Project Concept

CARISMAND aims to deal with the issues of preparedness, response to disasters and after-crisis recovery which is inevitably influenced by cultural background of individuals and the society they live in. In this context culture is understood as the characteristics of a particular group of people defined by everything from a set of values, history, literature, language, religion to cuisine, social habits or music and arts. Cultural factors play an important role in determining the way people response to stress, engage in crisis management and accept disaster relief in an emergency. However, these factors could also negatively impact the professional response to disaster because of the lack of cultural understanding, sensitivity and competencies as well as due to lack of understanding of the cultural background of the victims of a disaster. The project addresses risks as non-objective but socially and culturally constructed. Thus, disaster management which is aware, respects, and makes use of local cultural aspects will be not only more effective but, at the same time, also improve the community’s disaster coping capacities.

CARISMAND is set out to identify these factors, to explore existing gaps and opportunities for improvement of disaster policies and procedures, and to develop a comprehensive toolkit which will allow professional as well as voluntary disaster managers to adopt culturally-aware everyday practices. This goal will be achieved by approaching the links, the gaps between disaster management, culture and risk perception from the broadest possible multi-disciplinary perspective and, at the same time, by developing a feedback-loop between disaster management stakeholders and citizens to establish, test, and refine proposed solutions for culturally-informed best practices in disaster management.

The project will employ an approach that examines natural, man-made and technical disasters, placing at the centre specific aspects that affect culturally informed risk perceptions, such as whether disasters are caused intentionally or not, the ‘visibility’ of hazards, and various time scales of disasters etc. Whilst experts from a variety of fields (in particular legal, IT, cognitive science, anthropology, psychology, sociology) will undertake a comprehensive collation of existing knowledge and structures, six Citizen Summits (two per disaster category per year in two separate locations) and three Stakeholder Assemblies (one per year) will be organised, and where the results are discussed through a wide cross-sectional knowledge transfer between disaster managers from different locations as well as from different cultural backgrounds.

The expected impact is to better meet the needs of various cultures during disaster relief, thus improving reaction time and reducing fatalities and, ultimately, increasing the overall effectiveness of those who respond to disasters by identifying which cultural factors, important insights, and specific communication styles for a given cultural group should be taken into consideration during disaster situations in urban areas. Furthermore, specific focus is to be put on exploring how to anticipate and identify solutions to cultural problems that may arise in the event of an emergency.

By analysing how emotional, psychological and social needs, as well as communal strengths and coping skills that arise in disasters, can affect the way urban communities prepare, respond, engage in and recover from disaster, the project is expected to provide a framework for improving disaster management policies and practices through proactively targeting the needs of citizens and urban communities as well as disaster managers such as first responders and local security agencies, including

  • a formal set of recommendations for stakeholders at all levels that include the implementation and/or improvement of policies and guidelines, educational measures, and a roadmap for further knowledge transfer activities;
  • a comprehensive “cultural map” for formal and “informal” disaster managers as well as for interested citizens which is available online, downloadable, and adaptable to their individual or institutional needs.

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