Exploring perceptions of environmental risk and the motivations and capacity to develop adaptive community strategies

Perceptions of Risk: Adaptive Community Strategies

Vulnerable communities: exploring perceptions of environmental risk and the motivations and capacity to develop adaptive community strategies.



Globalisation and modernisation speed up people’s lives, turning their world into a village. In a world of flows, feelings of unsafety, uncertainty, and insecurity occur. Some people may become ‘global villagers’ while others are ‘chained to place’. Especially in the context of climate change and energy transition, diverse types of coupled social-ecological risks arise which affect the wellbeing, livelihoods and environments of individuals and whole communities. The objective of this project is to understand how people deal with so called vulnerable and risk situations, such as environmental volatility, uncertainty and opacity; how they individually, in peer groups or through broader collectives, perceive, cope, adapt to, and manage risk in dynamic, wavering and unsettled situations. Typically, socio-cultural characteristics such as class, ethnicity, age, immigration status, gender or socio-economic status, alongside other forms of intersectionality and power relations, are pervasive in shaping capacity to act and/ or adapt. Hence, vulnerability is generated by interlinking social, economic and political structures and processes operating in a range of ways and at a range of scales. Collectively this influences the extent and intensity to which individuals and social groups are affected, but also, how they are able to respond.

Drawing on examples and scenarios of community-based environmental risk management and adaptation strategies as a central point of focus, this research will explore the vulnerability and risk perceptions of individuals and collectives, as well as their navigating capacities. It will investigate what motivates individuals to engage in individual and collective environmental action at a local level, as well as (where they are able to do so), if and how collective action ‘pays off’. The study will contribute to understanding on individual and group capacity to resist, avoid, or adapt to the above mentioned processes and forces of vulnerability and risk in context specific situations. Integral here is a need for exploring the ways in which individuals and groups develop actions to deal with insecurity in such situations. The research will be targeted towards the experiences of so called ‘vulnerable groups’ and communities in differing types of socio-cultural and physical environmental context. Drawing on a range of qualitative, creative and also visual research techniques (including, for example, narrative and story-telling, scenario workshops, as well as international comparison), research participants will be encouraged to engage with, experience and recall collaborative processes and practices of adaptation in place, through collaboration, and over time.

Expected Results

Transdisciplinary framework for analysing risk perceptions, motivation and the capacity of individuals and groups to develop adaptive strategies in vulnerable situations of risk. Methodology to map perceptions and motivations in a socio-spatial context; international comparative analysis to explore perceptions, motivations and the potential for empowerment of vulnerable groups. Scientific methods linked up with novel nature- and art based methods (inclusive of collaborative investigation with the Dutch arts-based ‘PeerGroup’ organisation).

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