Sunday, August 30, 2015

Resilient futures: A game of high stakes

What is a game? It can be a form of competitive activities played according to rules, or an activity for amusement or entertainment, or structured, interactive activities that require thought and adaptation as part of challenges within a learning exercise. Learning by gaming about resilience is particularly ‘high stakes’, given our current climate of uncertainty, and exposes participants to new knowledge and skills without the risk that would otherwise be taken in the field.

Having a resilient future or resilience to a disaster can be learned from typical situations in society where the outcome of one group’s choices is critically dependent on the actions of other groups. Students often lack first-hand experience of disasters or of responding to them. Their understanding of resilience in a disaster context cannot often be learned externally from a real disaster. The ‘game’ therefore offers them that opportunity.

This project is about teaching students about resilience to disasters and about how to deal with the action of others which impact on their resilience. Games are part of all human experience from simple games learned early to complex games devised with rules. Humans are used to games in their experience and many lessons are learned throughout life as part of game playing: competing, strategy making, interacting in structured ways, making decisions and problem solving.

Many students who study disaster management don't have real life experience of disasters. In a management context, they do need experience to practice based on applicable principles learned through simulated contexts. Using practice which has been captured from disaster response and management practitioners and presented in “a system dynamics” format, scenarios can be created within which students can apply learned principles and then learn decision-making processes, in the context of disasters, about disaster response management and the consequences of the decisions they made, leading to understanding the transfer of knowledge to those affected to enable resilience in specific contexts.

The “systems dynamic” model enables multiple actors to act and react in various ways, learning from experience, building knowledge of action and its effectiveness, building principles of practice to apply in as many different disaster scenarios as they can, as effects can vary in almost every disaster event. However, to build this “systems dynamic” model requires extensive levels of knowledge. This knowledge can be captured from practitioners (disaster response and relevant agencies). This knowledge can then be modelled into the system with certain rules and algorithms which allow the system to produce (generate) results according to those rules, enabling learning and re-learning as contexts and conditions change in a ‘game’ situation.

The game played by these rules can then identify students who have demonstrated the ability to learn and adapt to rules and uncertainty which was captured from real life. The skills derived from this game of high stakes learning process will equip students to be ready for a disaster Resilient Future.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Call for papers: International Journal of Project Management Special issue “Managing Disaster Recovery Projects”

FOR THE ATTENTION OF international scholars researching project management aspects of post-disaster recovery!

You are invited to submit abstracts (by 31st December)  for an upcoming special issue entitled 'Managing Disaster Recovery Projects' in the International Journal of Project Management. We invite research papers on disaster recovery project management case studies, project issues and best practices that have had significant contributions to the success of disaster recovery projects.

Papers may address any aspect of project management for disaster recovery projects, such as risk management, scope management and project scheduling. Topics may include but not limited to:

• The role of project management methods in attaining successful disaster recovery 
• The methods, tools, processes, practices and/or knowledge areas used in managing disaster recovery projects 
• Experience and lessons in managing large disaster recovery projects (what worked, what didn't and why) 
• Governance and organization of disaster recovery projects 
• Stakeholders management and coordination 
• Factors affecting the success of managing disaster recovery projects 
• Measuring the performance of disaster recovery projects 
• Incorporation of disaster resilience paradigm in managing disaster recovery projects 
• Solving wicked problems in disaster recovery 
• Professionalism and disaster recovery

Both theoretical developments and case studies on the different levels and themes are welcome. All submissions will be sent to at least two independent reviewers. Authors should submit a maximum 1000 word abstract to get feedback about the suitability of the topic for the special issue. Please submit abstract directly to Professor Randy Rapp and Dr. Yan Chang-Richards. Once invited by the Guest Editors to submit for the special issue, papers should be submitted online, carefully following the Guide for Authors. Submitted papers will undergo a double-blind review process with multiple reviewers. All queries should be submitted directly to the guest editor.

• Abstract submission deadline: 31 December 2015
• Paper submission deadline: 1 April 2016
• Notifications to authors: 1 August 2016
• Expected publication date: early 2017

*much of this CFP was first published by IJPM *

Friday, August 21, 2015

Disasters, poverty and the paradox of limitlessness

I think that we, the human race, are in a bit of a pickle. The consensus seems to be that now is a great time to be alive. Those spreading such optimism trumpet the achievements of industrialisation and globalisation. Sure, the human population is soaring, but more people are healthier and happier than ever, aren't they? Limitless growth seems to be working.

As a result of humanity's rapid development during the 20th century, consumption has been exceeding the earth's ability to regenerate since the early 70's. Last week earth 'overshoot day' came earlier than ever before. We no longer live on the 'interest', but are eating into natural capital. The human population could hit 11 billion by 2100, exacerbating existing dilemmas in health, poverty, civil unrest. Per capita share of environmental resources must decrease as population increases, but as a minority of the human race consume more and more, there is less for the remainder. Much of the growth in the 21st century is projected to occur in Asia and Africa, regions that are largely still to fully develop (and reach consumption levels on par with the West). A bleak outlook, I know.

But honestly, the contamination of ecological systems is out of control. So called 'ecological debt' is growing rapidly, and regardless of the political posturing, serious measures are not being taken to avoid the disasters that will surely come as a result. The environmental, political and social ramifications could be world-changing. Will technology or human ingenuity save the day? Neo-liberalism has redefined the 'limitless' worldview, aided by a taboo on the discussion of population. However, this is not a technical problem. It is not even a population problem. If we propose technical solutions we will solve the wrong problem.

The real issue facing us is the ideology of limitless consumption and progress measured by economic growth. However, questioning the wisdom of perpetual economic growth is tantamount to heresy in a neo-liberal society. As Garrett Hardin posits, 'It has long been recognised that some of our most deeply held views are not neat, precise propositions but broadly "global" attitudes that act as the gatekeepers of the mind, letting in only those propositions that do not challenge the dominant picture of reality.' The ecological problems we face today reduce to balancing supply and demand. Ecological 'services' are limited, while demand is essentially endless.

The paradox of a growing global population that protects the 'limitless' worldview is astounding. I do not agree with everything Hardin writes, but his assertion that 'four centuries of sedation by the delusion of limitlessness have left humanity floundering in a wilderness of rhetoric' is difficult to argue with. Poverty has not ended, inequality is growing and we are killing the planet; and we feel entitled to carry on! Forced displacement due to conflict, climate change and disasters will create lasting impacts for countries both producing and receiving refugees. What is the plan? No amount of cruelty perpetuated on those escaping will actually stem the tide, much less address the actual problem(s).

It would appear that the limitless paradigm offers few solutions when it comes to the core issues facing the human race. Perpetual growth and boundless consumption might satisfy our desires in the present, but what are the long term impacts?