Social and Political Dynamics of Flood Risk, Recovery and Response
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Presentation by Dr Catherine Butler and Dr Kate Walker-Springett entitled ‘Social and Political Dynamics of Flood Risk, Recovery and Response’. Given at the project findings launch event, London, 2016.
2. Project Background
• 2013/14 floods
• Examines the processes of response
and recovery following the floods
• Public and stakeholder views and
responses – how they interconnect
• Longer-term implications of flood
events for policy, practice and
3. Project Aims
• Build insight into how members of the public
and stakeholders understand floods and their
solutions in the aftermath of major events
• Interrogate how different perceptions, social
processes and experiences affect the longer-
term responses to floods and related issues
• Investigate how different experiences and
perceptions of responses to floods relate to
wider issues of well-being
• Identify to what extent existing strategies and
approaches to flood risk management (such as
individual and community resistance and
resilience) help to mitigate impacts
4. • Members of the public
• July–October 2014 and
• Quantitative survey of
members of the public
living in two flood
• Somerset (n=500);
• Two workshops with
members of the public
7. THEME ONE: PERCEPTIONS OF FLOOD
CAUSES AND SOLUTIONS
Members of the public
perceived the causes and
solutions for the 2013/14
floods differently. These
conflict and contestation
following the floods.
13. KEY IMPLICATIONS
Flood events provide opportunities for engagement between
institutions and those affected but are often times of conflict
owing to differences in the ways that floods are discussed
Being attentive to the importance of tangible solutions both for
the immediate recovery and long-term management could be a
basis for dialogue and building trust
THEME ONE: PERCEPTIONS OF FLOOD CAUSES
14. THEME TWO: POLITICS, EXPECTATIONS
AND INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSES
There are stark differences in
terms of expectations for
response and recovery
between public and
Expectations for help and
support are not necessarily
reflected in statutory
19. Well-being 12
during flood event
Four key variables that predict wellbeing 12 months post flood
THEME TWO: POLITICS, EXPECTATIONS AND
21. KEY IMPLICATIONS
Discrepancies in the perception of responses of floods between stakeholders and
publics can in part be attributed to misaligned expectations
These relate to deeper expectations regarding the role of government in ensuring
the conditions for people to live healthy lives.
Institutional responses are important for wellbeing after floods
Attentiveness to the timing of communications and support for community led
responses could enhance perceptions of institutional responses
THEME TWO: POLITICS, EXPECTATIONS AND
23. THEME THREE: PLACE AND SITUATED
Connections with place
are important to take
account of when seeking
perceptions of flood
causes and solutions, for
adaptation and long-term
flood risk management.
25. Expectations for current flood risk management are influenced
not only by perceptions about the efficacy of an approach but
also by desires to maintain, or change, the current landscape
THEME THREE: PLACE AND SITUATED PERCEPTIONS
26. THEME THREE: PLACE AND SITUATED PERCEPTIONS
Perceptions of responses to flood events are
influenced by politics, particularly what is seen to
be happening in other areas.
27. THEME THREE: PLACE AND SITUATED PERCEPTIONS
Being attentive to the connections people form with places,
landscapes and social structures is important when suggesting
There is also a need to support people re-connecting to homes
and landscapes as part of the recovery process.
28. THEME FOUR: FLOOD EXPERIENCES,
COMMUNITY RESILIENCE AND WELL-BEING
Community support and
cohesion are key
components of short- and
because of the role of
community in mitigating
the impacts to well-being
in flood affected areas.
33. THEME FOUR: FLOOD EXPERIENCES, COMMUNITY
RESILIENCE AND WELL-BEING
Role of institutions
communities at risk
34. THEME FOUR: FLOOD EXPERIENCES, COMMUNITY
RESILIENCE AND WELL-BEING
Well-being impacts from flooding are complex and affected by
the individual, the community, and institutions.
Approaches to dealing with the well-being impacts of flooding
would be most effective if co-produced with the communities
at risk from flooding
35. KEY CONCLUSIONS
DECISION-MAKING IN THE AFTERMATH OF FLOODS
Enhance public engagement by ensuring communications are based on clear
articulations of what people can expect from different agencies, and tangible
practical actions that can be taken by both authorities, householders, and
businesses to mitigate flood risk in future.
