Communication in Risk Governance: A Multi-Stakeholder and Multi-Level Study in Sweden
The complexity of current adverse events suggests that the risks we are dealing with are not equal (Dutch Health Council, 1995). Many risks that we are facing tend to be complex and systemic (OECD 2003) rather than simple and linear (van Asselt & Renn, 2011). A more holistic approach is therefore required when dealing with systemic risks. “Risk governance” pertains to the various ways in which many actors, individuals and institutions, both public and private, are involved while dealing with risks (van Asselt & Renn, 2011). During the actual risk governance process, however, while many organisations become involved in the network, the risk and crisis communication between these organizations tend to be problematic. The bigger and more severe in its magnitude and negative consequences a crisis is, the greater the number of actors there will be, from different societal sectors at the national, regional and local levels (Palttala, Boano, Lund & Vos, 2012). My PhD project intends to study communication among different organisations at various levels of Swedish society involved in risk governance. The purpose of this project is thus to identify gaps in risk communication during the process of risk governance, with a special focus on the multi-stakeholder and multi-level communication challenges in Sweden. It intends to meet this purpose by answering the overall research question: how do various risk governance organisations communicate risk between themselves and with others at different levels in Swedish society? To be able to answer the overall research question, the project will be broken down into several specific studies: 1. The first study will be carried out to answer the first research question: how does a county administrative board evaluate municipal risk and vulnerability analyses? Statistical correlational analysis will be applied during this study, in order to find out how a county administrative board and the municipalities communicate risks based on the municipal’s yearly risk and vulnerability reports. 2. The second study is to investigate the communication between regional stakeholders in risk governance in one county in Sweden, such as the county administration board, police, armed forces, healthcare, etc. Qualitative interviews and a snowball sampling strategy are expected to be used in the study. 3. The outcome of the two studies above will then guide the design of the subsequent detailed studies, which are expected to entail a combination of research methods, such as content analysis, qualitative interviews and surveys. 4. In addition to the studies in Sweden, it is expected that data will be collected in other contexts in order to learn by comparing specific issues and data. Potential cases are the UK, Netherlands, South Africa and the USA.