Saturday, October 31, 2015

RES-SIM: The challenges of addressing vulnerability in scenario design

Attending the Sendai conference in March this year I was struck by the unprecedented support and inclusion for vulnerable groups, and in particular for those with a disability. There were several public forums organised at the event, aimed at drawing attention to the issue of disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction. You could argue that this campaign for recognition was successful, in that the Sendai Framework prominently promotes the needs of the oft forgotten in a disaster risk reduction (DRR) context.

"Empowering women and persons with disabilities to publicly lead and promote gender equitable and universally accessible response, recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction approaches is key" - Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2013, p. 20
Image of members of the Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Caucus on the stage at the DESA DSPD Forum 
This week the release of the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2015 by ESCAP reminds us that disability-inclusive DRR needs to be a central goal, since the outcomes for this particularly vulnerable group can be so dire. It is well documented that vulnerable groups such as the poor, women, children, the elderly, and those with disabilities suffer worse outcomes in disasters. ESCAPs own figures show that for people with a disability, the mortality rates during disasters are two to four times higher than that of those without disabilities.

So we can easily acknowledge the importance of embedding disability-inclusive thinking into all of our DRR endeavours. The challenge then becomes what does this really look like on the ground. In particular, how can we as researchers incorporate this thinking into the design of RES-SIM? If we rely on current practitioners and educators to inform the design of our system, how can we ensure that this important goal is also in their consciousness? Can we afford to wait for these important goals to become mainstream and rely on public groundswell? I think that perhaps instead we need to 'lead from the top' and ensure that the voices of the vulnerable are loudly ringing in our ears when we make decisions related to DRR. Whether that be in a local community-based project, or globally when deciding on future policy frameworks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A successful year for the REACT Network!

On Monday 26th October, the REACT Network partners will gather in Beijing for the final activities of our year-long project. The key event (poster below) will be a resilience seminar featuring Dr Jamie Mackee from the University of Newcastle and Dr Wen-Yen Lin from Ming Chuan, followed by a discussion forum with a panel comprising Dr Gary Wei (SwissRe), Dr Jason von Meding (UON), Prof Qian Ye (BNU) and Dr Jie-Ying Wu (MCU).

The REACT Network would like to thank the Australia-China Council and our respective institutions for the financial support that has allowed us to build lasting personal relationships and embark on significant collaborative initiatives. Please check back here for a report on the Beijing visit in a couple of weeks!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

What type of game do you want to play?

Anyone who’s been to the zoo, happen to spend time with children or seen a David Attenborough documentary will tell you how young primates are forever playing. But are they playing actual games with rules? or are they just following their imagination and free will?

As children blend these structured and free form activities, we learn different things in different ways. For example wresting with your sibling when you’re both in your super-hero costumes allows you to practice strategies and responses in a relatively safe way, so that you’re able to adapt in case you ever encountered a scenario like this.

Where as a game of monopoly with your parents introduces the constructions and tests associated skills such as: interpreting regulations, negotiation, planning, business acumen and the importance of chance and risk in decision making.

In my childhood monopoly was for long rainy days and wrestling was done outside. Two very different games have very different learning outcomes.

At a fundamental level The Resilience Simulator (RES-SIM) project endeavors to create a game. But what type of game would best introduce university students to the complexity of disasters and how they affect the interconnected systems most of us take for granted?

These are the questions we are grappling with as we begin to process the results from our interviews with disaster practitioners and educators. Any design process is iterative, as the stakeholders come together to create common understanding of what could, and more importantly should, a simulator look like. It’s difficult not to image a tangible preemptive outcome, but (crucial to) trust the design processes in generating innovative solutions.

As the projects underpinning methodology Concept mapping is simple but broad in visually representing the gathered data in ways that convey meaning and validate insights for multiple agents. RES-SIM applies concept mapping principles through multiple approaches including; Agglomerative clustering (Trochim), nested Heirachies (Novak) and to accommodate the dynamic nature of disaster Cyclic (Safayeni). Through interviews project contributors have added their expertise about how to conceptualise emergencies, their management by agencies and society and most importantly what simulators provide.

By outlining the concepts of a disaster into related subsystems, such as the built environment, combat agencies, local communities and exposing inter-relationships facilitated workshops will generate a conceptual model. The model will ultimately ‘run’ scenarios such as a ‘bushfire response’ or ‘cyclone rebuild’ that have been developed in the projects upcoming focus groups.

Due to the inherent learning potential (particularly systems-conceptualisation) of using concept mapping, there’s even rationale for the actual simulator to lead participants through a dynamic Concept mapping process. But the questions remain, would you want to play that game? And what would you learn from it?

If you think you would like to contribute to this ground breaking project please get in touch with the team about how you and your organisation could play a part.

By Jai Allison - RES-SIM Project Researcher