Ensure more strategic processes of funding allocation in post-flood contexts
to facilitate the ability of agencies to deliver tangible solutions, particularly for
areas where cost-benefit analysis means they would not be able to access
investment through normal, national mechanisms.
A wide range of actions within institutions can support social resilience with
positive implications for well-being.
36. Social and Political Dynamics of Flood Risk,
Recovery and Response
@drcbutler @NeilAdger @SaffronJOneill
Notes de l'éditeur
Challenges for flood risk management - the need to address the immediate effects of floods (e.g. through insurance, recovery support, and emergency services), while tackling multiple longer-term national policy goals that relate to flood risk, such as climate change adaptation, land-use policy, agriculture, and wider sustainability
Somerset –249 km2 of farmland and 529,972 residents (as of April 2011) – extensively drained / managed water levels and seasonal flooding - severely inundated approximately 280 homes and 65km2 of land flooded (Environment Agency, 2015), some of which remained under water for upwards of 12 weeks – river flooding (also flooded in 2012)
Boston – a tidal surge occurred as the water levels in the river Haven rose and began to overtop flood defences, continuing to do so until the water levels dropped an hour later. In total 688 homes and 115 businesses were inundated with water but emergency services had been preparing to evacuate 18,000 residents.
Members of the public perceive the causes of floods differently to those in institutions and stakeholder organisations. This has important implications for perceptions of the solutions to floods and offers insights relevant to understanding why publics react in the ways that they do following flood events.
Though both public and stakeholders discussed rainfall and climate change as causes of the floods -
Public participants attributed to the floods to decisions taken by individuals and institutions far more than stakeholders where the focus was more on the level of rainfall – as well as giving more emphasis to the successes in terms of properties that were protected.
River maintenance and other land management decisions was one important part of this but several other aspects of institutional decision-making were also referenced in the interviews – such as flood defences and neglect of pumping systems – the over-riding message here concerns the understandable need for people to look to tangible things that can be acted upon –
This can lead to attribution to climate change and high levels of rainfall being viewed with scepticism. NEXT SLIDE
One way in which this can manifest in is relation to climate change being seen as an excuse for inaction rather than climate change being mobilised as a narrative for long-term action and investment – this suggests that communications about climate change should be allied with discussion of tangible solutions to facilitate a more proactive discourse that is not perceived as being used to diminish responsibility or counter calls for action.
These views on the causes of flooding have implications for how the solutions were perceived – again with differences across stakeholder and public participant cohorts - So members of the public placed more emphasis on planning regulations, dredging, and large scale flood defences where stakeholders more emphasised property level resilience and catchment management approaches
This is not to say that individuals did not see themselves as having responsibility for protecting their homes [stat box] but this was juxtaposed with views about the role of government and expectations for government to provide protection from flood risk –
This can be partly explained by findings in the qualitative work that show the people’s views on the limits of property level responses – though several of the people in our study took up the flood mitigation fund many felt there was a very limited amount of things they could do and that they would be ineffective with a flood of anywhere the magnitude and length of 2013/14.
[We also found that more could be done to connect up the process of claiming on insurance with funding and processes for installing property level resilience and resistance.]
There were however key areas of agreement that signal aspects of the debate about flooding which could form a basis for dialogue in post-flood contexts.
Funding was one area where there was agreement – and members of the public were pragmatic about how funding was allocated - but the action that was possible because of the funding allocated in the post-flood context was important particularly with regard to people’s recovery and wellbeing 1 year on from the floods in the second interviews
Several areas of opportunity exist in post-flood contexts for the delivery of long-term solutions to floods. Amongst those affected and working in institutions there is a desire to find solutions that work for people in the long-term and openness to more unconventional solutions by those affected (e.g. relocation). Flood events provide openings for public debate and engagement with the issues, as new networks and groups are established and more formal meetings are held. Processes of recovery and repair offer opportunities for resilient and resistant forms of rebuilding. At present, these are not necessarily being capitalised on with ongoing tendencies for ‘return to normal’ without transformative actions to limit impacts and build resistance to future floods.
