Developing public empowerment

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The societal climate forms the basis for the empowerment of publics. If there is previous experience of crises in a certain region, this facilitates risk awareness, but whether this entails passive acceptance of the risk or the feeling by people that they can do something about it also depends on the culture. The collective memory may also indicate directions for preparedness; here, storytelling is one of the possible communication strategies that can be employed to reinforce the tendency to act to enhance preparedness.

The bonds formed in well-connected societies may be helpful in responding to crises, while an inclusive society means that more groups will be included in the process. Community resilience initiatives may seek to strengthen such ties. Empowerment can be part of the fabric of a society, where people are invited to undertake their own development, and it may be possible to harness the mode of working of the government to the realization of such goals, for example, participative policymaking. If the latter is the case in various policy areas, such an approach is also more likely to be chosen in the field of rescue management.

The extent to which resources are available makes a difference, but this can also be a matter of priorities. Community resilience-enhancing activities need the involvement of policymakers, organisations and groups on many levels. Such activities will not necessarily naturally follow from the interaction of just one organisation with publics, as the way in which resources are allocated may hinder what could be beneficial at an aggregated level. Broader thinking is needed. To enable crisis management to function as a co-production of various professional and volunteer actors, various competences are required, including communication capabilities. The cross-border exchange of practices can facilitate finding suitable ways to integrate this approach in both (inter)national and local ways of working. Good practices can inspire others, while pitfalls encountered in in the learning process should also be addressed as these arise.

Public empowerment needs continuous attention and at various levels from national to local, and in policymaking, planning and implementation. Preparedness activities need to be re-invented in new ways to continue attracting attention to related issues and maintaining societal resilience.

Public Empowerment – engaging the public in crisis management