Learning from stress: Transforming trauma into sustainable risk reduction
Keywords: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.