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Response, Preparedness, & Vulnerability

Julia Maron | UNC Team | November 2nd, 2021

In May 2021, the University of North Carolina (UNC) Re-Energize DR3 team held their first stakeholder workshop to explore stakeholder views on response, preparedness, and vulnerability to flooding, heat waves, and drought.

Our main objectives for the first workshop were:

  1. Identify and understand response and preparedness to flooding, heat waves, and drought

  • What financial resources are available and desirable for response and preparedness?

  1. Vulnerability

  • Who are vulnerable groups? How and why are they vulnerable? What, if anything, is being done to address why these groups might be vulnerable to disasters?

Stakeholder Recruitment and Participation

We adopt the theory of change that stakeholder engagement in decision-making creates better-informed decisions, which are more likely to garner support and implementation from impacted stakeholder groups and individuals.

Figure 1. Image adapted by Kristen Downs.

Using the UNC Snow Angel approach for stakeholder recruitment (Figure 1), which combines snowball and purposive sampling methods, we identified initial points of contact and then moved towards broadening the scope of stakeholders that might represent or work with vulnerable groups. Our outreach extended to national United States (US), the state of North Carolina, and local levels of governance and communities in North Carolina, particularly in coastal regions.

In response to over 100 invitations to participate, our first workshop had 22 registrants and, of those, 16 attendees. Those attending represented 13 different stakeholder groups, with 7 participants working at the North Carolina state level, 7 at the United States (US) national level, and 2 working at the local level.

Online workshop facilitation tools

We used a range of engagement methods, such as open discussion, the Zoom chat function, word clouds (visualized with Poll Everywhere), Google Jamboard, and breakout rooms to provide multiple opportunities for participants to engage and respond as they preferred.

1. From chat/poll responses to word clouds

To get a visual representation of who attended our workshop, we first asked participants to identify the type of organization or stakeholder group they represented in the Zoom chat box. One of our workshop facilitators then copied the responses into Poll Everywhere to create a word cloud based on word frequency. Word cloud results were shared in the zoom meeting.

In Figure 2, you can see a word cloud compiled from the answers we received. Notice that a combination of non-governmental (NGO)/non-profit/community-based organizations and university/research are some of the largest words, meaning they were among the most common across the group.

Figure 2. What type of organization or stakeholder group do you represent? Word cloud developed from participant chat responses.

Second, we asked participants to also identify which aspects of disasters in which they were involved or most interested. The second word cloud has a wider range of answers (Figure 3). At higher frequencies are terms like resilience, relief, long-term, coastal, and drought.

Figure 3. What aspects of disasters do you work on/are most interested in? Word cloud developed from participant chat responses.

2. Group brainstorming with Google Jamboard

To mimic more traditional, in-person stakeholder workshops, our team utilized Google Jamboard as a collaborative tool to visualize ideas and elicit answers. Google Jamboard allows users to write on sticky notes (5 colors available) in real time, as well as draw, type, insert images, and add circles, on up to 20 boards. However, during the workshop, we only asked participants to create and move sticky notes.

In advance of the workshop, we created a Jamboard with a discussion topic or question at the top of each whiteboard (Figure 4). Icons were added at the top right of each board to symbolize the relevant disaster(s) (flooding or heatwave and drought). If we wanted participants to add different categories of information, we assigned a given color to a type of contribution in sample sticky notes (e.g., yellow = WHO, green = WHY, blue = HOW) (Figure 5). Since it is, unfortunately, not possible to copy items between different jam boards, we created a template Jamboard, created duplicate copies for the additional breakout rooms and modified them further as needed.

In the workshop, participants were divided into breakout rooms based on their preference or relation to disaster type (flooding & heat wave/drought). We posed questions and allowed time for participants to type answers on sticky notes, like you see below. By first giving time for quiet, independent answers, participants could put their thoughts down on “paper” and expand on them during the facilitated discussion that followed. Our team could also categorize thoughts and responses in real time, which meant we could point out trends and expand on what someone said. One participant reported to a facilitator following the workshop that she appreciated this format because she could change her answers on the fly to not duplicate the comments of another participant and instead answer the question at a different level. Overall, Google Jamboard (or similar products) provided a useful tool for online small group participation.

Figure 4. An example Google Jamboard board on which participants could share what effective responses to flooding may look like. Sticky note colors do not hold meaning in Figure 4, unlike in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Use of different color sticky notes to represent WHO is vulnerable to flooding (yellow), WHY these groups are vulnerable (green), and HOW they are vulnerable (blue).

Key Takeaways & Lessons Learned

Workshop 1 yielded useful information to the UNC team and reinforced findings included in our research. Our key takeaways included focusing efforts on reaching certain vulnerable stakeholder groups to invite their participation and asking targeted questions to minimize generalized answers.

Areas that our team would like to explore for future workshops include indicators/metrics and vulnerability, financial resources for disasters, and insurance.

One major lesson learned from this workshop was to scale back how much information we give up front and throughout the workshop as to not overwhelm or confuse. We asked too many questions for the one-and-a-half-hour period. For our second workshop, we extended the time-period to two hours and tried to limit our questions. Prior to Workshop 1, we had also sent written questionnaire surveys to some stakeholders and then additionally invited them to participate in the workshop. Moving forward, we plan to follow up individually with stakeholders who are not able to participate but we feel have valuable insights relevant to our project.

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