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A collaborative approach for disaster risk reduction: mapping social learning with Mistawasis Nêhiyawak



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Social learning and its relation to disaster risk reduction (DRR) have been increasingly highlighted in the literature. Yet, limited empirical research has hampered practical DRR applications. This thesis demonstrated social learning loops and their outcomes by reflecting on the case of 2011 flooding in Mistawasis Nêhiyawak. Using a mixed-methods research design, I explored the role of participatory processes, including communication of scientific knowledge to lay-experts, in social learning. First, I created flood extent maps for the community using spatial data and modeling techniques. In the second phase, I presented the maps in a workshop held at the community center to understand their value in regard to what people learn from them. This included deliberating not only about physical parameters of the flood but also exploring the social (and human) parameters. Hence, I used fuzzy cognitive mapping (FCM) as a novel method to represent the human perception of flood risk and to measure social learning. In the workshop, FCM was complemented by focus group discussions and participatory mapping. From the results, it was found that i) social learning can be measured using social sciences tools, ii) sharing experiences and stories from past events augmented learning, and iii) awareness on the role of emergency planning in DRR was found to be a significant outcome of social learning. In the growing urgency of climate uncertainties, social learning theory will be critical in helping design practical and ethical research approaches to DRR that emphasize knowledge sharing, two-way communication, and reflexivity. These will ultimately have enhanced emphasis on behavioral responses to disasters that are complementary to the investments in structural responses.



Disaster risk reduction, social learning, participatory research, community-engaged research, Fuzzy cognitive mapping (FCM)



Master of Environment and Sustainability (M.E.S.)


School of Environment and Sustainability


Environment and Sustainability


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