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Practical science for uncertain futures: using scenarios to improve resilience to earthquakes

Working papers

Written by Susan Njambi-Szlapka

Hero image description: Women walk past buildings destroyed by the 2015 earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal Image credit:US Embassy Kathmandu Image license:CC BY-NC-ND

Earthquake disaster risk resilience is an example of a complex problem that requires decision-making and action from different stakeholders. These multiple stakeholders each have different and sometimes competing agendas, as well as different understandings of the nature of the problem.

This paper outlines the use of transdisciplinary research and futures studies as methods for tackling this type of complex problem. These offer practical steps to bring together stakeholders and actors from different disciplines and different lay perspectives to 1) agree a common understanding of the problem, 2) think systematically about how these problems may play out in the future, and 3) come up with actionable, strategic plans that bring the results to fruition on the ground.

Drawing on the theoretical literature about futures studies and transdisciplinary approaches, as well as lessons from various practical applications, this paper finds that scenarios are among the most widely used transdisciplinary futures approaches. There are several approaches to scenario building, depending on the aims of the exercise and the availability of resources. In particular, the paper explores the Geohazards International approach, which has been used with great success in resource-constrained contexts.

This is an output of the Pan-participatory Assessment and Governance of Earthquake Risks in the Ordos Area (PAGER-O) project.

Women walk past buildings destroyed by the 2015 earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal
Image credit:US Embassy Kathmandu ~ Image license:CC BY-NC-ND
John Young, Susan Njambi-Szlapka and Janise Rodgers