Telling good stories: engaging in dialogue with communities about flood and coastal erosion risk management in a post-modern society

Telling good stories: engaging in dialogue with communities about flood and coastal erosion risk management in a post-modern society.
Simm, J.D.and Samuels, M.
In: 41st Defra Flood and Coastal Management Conference, 4 - 6 July 2006, York, UK. (2006)

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Abstract:This paper suggests that new approaches are required to communicate with communities affected by flooding and coastal erosion. In post-modern society, communities question the validity of the message. They have expectations of the medium of the message. They receive the message through the frameworks of their multiple stories and identities. The personal narratives and experiences within a local community seek recognition and voice alongside the official statements and claims of the engineering and scientific community. Objectivity and reliability are challenged. The authority of the formal written word, communicating at a cognitive and rational level, takes its place alongside new oral and visual traditions. Technology allows individual stories to reach a wider and more immediate audience. A single, general story is replaced by a multiplicity of particular stories from local communities and individuals. NGOs have followed the media in becoming adept at using all these aspects of communication. Effective approaches to communication acknowledge the different cultures of the professional and citizen communities (e.g. residential, fishing farming sailing) involved in interacting with FCERM. The paper will examine the way in which stories and storytelling can be used as a bridge between different cultures, creating communities of practice in which knowledge may be shared and sense made of common problems. It suggests some devices which can be used in effective storytelling to help us put our own messages across. Drawing on recent experiences (for example during recent major disasters such as Boscastle), the paper also explains how stories can work for us as we uncover the information buried in the stories of others. Story telling may also be important in establishing shared fields of experience with communities. This needs to be in the context of effective dialogue that seeks to hear and understand what each community is trying to communicate, based on mutual respect or humility. This humility recognises the value of both the practical knowledge, lodged in the experiences and stories within communities, and the analysis and judgement of professionals as they reflect on and contextualise that experience for future decision making.
Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects:Coasts > Coastal erosion and flooding
Floods > Coastal erosion and flooding
ID Code:62
Deposited On:12 Feb 2008 16:00
Last Modified:07 Aug 2014 10:57

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