Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Mobilizing Collective Action in Communities Exposed to Tsunami Risk: Adaptive Uses of GIS, Social, and Opportunistic Networks

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 4:10 PM
Foster I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Fuli Ai, Louise Comfort and Taieb Znati, University of Pittsburgh
Mobilizing collective action to achieve shared goals is a long-standing problem in organizational theory, involving individual, group, and organizational decision processes that are often in conflict. The process entails a critical sequence of perception, recognition, transmission, and communication of risk and benefit, with the requisite local knowledge to enable action in a given context. Coordinating this sequence of actions for a community at risk under urgent constraints of time and resources requires adaptive uses of information technology and planning. Three questions are common to policy makers confronting risk in all regions of the world. What means facilitate their capacity to: 1) coordinate action across a diverse community to reduce losses and maintain continuity of operations in emerging danger; 2) minimize conflict among individual, group, and organizational decision making processes in the mobilization of collective action; 3) use information technologies to support collective action in complex and dangerous situations? Recent disasters, such as the 2010 Mentawai, Sumatra Earthquake and Tsunami and the 2011 Japan Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, illustrate the difficulty of these tasks, despite existing disaster plans and policies.

Evidence-based policy making is critical to support decision making at multiple levels of operation in uncertain, dynamic environments that require informed action on a community-wide scale. In operating conditions that involve diversity, conflict, complexity, and danger, difficult for organizational managers to overcome, well-designed information technology offers technical means of providing decision support.

We present a conceptual framework for decision making under stress that involves the processes of risk detection, transmission, recognition, mobilization, and action central to an effective emergency response system. These decision points occur in “nested sets” of organization and action that require different types of information to support particular functions in emergency response at different times. Getting timely, valid information to diverse sets of actors simultaneously in an emergency management system is critical to creating a common profile of risk that informs collective action for the community. Specifically, we assess the extent to which the capacity for coherent response to a common threat across multiple organizations is improved by integration of information processes through an iterative process of data collection, analysis, interpretation, and exchange in a regional information infrastructure.

This design tests a sociotechnical model of decision support that enables human managers to address complex challenges under stressful conditions more effectively than organizational strategies alone. It includes a Geographic Information System (GIS), Twitter, and Opportunistic Routing (OR) Network, sociotechnical tools to support community scale communication of threat information that enables whole communities to take responsible action to reduce risk.

This model is planned for testing in Padang, Indonesia, a region prone to tsunami disasters. The model demonstrates a collective action communication network between government agencies and the public, using community leaders as transfer actors to disseminate evacuation route maps via cell phones to guide collective community action. We anticipate that findings from this Padang study will demonstrate more creative and effective collective action and provide evidence to support policy making for communities at risk.