Understanding Social Networks to Facilitate Resilience

Start Date

Research Theme
Primary Investigators

Geographic Region

When communities experience the impacts of compound hazards, responses are often reactive and it is often too late to respond in an efficient and effective manner (Raymond et al. 2020). Just as academic disciplines are often siloed, sectors and decision-makers can be siloed from one another and not understand interconnections or linkages in decision-making. Social network analysis has been used to understand how information and resources flow through a system and how they influence adaptation actions (Jones & Faas 2016). While social networks have been looked at retrospectively, they have rarely been assessed in a co-produced approach with stakeholders to proactively assess and shift networks to build system resilience (Maldonado 2017).

In this project, we will explore the capacity for societal response to emergent hazards through network analysis and a workshop exploring existing networks and possible modifications.  We will build off relationships and insights from other WWA projects to identify a community that has either experienced or is concerned about one or more hazards and are also interested in building resilience to future events. We will focus this project on response to flooding and fire, as those concerns have emerged as part of prior assessments, adapting as needed in response to the concerns expressed in initial work (Torrens 2020, Peterson, 2020). We will build on other WWA projects to assess individual entity roles and responsibilities, critical decisions, and the network of response to hazards, and to assess current perceptions and activities associated with hazards mitigation and the impact of perceptions of sense of place. 

In Phase I (2022-2024), we will work to identify a community with concerns about a specific hazard(s) and interest in partnering. We will then conduct a social network analysis to understand the current network of hazard response in the selected community. This will support identification of actors, roles, and scope and scale of existing hazard response efforts, while informing next project steps. Interviews of individuals within this network will also inform specific decision and action points, the types of resources and information they currently leverage and existing needs, and the connections they might desire to make these actions more impactful, scalable and equitable. By understanding current connections and networks, as well as desired linkages, we can begin to build resilience to hazards before they occur.

In Phase II (Y2024-2026), if the participating community is interested in considering assessing and modifying networks to build resilience to future hazards, then we will assist with facilitation of 1-2 workshop(s) that could provide real-world models of co-produced and proactive network building. One tangible possibility, with groundwork laid by the University of Wyoming Extension Service and Northern Plains Climate Hub is for fire preparedness across public and private land ownership in communities near Pinedale, WY. There has been growing interest in proactive planning that might better link decision-makers and service-providers, and discussion of policies or programs that could assist in increasing community preparedness. Other possibilities for co-produced workshops would be to build off prior efforts related to water planning, flood mitigation, or wildlife adaptation planning in Wyoming. These workshops will aim to bring together diverse stakeholders from a range of sectors to share current priorities, perspectives and needs in hazards planning, identify overlaps in prioritization, efforts, and/or needs, and pinpoint gaps in existing networks where new stakeholders can be incorporated into joint efforts. Importantly, to support equity and inclusion in these workshops, and in broadening social networks, we will ensure participation from underrepresented stakeholder groups. Ultimately, this project serves the dual purpose of supporting WWA in gaining an improved understanding of stakeholder networks and future strategies for engagement and resilience building, and facilitating inter- and intra-network collaboration amongst stakeholder groups to strengthen future hazards response. 

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