From ‘policy’ to ‘practice’, what would you do?

Fostering the international dialogue and exchange of information and best practices in risk, emergency and disaster management…”

It sounds easy.

Is it?

How about different personalities, priorities, interests, semantics, terminology, jurisdictions, disciplines, cultures and language barriers?

By Eelco Dykstra

As a visiting professor of International Emergency Management first at the University of Kuopio in Finland and then in Washington D.C., I have been able to observe developments in the USA and Europe during the last ten years. Enough time, perhaps, to submit a few, clearly non-binding, observations. We learn more from the things that go wrong than from what we do well.    

When we look into the future – and that is exactly what we (should) do in risk management – science-based information no longer commands the kind of respect and attention it once did. Nowadays, policymakers, the media and the public are more engaged and interested in Hollywood-inspired, over-the-top, stories and movies like “2012” or “The Day after Tomorrow”.

Many scientists are frustrated by what they feel is the inertia by the policymakers to act on the data and information they collected. Clearly, more of the same is not going to work.

So what to do?

It seems to me that what the risk management community ought to do instead, is to engage itself in more scenario-based, “What if…?”, approaches – what we need is fiction with a high content of reality and probability.

One such project is the International Katrina Project. Perhaps something the PRIMO Europe network would like to get actively involved in. For it is all about strengthening the link between risk, response, and consequence management on the one hand, and the threat of a collapse of Critical Infrastructure on the other.

The International Katrina Project Inc. (IKP) is a network of concerned individuals and organizations who want to actively explore – and contribute to – improvements in the way we deal with emergency and disaster management in the past. Inspired by the notion that risk management, response management and consequence management are not isolated elements but represent a functional unity, the participants in The International Katrina Project (IKP) will work together during the next three years to:

  • Assist in bridging the gap between ‘policy’ and ‘practice’;
  • Develop tools that link public entities/government agencies, the private sector and  knowledge brokers with the media and the population-at-large;
  • Increase public awareness and participation by offering scenario-based, “What if…?” approaches and activities;
  • Introduce, discuss, produce and distribute “Reality-Fiction” information, materials and methods;
  • Collect structured feedback (‘Focused Feedback’) from and through the IKP network of participating organizations and individuals – this feedback will consist of data-sets made up of ‘Conclusions’ and ‘Recommendations’;
  • Strengthen the focus on Critical Infrastructure (CI) and the threat of its collapse as one of the major drivers of development in the future;
  • Report on the results of the IKP “Focused Feedback” in the form of consensus-based policy recommendations, examples of best practices and/or a suite of tools.

Based on the reality-fiction book The Storm/Storm over Europe, the project will collect structured feedback from organisational and individual members. Before the project’s start on January 1, 2010, over 100 organisations have expressed an interest to participate. Collaborating web-sites and activities such as workshops, webinars, surveys, conferences and symposia, are being scheduled. Questions that will be asked, include

“What would you have done?”, “What do you think?”, “What do you expect others to do for you and what can you do yourself?” and, “What would you recommend?” will be asked and the responses analysed.

Let’s move from policy to practice.

Let’s make it easier.

Thinking “What if…?”

Sounds interesting?

Want to participate? Then let your national PRIMO contact know or send the author an e-mail: dykstra.disaster.stories@gmail.com.