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Models of Governmental Crisis Communications and Information Management
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Models of Governmental Crisis Communications and Information Management


Presentation at ESA 11th Conference "Crisis, Critique and Change". …

Presentation at ESA 11th Conference "Crisis, Critique and Change".
Governmental crisis communications and information management can be represented for clarity as a system which consists of two subsystems. First subsystem is decision-making which applies mechanisms of information processing and coordination between different units. Second subsystem is external crisis communication which includes not only dissemination and exchange of information (this is what we traditionally understand by crisis communications) but also crowdsourcing and citizen involvement in crisis management. This system can function differently and show different results. That’s why we can speak of its various models.

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  • 1. Models of Governmental Crisis Communications and Information Management Elena Gryzunova Ph.D. Student MGIMO-University (Moscow State Institute of International Relations), Russia Paper presented at the European Sociological Association (ESA) 11th Conference Section “Crisis Informatics” of the research network “Disaster, Conflict and Social Crisis” 30 August 2013, Turin, Italy © Elena Gryzunova, 2013 Intellectual property. No part can be reproduced without a reference to the author 1
  • 2. What is a crisis? A crisis is an unexpected perceived disruption of a social unit which threatens basic structures of a social system, its integrity, reputation or survival, shatters the lifeworlds of people by challenging the public sense of safety, legitimacy or fundamental values and norms, and requires critical decisions under time pressure, uncertainty, complexity and increased attention. 2
  • 3. Complementarity of crises • Objective / subjective • Constructive / destructive • Point of bifurcation / process theory of social change 3 Objective disruptions of the social structure structure functionalism Subjective collective perceptions symbolic interactionism, phenomenology, sociolinguistics, cultural sociology
  • 4. System of governmental crisis communications and -management 4 2. External crisis communication subsystem 1. Internal decision-making subsystem 1.2. Internal coordination 1.1. Information processing 2.1. External communication 2.2. Coordination of crowdsourcing and citizen participation
  • 5. Crowdsourcing and citizen participation in crisis management Balance between civil self-organization and public administration is required. Civil self-organization can be influenced not through formal control but through creating stable attractors (social practices, values) and facilities. “Bureaucratization” Attractors of civil participation 5
  • 6. Working hypotheses 1. - Crisis communications and -management model is effective when it reaches the goal of CM. - The goal of crisis management is not reached when the subsystems and mechanisms apply dysfunctional strategies and use ineffective tools. - The strategies are dysfunctional and the tools are ineffective because they are chosen to reach divergent goals, not (only) crisis management. 2. - The most effective model reaches the goal of CM by using more recourses with less input. - Crowdsourcing and citizen participation provide additional cost-effective resources. 6
  • 7. Testing hypothesis # 1 Ineffective model of information blockage The goal is not (only) to manage the crisis but to hide the information from the community and avoid open discussion. Divergent goals damage the whole system. 7 1.1. processing: lack of reliable external resources, slow flow of internal , groupthink 1.2. Internal coordination: hierarchy, command and control, top level overload 2.2. Formal control of participation, civil self- organization is suppressed 1. Internal decision- making subsystem: slow decision-making, approval of operative decisions on top level 2. External crisis communication subsystem: dysfunctional strategy of information blockage 2.1. External communication: denial, lack of risk communication, vacuum
  • 8. Case study of blockage model: Chernobyl disaster (1986, USSR) • Pre-crisis: lack of risk communication, no manuals for rescue workers (despite previous accidents as early warning signals). • Crisis stage: command and control, hierarchy, slow operative decision-making (local civil defense headquarter did not warn people without central approval); restriction of information about radiation level and health effects, control over the media, contradictory expert recommendations, labeling community worries as exaggerated radiophobia; forcing civil rescue workers to participate in the liquidation of the disaster’s effects, often with little knowledge about the mission. • Post-crisis: in 1990 the Soviet government had to admit that wrong information management had destructive social and political effects and the crisis threatened legitimacy of local and central government. 8
