized enterprises – SMEs) and local policy makers. Whilst each of these groups will be affected in different ways depending on the type of EWE, their individual actions when combined will determine the resilience of the community.

Policy makers must be aware of the expectations of households and SMEs and develop policy instruments that support these groups in ways that are sympathetic to their needs and aspirations; householders must be aware of their exposure to the effects of EWEs and of the sources and levels of assistance that they can expect from local agencies and businesses; SMEs must be prepared for the disruption that an EWE can bring and have contingency plans in place to help their immediate recovery (and ensure that they are able to support households in their recovery) and to secure their long term survival. The challenges for this Programme Package are to understand how each group of decision makers in the community is affected, how they may need to respond to EWEs, and to identify the synergies and conflicts between their decisions that affect community resilience.

The work will build on studies already undertaken (1,2,3,4) into resilience, vulnerability and adaptive capacity in response to climate change and seek to extend their scope from the national; regional; and sector level to the local, community level.

Research Aim

To undertake a stakeholder led research project that seeks to better understand how community groups (policy makers, households and SMEs) respond to EWEs and study the complex relationships between these groups in order to improve understanding of the impact that these relationships have on community resilience to EWEs.

The aim of the research is to develop an integrated decision making framework that supports the individual and collective actions of local policy makers, households and SMEs, in such a way that the actions result in the improved resilience of local communities to EWEs.

Research Objectives

  • 1. To understand the current decision making process (policy makers, households and SMEs) and community perceptions (e.g. risk, role, information, strategy, drivers, barriers etc) in response to EWEs.
  • 2. To identify inter-linkages and inter-dependencies between decision-makers across community and sector groups and assess the impact of these on community resilience.
  • 3. To identify and evaluate the usefulness of existing (non-technical) coping strategies/processes for EWE and non-EWE events.
  • 4. Develop and test prototype coping strategies in the form of an integrated decision making framework and software toolkit that integrates 1-3 above with the outputs from WP1, WP3, WP4 and WP5 to support improved community resilience in response to the increased likelihood of EWEs.

Work Plan

In order to achieve the above objectives the Programme Package has been broken down into 6 inter-related research tasks (Figure 1). Tasks 1-3 involve a longitudinal study (3 years) of the decision making characteristics of the primary community stakeholder groups (1 Phd student will work with the Household group, 1 PhD student will work with the SME group and 1 part-time Research Fellow will work with the Policy Makers group). In addition to the longitudinal tasks a series of shorter activities will support not only the Programme Package but the overall CREW Research Programme. Task 4 will involve a 1 year study of the lessons that can be learnt from previous EWE and non-EWE events (part-time Research Fellow for 1 year). Task 5 will involve the use of cognitive mapping to identify linkages and inter-dependencies between Tasks (part-time Research Fellow for 3 years). Task 6 will involve the development and testing of an integrated decision making framework and software toolkit with engagement from the Policy Makers, Household and SME stakeholder groups based on the information from Task 1-5 and from Programme Packages 1, 3, 4 and 5 (full-time Research Assistant for 2 years). Finally, all researchers will be involved in the development of the common evaluation framework and the dissemination of the PP2 outputs.

Figure 1 Research Tasks
Methodologies

A range of research methodologies will be used in this work package.

Initial desk studies will be used to identify:

  • The characteristics of study area (e.g. household demographics, SME profile etc);
  • Existing policy infrastructure within the case study area;
  • Sampling frames for household and SME surveys;
  • Historical case studies of both EWE and non-EWE events;
  • A strategy to overcome any limitations discovered with the study area.

Questionnaire surveys, interviews and focus groups will then be used to investigate current decision making processes and perceptions of EWEs amongst the community groups:

  • Policy makers (60-75 longitudinal surveys; 2-3 focus groups);
  • Households (400 surveys, 40 interviews, 4 focus groups);
  • SMEs (500 survey and re-survey, 50 interviews).

