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New framework strengthens resilience for European disasters

19 March 2024
European disaster resilience can be improved through the use of social media and crowdsourcing (SMCS). This is evident from research by organizational scientists Kees Boersma and Nathan Clark. Now there is a framework that bundles knowledge and experiences about using SMCS in useful tools.

In the LINKS project, organizational scientists Kees Boersma (principal researcher) and Nathan Clark (scientific coordinator) together with a team of researchers investigated how crisis communication and the relationship between aid workers and citizens can be improved through the use of social media and crowdsourcing in European disasters. Working with five case teams in Italy, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, a foundation has been laid for a LINKS community consisting of first responders, civil society organizations, divided citizens and researchers, among others.

Lack of good practices, formal procedures and guidelines
The organizational scientists saw that on the one hand there was great interest among the LINKS community to work with SMCS in disaster scenarios, but on the other hand they also discovered that there was a lack of good practices, formal procedures and guidelines . “There was no overview of technologies and solutions, and only moderate knowledge about how best to involve citizens.”

Understanding, measuring and managing disasters
To address to this need, a framework has been developed that can be used for various disaster scenarios such as earthquakes, floods, industrial disasters, terrorism and droughts. The framework is included in the LINKS Community Center, an online platform consisting of scientific methods, practical tools and guidelines that target researchers, practitioners and policy makers to understand, measure and govern SMCS for disasters. In addition, workshops are offered to bring those involved together to continue to learn from each other.

A lasting community
The project has led to a lasting community in which a joint policy brief has been written and there is even a spin-off in the form of the EU Horizon project SYNERGIES. The project is also involved in several European initiatives such as Community for European Research and Innovation for Security (CERIS) and Crisis Management Innovation Network Europe (CMINE) about promoting innovation in crisis management. “In this way, the LINKS community remains actively involved in strengthening disaster resilience even after the project has been completed,” thus Boersma and Clark.

Corona strengthened innovative communication
Concluding, Boersma and Clark share that the start of the project coincided with the outbreak of corona. This meant that LINKS quickly became a project about connecting those involved through innovative ways of communication, coordination and collaboration. “In the first phase, people mainly logged in from their home offices to align expectations and carry out research and activities for the project together. When the first physical meeting took place in Split, Croatia, there was already a lot of interest from disaster management organizations throughout Europe.”

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