Underpinning these perceptions of the responses to the floods are a set of expectations about what government should provide that are perhaps in out of step with statutory requirements and responsibilities - as well as issues relating to the complexity of responsibility with regards to flood management and people not knowing what they should expect, who to contact or what they can do themselves.
In the second interviews in April/May 2015 members of the public were much more positive about the response of authorities – which chimes with some stakeholder accounts that reflected on the time needed to ensure effective coordination and responses
Four key variables from the regression analysis indicate which factors predict wellbeing 12 months post flood.
Typically, a person had higher levels of wellbeing 12 months post flood when:
1. Person has high levels of wellbeing during flood
They have high perception of community acceptance (they think that their community pulls together and they feel like they belong to their community)
3. They had a straightforward recovery process, and
4. They believe that the government had done all that it could during the floods.
How people perceived what authorities has done during floods was one of the key factors that influenced wellbeing outcomes so this is not only important in terms of reducing conflict but also for people’s longer-term wellbeing
Final issue relating to responses to flooding was the role of politics in influencing or affecting the capacities of agencies to response and the decisions that were taken.
Disputes and political interventions were discussed in terms of creating artificial time pressures and ultimately affecting the responses and measures that were implemented – public rows and political point scoring at times of floods creates difficult contexts in which response and recovery efforts occur -
Flood events represent moments or windows in which discourse and public debate about flooding and its solutions occur and wide-ranging action is taken from repairing flood defences and infrastructure to rebuilding homes, but the heightened and contested nature of such debates reduces the capacities for embedding longer-term thinking and implementing the most appropriate responses.
Like Catherine said, I am going to speak about some of the key findings in relation to our final two section of the reports.
In theme 3, called Place and Situated Perceptions we examine the role of place in influencing perceptions of causes of and solution to flood events and the need to re-form place attachment and re-forge peoples futures in communities that have been flooded.
At the local scale, the characteristics of the local areas that perhaps drew people to live there in the first place, or aspects of the landscape that they particularly value all influence how potential solutions to flooding are perceived, and this refers as much to social or political landscape as it does the aesthetic or material. Attachments to place can in some instances lead to a desire to maintain particular characteristics of areas or retain traditional practices for flood management. A desire to retain certain landscape elements potentially narrows the solutions that are perceived as appropriate, particularly where their is an established method that is perceived as successful. This can limit resilience since place attachment can constrain the opportunities for adaptation and resilience building, if strong place attachment leads to a desire to retain the status quo and not consider novel solutions that would perhaps change the landscapes in which people live. So when we are trying to understand perceptions of floods causes and solution, we need to take account of these connections people have with place in order to be able to offer acceptable adaptation strategies and long term flood risk management plans.
The reason that place and situated perceptions are so important to take account of when discussing flood risk management is because of the differences that exist across different areas and how this influences the acceptability of solutions.
The different influences of place can be seen across the two populations from our survey results. When we examined the attribution of causes for the 2013/14 floods, comparing results across respondents from Somerset and Boston. We saw far higher numbers in Boston citing climate change as a cause of the 2013/14 winter flooding than we did in Somerset. Another key difference that we saw between the two was in response to questions about the contribution of land management decisions to the 2013/14 winter floods - in Somerset we saw a far higher numbers of respondents blaming land management choices for the flood events that we did in Boston. At this just gives a really brief example of how the discourse relating to causes of flooding can vary from place to place and that the range of solutions which might be acceptable is likely to vary from place to place too. Based on these findings we would suggest that these differences in causation reflect underlying differences in flood vulnerability and historic flood management practices between the two areas, for example Boston is protected by hard flood defences and Somerset flood risk is management through a system of pumps and historically through dredging.
These kinds of place specific differences, such as historic flood risk management practices, types of flooding, types of housing stock, because historic houses are much more vulnerable to flood damage and are less able to utilise property level resilience measures, needs to be recognised at a strategic level when thinking about flood risk management decisions across the UK, and in communicating about flood responses and ways which one can become resilient to flooding.