  • 9. 1.1. processing: preconceived analysis, ignoring some risks & crisis factors, staging others Ineffective model of manipulation The goal is not (only) to manage the crisis but to gain political advantage or make a profit out of it. Divergent goals damage the whole system. 9 2.1. External communication: victimization, discourse of fear, new propaganda 1. Internal decision- making subsystem: opportunistic decisions 2. External crisis communication subsystem: dysfunctional (crisis-escalating) strategy of fear management 1.2. Internal coordination: lack of coordination between agencies leads to hierarchization 2.2. Symbolic supportive activity is welcomed, other forms are suppressed
  • 10. Case study of manipulation model: 9/11 & the “War on terror” (2001, USA) D. Altheide: “The terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 were strategically used by officials to justify various domestic and international actions”. • Pre-crisis: ignoring early warning signals (previous attacks by non-state terrorists, including first WTC terror act in 1993; CIA reports about Al Qaeda plans), focusing on non-existent state-sponsored threat instead, planning a possible invasion to Iraq; coordination problems and latent interest conflicts between agencies; manipulation and discourse of fear in external political communication. • Crisis stage: coordination problems; justifying military campaign in Iraq (myths about connection to 9/11 and weapons of mass destruction) rather than analyzing complex reasons of terror acts; fear politics and propaganda; no democratic debate; substitution of notions; unintentional legitimation of terror groups as political actors. • Post-crisis: military campaigns, surveillance, suspension of liberties. 10
  • 11. Hypothesis # 2 is incomplete: different crisis types should be considered Crisis classification by social response: 11 E. Quarantelli J. Freund Conflict Crises of the human climate (O. Lerbinger): confrontation, malevolent acts Consensus Crises of the physical environment (O. Lerbinger): natural, biologic al, technological Polemic Complex structural crises: system (political, social & cultural, economic, ecological), transsystem, institutional
  • 12. Different crisis types require different communication and management strategies 12 Conflict: • citizen engagement leads to crisis escalation, unofficial resources include disinformation & malevolent propaganda; • citizen participation is possible on pre- and post-crisis stages (evaluation of issues); • struggle for media loyalty (mass media can take the other side); • adjusting , defense against psychological manipulation & trauma. Consensus: • consolidation, constructive self- organization => citizen participation & crowdsourcing are not only cost-effective practice, but also a chance for development; • integration of internal and external communication; • citizens are not just audience, they take part in management. Polemic: • no unique solution, different opinions & interests; • CM through facilitation & mediation of negotiations & public dialogue; • from organizations and institutions to networks & relations; • from networks of interest to knowledge networks; • participatory democracy.
  • 13. 3 effective models for 3 crisis types All models are prescriptive (ideal). However, they can be illustrated by descriptive real-life case studies that generally consist with one of the ideal models though they may have some flaws, mistakes and minor dysfunctional elements. 13 Conflict Traditional information management Consensus Integrated crowdsourced and traditional information management Polemic Public dialogue facilitation and knowledge management
  • 14. Model of traditional information management for conflict crises 14 2.1. External communication: expert consultations on issues; opposing manipulation & trauma; struggle for media loyalty 2. External crisis communication subsystem: speaking with one voice, getting feedback 2.2. Public dialogue on issues (not on acute stage); prevention of destructive self- organization leading to clashes & ruptures 1.1. processing: issues evaluation, conflict analysis, monitoring of psychological threats, superiority assessment, sense-making 1. Internal decision- making subsystem: strategic decisions centralized, operative ones made on lower levels 1.2. Internal coordination: combination of network and hierarchy, situati onal hierarchical structure
  • 15. Case study of traditional management model: Counterterrorist operation in the North Caucasus (2000-2004, Russia) 15 The model evolved from the information blockage (during the first Chechen campaign, 1994-1996 and after it till 1999), so we can speak of the information management model only on the acute crisis stage (2000-2004). • Crisis stage: creation of the Information Policy Department in the Administration of the President which coordinated the information flows between different agencies and was responsible for external communications; creation of field crisis communications centers on the territory of the Chechen republic; combination of hierarchical and network approach; crisis sense-making and framing the counterterrorist operation (not “war”) based on facts; soft power media relations to win media loyalty; monitoring of psychological threats, opposing disinformation, manipulation and trauma; discourse of renewal. • Post-crisis: discourse of renewal, opposing manipulation and trauma.
