Linking social capacities and risk communication in Europe: a gap between theory and practice?

Höppner, Corina ; Whittle, Rebecca ; Bründl, Michael ; Buchecker, Matthias

In: Natural Hazards, 2012, vol. 64, no. 2, p. 1753-1778

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    Although both improved risk communication and the building of social capacities have been advocated as vital ways to increase societies' resilience towards natural hazards across the world, the literature has rarely examined the ways in which these two concepts may integrate in theory and practice. This paper is an attempt to address this gap in a European context. It begins with a conceptual discussion that unites the literature on risk communication with the literature on social capacity building. We then use the insights from this discussion as a basis to conduct a review of 60 risk communication practices from across Europe. This review indicates a gap between theory and practice because, whilst the literature highlights the importance of integrated and coordinated communication campaigns featuring both a one-way transfer and a two-way dialogue between the public, stakeholders and decision-makers, the majority of the communication practices reviewed here appear to be relatively disparate initiatives that rely on one-way forms of communication. On the basis of these findings, we conclude by making some recommendations for the way in which such practices could be improved in order to be more supportive of social capacities across Europe