Expectations for current flood risk management are influenced not only by perceptions about the efficacy of an approach but also by desires to maintain, or change, the current landscape – but positive perceptions of solutions may conflict with the realities of implementing such approaches (could also talk about the upheaval involved in implementing the measures that have been undertaken – road closure – property disruption)
Differences in flood response and proposed solutions can lead to issues of justice and fairness.
And issues of fairness in combination with the role of politics in decision-making about flood responses in post flood contexts was revealed in our findings. The response to flooding was seen a different across different regions in the UK, with some parts of the UK being seen as more important or valuable that others. This had many effects, but importantly it detracted from trust in the ways finding is allocated to flood rsik across the country, and made this funding process seem unfair and partisan. This allocation of funds based on political priorities was raised by both stakeholder and public participants, and comparing different flooded region of the UK in 201314 we can see that some regions were better able to access funding, through better access to institutional decision making process, for example through better networks, or through the use of social media. And judgement about the fairness of funding decision connect with people attitudes towards whether the government did everything it could during the crisis, which we also show contributes to higher wellbeing post flood events.
Just briefly to discuss some of the implications arising from this section in report, we find that there is a need to be attentive to the connections people have with places, landscape and social structure when suggesting response strategies. Place attachment has implications about the how appropriate responses are perceived to be and the political influence on flood responses and how this can lead to perceptions about how valuable or not different regions are, has implication for how fair and just response are seen as being. We also find that the impact of flooding on peoples lives and futures in some case means that the future that had been imagined no longer is possible or is fundamentally altered. So, re-forming place attachment, making sure that people are able to re-from bonds with places is an important aspect of the recovery process that should not be overlooked. People are going to have to remain in houses that continue to be at risk form flooding and re-framing future is an important step in recovering from the trauma of being flooded.
I’d going to move on to themes four which is entitles flood experiences, community resilience and well-being.
In this theme we examine at the wellbeing impacts of flooding and through this we began to see the importance of community in supporting people through the recovery process and acting as a protective factor in mitigating the negative impacts of flooding on wellbeing.
To clarify, when we speak about community, we are talkig about the social resilience aspects of community, so the aspects that allow communities to adapt to and recover form flood events. One component of this that we have found lots of evidence for in the project is social capital, it is about the bonds and networks that exist between those in a community, between that community and other communities and between communities and institutions of power. that allows members of the community to acsess support, skills and expertise that allow them to cope with and recover from incidents like major flood events.
And this is important because we found that wellbeing is detrimentaly impacted by flood events.
,The graph here comes from our survey and shows self reported wellbeing scores at four tome points: the day of the survey, 12 months post flood, during the 201314 flood event and then before the flooding. One thing to point out here is that all survey respondents were asked about their wellbeing on the day of the survey, but only those respondents who said that either they or their community had been affected by the 2013/14 floods were asked for their wellbeing scores for the other three time points. Respondents were give a definition of wellbeing and then asked to rate their wellbeing on a 0-10 scale where ) is low and 10 high. The graph clearly shows that those who were directly affected by the 2013/14 floods consistently rate their well being as lower than those who were not directly affected. Moreover, at two point in time, during the flood event and 12 month post flood, those difference were statistically significant, indicated by the asterisks. These result demonstrate that flooding has a long term detrimental impact on wellbeing which is particularly severe for those who experience impacts of the flood events themselves.
If we then being to look at the role of the community in mitigating this negative impact on well being, it become clear about how important the community was during the 2013/14 winters floods. Evidence from both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the study show the positive impacts that community support had during the floods, it was likened to a blitz spirit in this quote here, and the statistics from the survey show that over 80% of people felt that the community spirit made the flood easier to deal with and that the community provided support that the authorities were not able to. In our interviews, often the single positive aspect of the floods was how it brought the community together.
The role then that community plays during a flood event, of support and moral boosting, should be considered a vital component of the recovery process, and institutions need to recognize this and work with communities in order to enhance the benefits of community support in times of crisis, because the role of community goes beyond flood events and will be important in other major events too.