Questions will be designed to elucidate community’s perceptions of risks and changes in risk, information sources and their utilization (developed in conjunction with PP3, PP4 and PP5), current coping methods and levels of uptake of technological coping mechanisms (in conjunction with PP1), perceptions of benefits from uptake of coping measures and barriers to uptake. The progression through extensive quantitative surveys to more in-depth and/or qualitative interview and engaging focus group techniques will enable the researchers to build up an understanding of: a) the baseline pattern of current perceptions and actions; and b) the factors that influence how stakeholders take decisions in response to risk – for example, how experiences shape subsequent actions and resilience, reasons for uptake or non-uptake of innovations, the role of ‘cognitive’ factors such as knowledge and motivation versus ‘rational’ economic factors. These factors will be shared with PP1, PP3, PP4 and PP5 to inform the development of more appropriate solutions.

Cognitive mapping/modelling of behaviour will be used to investigate inter-linkages and inter-dependencies between community stakeholders. An integrated decision making framework will be developed that fills the gaps identified in the current approaches (PP2 – objectives 1-3) and takes evidence and solutions from PP3, PP4 and PP5. An iterative series of Action Research programmes (with SMEs and local policy makers) and Feedback Focus Groups (Households) will be used to test the new decision making framework. The action research / focus group programme will engage directly with end-user stakeholders to identify their specific requirements of an integrated decision making framework. Once identified, these requirements will be used by all the researchers involved in the development of the decision making framework (PP1; PP2; PP3; PP4 and PP5) to ensure that their contributions to the framework reflect the actual needs of the community. The emerging decision making framework and toolkits will be field tested by engagement with the end-user stakeholders and its weaknesses fed back to those researchers responsible for its development. Three iterations (each of 3 months testing followed by 3 months redevelopment) of the action research programme are planned before the final integrated decision making framework and toolkit set are produced. Case Study Reports and Breakfast Briefings will be used to capture good practice emerging from the action research/focus groups and a final re-survey will measure the impact that the research programme has had on the perceptions of EWEs amongst Household and SME stakeholders.

Deliverables

The deliverables have been divided into two groups: those whose primary purpose is to inform other programme packages and research tasks; and those intended for use by stakeholders. In addition, all deliverables will inform academic papers.

Deliverables to other programme packages/research tasks Deliverables to stakeholder groups
An assessment of the extent to which the study area is indicative of the UK as a whole and the identification of any specific characteristics/factors that could reduce the usefulness of any conclusions drawn. Prototype toolkits and supporting material for use by policy makers, households and SMEs.
Understanding of the impact of past EWE and non-EWE events on community resilience. Development of enhanced coping measures suitable for use by households.
Improved understanding of /by decision makers of risks of EWEs. Best practice case study examples of how SMEs can prepare for EWEs.
Improved understanding of the barriers and drivers (vulnerabilities, risks, thresholds etc) to the uptake of coping strategies by SMEs and Households. Guidance for policy decision makers of households and SMEs responses to EWEs.
Specification of the community requirement of models, narratives, and information. Measure of the impact that the research has had on stakeholder perceptions of EWEs.
Feedback on the usefulness of models, narratives and information to stakeholder groups.

Community Partners

SE London Resilience Partnership , The London Assembly,Business Link, Federation of small businesses, BIFM, RICS, Chambers of Commerce, AXA, Householder groups, RSL’s, Age Concern, Local Authorities, Emergency Services, Utilities.

Relevance to Beneficiaries

The integrated decision making framework will have immediate benefit to local policy makers, households and SMEs. The greater understanding of community response to EWEs will benefit strategic decision makers, the emergency services and the utilities.

References

1. Dahlstrom K. & Salmons R. (2005) ‘Building economic and social information for examining the effects of climate change – BESEECH’ Final Report, Policy Studies Institute, London.

2. Adger W. N. & Kelly P. M. (2000) ‘Theory and practice in assessing vulnerability to climate change and facilitating adaptation’, Climate Change, vol 47, pp 325-352.

3. Gallopin G. C. (2006) ‘Linkages between vulnerability, resilience and adaptive capacity’, Global Environmental Change, vol 16 pp 293-303.

4. Adger W. N. & Vincent K. (2005) ‘Uncertainty in adaptive capacity’, C R. Geoscience, vol 337, pp 399-410.

Rob Bexley

Researcher and Activist at Various Causes
I'm in constant pursuit of environmental changes that can help keep our planet safe for the long term. Contact me via email at crewweatherextreme@gmail.com

Latest posts by Rob Bexley (see all)