  • 16. Model of integrated crowdsourced and traditional information management for consensus crises 16 1.1. processing: traditional integrated with crowdsourced , citizen science & community-based risk assessment 1. Internal decision-making subsystem: crowdsourced & citizen knowledge enhance decision-making 1.2. Situational flexible coordination of official CM team with volunteers; web-resources for crowdsourcing & network-building 2. External crisis communication subsystem: openness, voice of citizens as both transmitters & receivers 2.1. External communication: traditional + through committed citizens & organizations; discourse of consolidation 2.2. Creating attractors (web- resources, open scientific projects, etc.) for constructive self-organization & participation of citizens in CM
  • 17. Case study of integrated crowdsourced & traditional information management model: Hurricane Sandy (2012, USA) • Pre-crisis: call of Obama to promote volunteering culture & self-organization, creation of HandsOn University & CNCS (2009); launching of FEMA GeoPlatform, an integrated online resource for informing, network-building & crowdsourcing (Aug., 2012); risk communications using different channels including social media on several languages; good coordination between agencies & local authorities (Oct., 2012). • Crisis stage: good coordination (regardless of parties); cooperation with volunteer organizations & networks through CNCS & ad hoc; use of FEMA GeoPlatform & Google Crisis Map; discourse of consolidation; constant presence in traditional & new media; monitoring of rumours & quick response • Post-crisis: use of crowdsourcing for creating map of fuel scarcity (together with “Waze” mobile application) & damage assessment; cooperation with volunteers 17
  • 18. Model of public dialogue facilitation and knowledge management for polemic crises 18 1. Internal decision-making subsystem: decisions through “communicative action”, negotiations, balance of interests & citizen knowledge networks 1.2. Coordination through public dialog (discussion, negotiations, citizen jury or council) & participatory problem-solving 2. External crisis communication subsystem: based on new communication culture of open public dialogue space 2.1. External communication: negotiations between groups & networks; supra- communicative practices of facilitation & mediation 2.2. Development of participatory democracy & civil society institutions that further constructive self-organization 1.1. processing: detection of problems & opinion (interest) groups; creation of multiple think tanks; knowledge management; sense-making; crisis simulations
  • 19. Case study of public dialogue facilitation and knowledge management model: nuclear policy dialogue & crowdsourcing (1999-2006, Russia) Nuclear industry provokes issues and crises which are transsystem (concern ecology, economics, politics, health, etc.) & polemic by social response because of different interests and opinions. • Pre-crisis: civil-society nuclear policy dialogue (1999-2003), meetings between Russian ecological network, experts, governmental & municipal structures, participatory decision-making, transsystem problem approach, creation of Minatom’s (now Rosatom’s) citizen council (2002). • Crisis: criminal case against CEO of governmental nuclear plant “Mayak” for severe ecological damage to Techa River & contiguous area during the years 2001-2004 (the prosecution was stopped in May 2006 due to amnesty). • Post-crisis: knowledge management program “Techa-2006” (formally connected to Kyshtym disaster of 1957) granted by Rosatom & “Mayak” which included crowdsourcing of citizen project ideas for ecological, social & information policy in the region, then financial support of the best projects. 19
  • 20. Thank you for your attention! Questions? Contact information: Elena Gryzunova MGIMO-University Moscow, Russia +7-916-607-2770 +7-926-170-7334 20