Public Engagement with Risk in the Era of Resilience: Insights from Empirical Research

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal 46 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Katy WRIGHT, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
This paper explores community resilience policy in the UK as an engagement agenda which aims to collectively involve citizens in identifying, prioritising and preparing for risks.  Drawing on qualitative research carried out in Swansea, UK, I explore the feasibility of achieving widespread public engagement with risk, and to what extent shared risk can be understood as a feature of community membership and therefore to provide the grounds for localised collective action.  I also consider how everyday perceptions and experiences of risk compare to treatments of risk in official policy.  The paper suggests that there are considerable differences between the risks which are prioritised by the research participants and those which are prioritised in local and national risk registers, with participants focusing on issues such as struggles with money and precarious work, rather than on the physical and security risks emphasised in risk registers.  I also suggest that risks are distributed unequally across different groups, undermining the idea that geographical communities (which are the primary target of community resilience policy in the UK) necessarily have shared fates.  Furthermore, I argue that different kinds of risk cannot be disentangled, and that it is necessary to understand the aggregated impact of different forms of chronic and acute crisis in order to understand how the capacity to cope with risk is distributed amongst different groups living in different places.  Contemporary accounts of how people engage with, prepare for and understand particular risks are contextualised within a broader historical narrative of the experience of risk in the case study over time.  In this sense, the role of previous experience in shaping contemporary attitudes towards risk is considered.   Some implications for the community resilience agenda are drawn out.