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Understanding Risk

UNDERSTANDING RISK 2018 – Interdisciplinary Risk Communication Pressure Cooker





Many young researchers and professionals work in silos within their own disciplines and lack opportunities to think about how scientific information can be communicated to those who need it most. Improving risk communication will maximise the use of available scientific knowledge and encourage users to take more risk-informed decisions. New interdisciplinary training and capacity-building approaches are needed to develop applied tools and techniques for risk communication that integrate knowledge from multiple disciplines such as risk modelling, environmental and social science, media and communications, urban planning, information and communications technology, and community engagement.

What Did We Do?

 The Water Youth Network (WYN) and Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), with support from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), FM Global, and NASA, organised the Interdisciplinary Pressure Cooker Event on Risk Communication during the 2018 Understanding Risk Forum in Mexico City on May 14th and 15th, 2018.  Thirty-five young professionals and researchers, representing 13 countries and a range of disciplines, came together at this event to address risk communication challenges in the Mexican municipalities of Iztapalapa in Mexico City and Dzilam de Bravo in Yucatán. The challenges were prepared collaboratively by the organisers, local-level stakeholders, Mexican-based researchers, and a team of mentors composed of different topic-specific specialists. The event aimed to build the capacity of these young professionals and researchers to work across disciplines and co-develop innovative risk communication solutions.

The event was designed with an underlying idea that bringing together young professionals and researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds could offer new innovative insights and creative perspectives to develop effective risk communication strategies tailored to the users’ needs. The event additionally aimed to build capacity of these young professionals and researchers to work across disciplines under ‘pressure’ and co-develop solutions.  

What Were the Outcomes?

 The event produced new insights into designing interdisciplinary solutions and enabling interdisciplinary teamwork.  It allowed participants to jointly develop solutions and gave them the opportunity to express ideas based on their discipline-specific expertise. The event helped participants step outside their comfort zone, although the time constraint kept some participants (e.g., environmental scientists and engineers) from contributing their ideas in depth. Even so, participants were able to develop interdisciplinary solutions and propose risk communication outputs for real issues facing the study areas.

 The event helped build a community of young professionals and researchers on risk communication who think differently about working with other disciplines. The participants exchanged experiences with their peers from different disciplines across the world. The community has now partly been absorbed into the Water Youth Network Disaster Risk Reduction team and will continue to engage with the Understanding Risk Community.

 The event gave participants opportunities to apply their new skills in local contexts across the world. The participants gained new knowledge of the wide variety of risk communication mechanisms available, built interdisciplinary teamwork skills, and learned to make the target audience central to the process of designing a communication approach.

 What Did We Learn for Future Events?

 Trust youth—and let them lead. This event was designed and implemented by a team of young professionals with support and guidance from experienced mentors. The youth organizations rose to the occasion to deliver innovative and creative content that inspired both peer-to-peer and intergenerational learning. Providing youthful participants and organizers with funding, trust, and space will ensure similar events in the future. 

 Strengthen interdisciplinary participation. The event showed that some disciplines are more difficult to engage than others; there were comparatively few applications from creative disciplines (e.g., the arts, graphic design) and community engagement specialists. 

 Provide context for real-life challenges. Real-life case studies were selected; case study specialists were available to guide teams; and a post-event field trip was arranged to one of the case study areas. Teams should be provided with as much local contextual information as possible to develop meaningful solutions.

 Time constraints affect outputs. The event was designed as an intense 24-hour pressure cooker. This created strong relationships between the participants, but did not allow for very detailed solutions.


Check out all the blogs from participants and supporters of the Risk Communication Pressure Cooker:

Join the discussion here on the need for a #riskcommhub by Lisa Robinson at BBC Media Action


UNDERSTANDING RISK BALKANS 2018 – Disaster Resilient Balkans: Empowering Young Professionals Side Event

On Monday 17th of September 2018, 20 young professionals, researchers and students from the Balkan region gathered to discuss their role in enabling a disaster resilient Balkans at Understanding Risk Balkans Conference. The World Bank funded four young people from Serbia, Albania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to attend the event. The event included exchange  on  current youth initiatives in the DRM sphere,  creative networking exercise to identify the current challenges for youth engagement in DRM in the Balkans, and an interactive role playing game on DRM in the West Morava River Basin. The event had guest specialists from the Serbian Sector for Emergency Management, Red Cross and World Health Organisation. 

Read about one participants experience at the event in our blog post here

Read about a follow up event in Albania which WYN supported here