Participant Reflections: the Inter-disciplinary Pressure Cooker on Risk Communication at Understanding Risk 2018

Participant Reflections: the Inter-disciplinary Pressure Cooker on Risk Communication at Understanding Risk 2018

Written by participants, Yaprak Servi, a DRM consultant working for World Bank Group in Washington D.C, and Carlos Rodrigo Garibay Rubio, a social scientist at the National Center for Disaster Prevention, CENAPRED Mexico.

The international community for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) usually gathers at events like the global platforms for DRR or at the Understanding Risk forums to share experiences and also learn from partners from different countries every couple of years. At Understanding Risk 2018 in Mexico, something different happened.  The Water Youth Network joined together with support from GFDRR, NERC, NASA and FM Global, in a great effort and  set the conditions for addressing real problems in Mexico by a group of young researchers with different backgrounds, from different countries but with one common goal: to work innovatively towards reducing disaster risk in our world.

To reach this goal, for several days we had the opportunity to learn, share, and develop solutions for a real-life problem on risk communication. Together as a team, we had to think about the different knowledge, strategies, principles, criteria and other relevant factors that each one of the participants brought to the table from their own discipline. With the best spirit and attitude, the group managed to melt into a common view for addressing the problem at hand.

The road toward the event…

The event was going to take place at Mexico City, a city that melts the old with the new and that had recently suffered the impact of a big earthquake that challenged not only the prevention actions that the government had implemented but also the capacity of the Mexican people to stand on their feet again, with that in mind, the atmosphere in the city related to the DRR was very interesting.

The number of candidates that applied for the event was huge (440) compared to those selected (35), so being selected for it was really exciting. Our expectations for the event were really high, because of that we all prepared a lot not only on the topics related to the DRR, but also to open our mind to different ways of thinking across disciplines.

The first meeting….    

As with any youth meeting, everyone was really open to exchange opinions but we still didn´t know how we were going to do it, but soon enough we were pushed to think out of the box by answering a simple question “What does risk communication mean to you?” using our creative muscles.

Figures: Creative networking exercise


Listening to the answers from the different participants was great, but additionally this first exercise,  helped to warm up the participants and highlighted the importance of good group dynamics, like goodwill, mutual understanding, goal oriented discussions, data sharing and the desire to have fun during the activities.

Getting straight to work….

Once teams were formed and introductions to the case studies were complete, teams jumped straight in to discuss their challenge brief with the guidance of a coach. Throughout the day our teams got support from the case study and topic-specific specialists to develop a plausible and worthy plan of action to address real problems that should be shared and evaluated by a panel of judges including government authority representatives. This was a huge opportunity for us all to develop a meaningful risk communication strategy for our case studies.

Team 1: Iztapalapa flooding challenge

Team 5: Dzilam de Bravo schools challenge

The most challenging part…

The greatest challenge was trying to develop something solid in the short period of time given the differing approaches from each of the participants’ disciplines.  Innovation presupposes thinking outside the box so standard working frameworks with which each participant counted on, couldn’t be applied to the exercise.  That made everyone re-think the usual approaches and work towards concrete proposals that help the collective effort. In the end, it was really nice to see how our interdisciplinary groups managed to develop a shared understanding and identify joint solutions.

Forming a family…

One of the most important outputs that the exercise had is the strong network between the participants. It is with this bonding that co-creation can occur across disciplines and also mutual help between the DRR communities. We now understand that multiple disciplines are needed to develop solutions to communication risk and have learned how to work better across these different disciplines. We all really look forward to keeping in close contact with our new UR family in our future DRR careers.


For more information contact:

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment. Click here to login

Subscribe to our mailing list!!!

* indicates required