Through the survey results, we developed two scales to measure different aspects of community social capital. These were community cohesion which measured perceptions of trust in the community and whether the community respects differences, and community acceptance, which measure how well the community is perceived to pull together and feeling of belonging. We looked at whether these scales had any relationship with the self reported well being scores and the four time points. What we found is illustrate on the table here, that community cohesion, so that is trust and respect for differences, correlates with wellbeing at all four times points, where as community acceptance, that is feelings of belong and pulling together, is only correlated at the two points, current day and 12 months post flood. So, we can see that flood events offer opportunities for community bonds and networks to form, they bring people together and bolster the sense of community.
This importance of community were also seen in the examples of evacuated residents where there were not the opportunities for networks and bonds to form in the same way as for non-evacuated villages. We also found that well bing was significantly lower in those who were evacuated when compared to those people who, whilst still affected by the flood, did not have to leave their homes. Evacuated residents put efforts into maintaining community connections through social media or other avenues, as described in the quote here which talks about a community initiated keep in touch scheme to maintain connections whilst resident were not in the same geographical area. This speaks volumes about the need for community support, role of community in protecting people from some of the negative impacts of flood events and how this can contribute to long and short term resilience. It also highlight the types of support measure that flood affected residents wanted but that were not provided by the authorities, which links to findings form earlier themes about mis-aligned expectations of publics and institutions.
In viewing this community support as a resilience enhancing aspects, there is a role of institutions in supporting communities who are at risk from flooding, and this could include promoting activities that encourage networks and bonds to form that be maintained. And looking to a future where flooding is predicted to be more frequent, the quote on the right speak to the resilience that can be achieved in communities that can rely on social networks and can work together to write floods plans so that they are better equipped so deal with future flood events. And the other side to this is the importance of individuals and communities having agency and sense of control over what can be a deeply traumatic and devastating occurrence.
SO, there are several key implications arising from this theme. First, that well-being impacts are long term, lasting longer than the flood event itself and in regions where there have been multiple floods the in combination effects of repeat flooding are likely to play a role in how quickly wellbeing recovers.. Wellbeing impacts are also complex and can be affected by the individual the community and the levels of support hat this can offer, and institutions both directly in how they are perceived to deal with the flood event, but also indirectly in how they interact with existing community support mechanisms. And this is why co-produced methods of response and recovery between institutions and the community are likely to be much more effective, and lead to lower levels of contestation and frustration
And then, to relate this back to resilience, higher levels of support from within communities is likely to lead to lsss reliance on institutions and a greater level of resilience within communities themselves.
The research gives insight into problems associated with the contexts for decision-making following major flood events. Flood emergencies create openings for the allocation of public and private funding for recovery and repair, and generate political opportunities for new funding streams to support future flood management. At present, processes of decision-making and funding allocation are not strategic and tend to be responsive to and embroiled in poor quality political debate and public rowing. Several steps could be taken to improve decision-making environments for spending and response in post-flood contexts so that they are more strategic and likely to be effective in the long-term.
1) Improve the quality of political debate and ensure flood events are not used as opportunities for political point scoring. 2) Enhance public engagement by ensuring communications are based on clear articulations of what people can expect from different agencies, and tangible practical actions that can be taken by both authorities, householders, and businesses to mitigate flood risk in future. 3) Ensure more strategic processes of funding allocation in post-flood contexts to facilitate the ability of agencies to deliver tangible solutions, particularly for areas where cost-benefit analysis means they would not be able to access investment through normal, national mechanisms.
A wide range of actions can support social resilience and examples revealed in this research include: 1) Wider use of social support workers (like village agents in rural areas) that provide localised support and facilitate information exchange and dialogue between institutions and communities. 2) The development of human agency through coordination of flood plans and resilience measures (where appropriate) and genuine dialogue that reflects an awareness from institutions about how their actions can positively and negatively impact community led resilience initiatives. 3) Institutions working towards ensuring that social infrastructures are in place which can effectively harness the contributions of convergent volunteers, agencies, and communities.