Danger & Opportunity: Contradictions between Resilience & Network Effectiveness in Safety Regions
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Crisis management is of vital importance to our society. It protects us by preventing crises from happening, and when a crisis does occur, it tries to limit the damage. However, the increased complexity and interdependence of today’s society increase the difficulty in managing crises. There are two promising solutions for these challenges to modern crisis management: resilience and networks. In the Netherlands crises are often managed by emergency networks, known as safety regions. When safety regions are able to operate in a resilient manner, they will be better equipped to manage disasters. Additionally, to function optimally as an emergency network, network effectiveness is important to safety regions. Thus, in an ideal world, emergency networks operate in an effective and resilient manner. According to the literature, most requirements for achieving resilience and effectiveness are matching, however three contradictions can be found. This study focused on these contradictions, which were studied within two safety regions. In both safety regions, all three contradictions are present. Firstly, there exists a contradiction between variety (resilience) and limited size & composition (network effectiveness). On the one hand, advantages of variety in the network are experienced and highly regarded by the respondents. On the other hand, collaboration with people from many different organisations sometimes affects the effectiveness of the network, for example when they all want to voice their opinion during crisis meetings. The second contradiction is between decision-making migrating to expertise (resilience) – coordination by a central core agency (network effectiveness). Although expertise is highly regarded in the safety regions, eventually decisions are made by the person who is in charge, according to hierarchy. Thirdly there is a contradiction between flexibility (resilience) and rigidity (network effectiveness). Although safety regions are flexible by giving space to creativity and by respecting different views and opinions, they are also rigid, regarding rules, protocols and accountability. In general, the safety regions are able to deal with these contradictions. For example, when there is disagreement during a crisis between an expert and the person who is in charge, this is solved during the evaluation of the crisis. This prevents the disagreement from reoccurring during the next crisis. However, regarding the first contradiction, the resilience requirement of variety predominates the effectiveness requirements of limited size & composition, since variety seems inherent to crisis networks. In contrast, the network effectiveness requirements overrule resilience on second and the third contradiction. Most likely this is due to the need for structure and clarity during a crisis, which creates a strong desire for hierarchy and protocols. With these findings, this research aims to contribute to the improvement of crisis management. Insight into these contradictions helps to implement these requirements in safety regions. If and how the imbalance between resilience and effectiveness requirements affects crisis management, remains to be seen. All the same, awareness of the contradictions can help safety regions to make conscious decisions regarding the requirements of resilience and effectiveness.