Learning from stress: Transforming trauma into sustainable risk reduction


  • Louise K. Comfort image/svg+xml University of Pittsburgh, Visiting Researcher University of California, Berkeley

    Louise K. Comfort is Professor Emerita and former Director, Center for Disaster Management, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh. She is a Visiting Researcher, Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, University of California, Berkeley. A Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, she received the 2020 Fred Riggs Award for Lifetime Achievement, Section on International Comparative Administration, American Society for Public Administration. Her recent books include The Dynamics of Risk: Changing Technologies and Collective Action in Seismic Events, Princeton University Press, 2019, and Hazardous Seas: A Sociotechnical Framework for Early Tsunami Detection and Warning, Island Press, 2023, co-edited with H.P. Rahayu. She studies the dynamics of decision making in response to urgent events: earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, wildfire, and COVID-19.

  • Süleyman Çelik image/svg+xml Anadolu University

    Süleyman Çelik serves as Professor at Department of Public Administration, Anadolu University, Eskişehir, Turkey. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 2006, with a dissertation titled Socio-Technical Approaches to Complex Phenomena: An Analysis of The Turkish Disaster Management System Under Stress. Dr. Celik has taken on various roles, including research positions at the University of Pittsburgh and Gazi University, and later as a faculty member at Anadolu University. His expertise lies in the field of Public Administration with a specialization in Disaster Management. He has actively contributed to research projects on risk reduction, serving as coordinator for several projects funded by the European Union. His work extends to the analysis of dynamic disaster environments, organizational learning, and research methods.

  • Berna Burçak Başbuğ Erkan image/svg+xml Middle East Technical University

    Berna Burçak Başbuğ Erkan is a Professor of Statistics and Disaster Science at the Middle East Technical University (METU). She was Course Director of MSc Disaster Management and Resilience at Coventry University, United Kingdom between August 2019 and August 2020 and Director, METU Disaster Management Centre, Ankara,Türkiye between 2008 and 2018. She serves as board member of the CODATA International Data Policy Committee since 2022. She has 25 years of experience in disaster risk reduction, disaster risk management, policy development, resilience, disaster risk finance, disaster risk management education, and has engaged in field studies for Syrian Refugee Camps 2015, 2011 Van Earthquakes, May 2014 Soma Mine Fire, 2020 Giresun Flood, 2020 Izmir Earthquake, 2023 Kahramanmaraş Earthquakes.




collective learning, knowledge acquisition, resilience, sustainable risk reduction, transforming trauma


This study explores the collective learning process that evolved in the cities, towns, and districts damaged in the February 6, 2023, Kahramanmaraş earthquakes in Türkiye. Employing a multi-methods approach and a dataset comprising a review of relevant documents, semi-structured interviews, and field observations, we examine four fundamental stages of collective learning – knowledge acquisition, information distribution, interpretation, and organizational memory – in assessing the learning process in communities exposed to the devastation and trauma of the earthquakes. The study highlights the importance of adaptation, change, and collective growth as communities struggle to cope with the demands incurred by the disaster, and identifies factors that inhibit such growth in practice. In the aftermath of the Kahramanmaraş earthquakes, individuals and organizations sought to adapt their existing knowledge and practices to meet the challenges posed by recovery from this disaster and to build a consensual understanding of changes needed to achieve sustainable reduction of continuing seismic risk. The study underscores the vital Importance of timely and accurate Information In enabling Individuals and organizations to make informed decisions during and after the chaos engendered by the earthquakes. It highlights the pivotal role of technology in bridging communication gaps and facilitating the flow of critical information. The study concludes by identifying inaccurate information as the most harmful characteristic inhibiting collective learning, and by emphasizing the importance of aligning collective learning processes simultaneously among diverse groups within the community and across jurisdictional levels of operation. This study offers valuable insights into how to translate collective learning from traumatic events into sustained measures to reduce the risk of future disasters, going beyond resilience to achieve sustainable risk reduction. By understanding the factors that drive collective learning and the challenges that can arise, policymakers and practitioners can develop more effective strategies for supporting collective learning in the aftermath of extreme events.


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How to Cite

Comfort, L. K., Çelik, S., & Başbuğ Erkan, B. B. (2023). Learning from stress: Transforming trauma into sustainable risk reduction. Journal of Design for Resilience in Architecture and Planning, 4((Special Issue), 25–38. https://doi.org/10.47818/DRArch.2023.v4si107



Resilience in Crisis