Recovery, Renewal, Resilience: Our current research projects

The aim of our ESRC-funded project is to develop a new framework to design and implement transactional recovery strategies that prepare for future emergencies and ambitious renewal initiatives that facilitate major transformation of local resilience. The team is working on a range of COVID-19 research topics within three areas.

We have grouped the research projects according to their relevance to these three impact areas. The descriptions below highlight the key issues and insights that our research activities aim to address. 


COVID-19: Coping Mechanisms of Ethnic Minorities & Refugees

Research by Gemma Sou, Ilma Nur Chowdhury, Szymon Parzniewski, and Duncan Shaw aims to provide new insights to the experiences of minorities and refugees during COVID-19. The main purpose of this study: (a) is to identify what actions organisations are taking (or not) to sustain the recovery of refugees; and (b) what more organisations could be doing to build recovery and resilience among such communities during disasters. This study follows a qualitative research design and collects expert data with interviews. This research study strives to contribute to the current literature in multiple ways: (a) by providing a greater understanding about refugees’ experiences during challenging times like COVID-19; and (b) by proposing a framework that can support the recovery processes and resilience building of refugee communities.

Disaster Reparations

Nat O’Grady is undertaking research that explores the development and enactment of recovery strategies and their rationalisation under a broader hegemonic resilience motif that in recent times has subsumed emergency governance logics. This research project aims to contribute to extant debates to geography, anthropology, IR and politics in various ways: (a) concerning recovery and resilience as modes of governance deployed to attend to emergencies; and (b) to rethink recovery through practices that seek to provide reparations for communities subjected to different forms of violence. Drawing on field interviews, this work aims to show how the potential for reparative politics incubates in current decision making concerning how to re-establish renditions of life in amidst and in the wake of covid-19.

Recovering and renewing community resilience: lessons learned from the 2010 Chile earthquake and COVID-19

Jenny Andrea Moreno by identifying lessons from the 2010 Chile earthquake and COVID-19 in Talcahuano City, is exploring how realised community resilience in previous disasters can be transferred to future disaster events. This research project endeavours to identify: (a) how community resilience can be transferred from one disaster to another; and (b) how major previous disasters have affected response and recovery during COVID-19. This empirical paper will employ a qualitative methodological approach and research design and collects data through semi-structured interviews. This research project aims to contribute to the extant literature by: (a) enhancing understanding of the process of learning and transferring community resilience, a scarcely investigated area within the community resilience research domain; and (b) by proposing practical implications for policymakers as to how community resilience learned in previous disasters can be integrated and applied to recovery from COVID-19 in local governments.

Organizational renewal and/or resilience of micro-businesses during COVID-18: A Palestinian Case Study

Judy Scully, Ayham Fattoum, Magda Hassan, Róisín Jordan, Simos Chari and Duncan Shaw are examining the impacts of COVID-19 on micro-business resilience and renewal capabilities in Palestine. This study employs a qualitative methodological approach and research design and will gather data through semi-structured interviews with Palestinian micro-business owners. The core purpose of this research study is: (a) to understand the concept of SUMUD; the context in which Palestinian micro-businesses operate; and (b) to understand the strategies and coping mechanisms of Palestine micro-businesses on their ability to survive and/or thrive in highly volatile environments such as COVID-19. In the Palestinian context, SUMUD, is a complex phenomenon which resembles the resilience and resistance of the Palestinian people in facing the political and economic environment in which they live. This research will afford insights into the drivers and consequences of SUMUD among Palestinian micro-businesses by demonstrating best practices, intuition, innovation, and entrepreneurial practices for coping with COVID-19 within a complex environment.


Engaging communities and volunteers dynamically to enhance resilience during emergencies

This project, conducted by Ayham Fattoum, Alan Boyd and Duncan Shaw, will introduce and test a novel holistic organisational design for engaging communities. This study will enhance organisational resilience, effectiveness, and efficiency through creating rapid and dynamic adaption to environmental stresses. This research follows a mixed-method approach by drawing on insights generated through interview data and action research/case study design. The mixed-methods approach to this study will enable an exploration of systemic challenges and solutions to engaging volunteers, community groups, or other organisations and businesses during COVID-19. This work aims to contribute to the literature in two ways: (a) by expanding systemic principles such as open systems and permeable boundaries to enhance resilience during emergencies; and (b) by introducing these systems principles to the theory of Viable Systems Modelling and complexity management to enhance the resilience and agility of those systems.  

Ultra-Permeable boundaries: Criteria and process of timely engagement of communities and volunteers for resilient systems during emergencies

In this topic, Ayham Fattoum, Alan Boyd and Duncan Shaw introduce the novel concept of ultra-permeable boundaries. Ultra-boundaries involve studying features and mechanisms that enable a safe and effective flow of resources into and out of the system. This concept allows, in addition to information, physical resources (e.g. human resources/volunteers) to cross into and work for the organisation to support its resilience and agility during emergencies and periods of high or unique demand on resources. The core purpose of this research is to identify how volunteers, community groups, or support from other organisations and businesses were utilised during COVID-19. Following a mixed-methods approach and research design, this work will draw on interviews, focus groups and observations with decision-makers at different levels (management to operations) covering organisations involved in the response to COVID-19. This research aims to contribute to this area of research by expanding on the notion of permeable boundaries (that involves information sharing) and introduce the notion of ultra-permeable boundaries.

Exploring the factors that determine communities/volunteers trust in organisations and their willingness to volunteer with them during emergencies

Duncan Shaw, Ayham Fattoum and Alan Boyd are undertaking this empirical research which aims to explore the factors that determine the systemic and other characteristics that influence volunteers’ willingness to volunteer and support organisations during emergencies. The purpose of this paper is to enhance organisational resilience during emergencies by adjusting organisational design and culture to be more receptive to environmental support. This research will employ a mixed-methods methodological approach and research design through two stages; (a) in-depth interviews and focus groups to identify and understand the main variables affecting communities and organisations to volunteer; and (b) quantitative methods (i.e., structured questionnaires) will be applied to test, develop, and generalise these driving variables. This research aims to contribute to extant literature by exploring the systemic characteristics that promote a stronger relationship between organisations and their environment, and hence obtain needed support during adversity.

Managing complexity in viable systems: A framework for rapid decision-making at the operational level for higher resilience and viability

In this COVID-19 & Systems research project Ayham Fattoum, Alan Boyd, Duncan Shaw and Simos Chari are exploring operational solutions to enhance the autonomy of operational level personnel to rapidly analysing and acting on complexities during emergencies. The purpose of this research is to introduce flexible models of decision-making that enable this autonomy while maintaining the system’s coherence and the ability to qualitatively inform and assess these decisions. This study follows a mixed methods methodological approach and research design through interviews, focus groups and observation with decision-makers at different levels (management to operational) covering organisations involved in the response to COVID-19. This project will also draw on the analysis of how volunteers, community groups, or support from other organisations and businesses were utilised during COVID-19. This work strives to contribute to this area of research in three ways. Firstly, this work aims to propose a new decision-making framework that enables informed and rapid decisions nearest to the information source. Secondly, this research aims to contribute theoretically to solving the autonomy-control dilemma that exists in the literature. Thirdly, to suggest practical implications that inform policymakers and emergency responders on how to enable autonomy for on the ground staff for higher resilience and agility.

Recovery, Renewal, Resilience Frameworks

Before, During, and After COVID-19: A Longitudinal Study of Recovery and Renewal

Duncan Shaw, David Powell, Andrew McClelland and Simos Chari are conducting a longitudinal study of recovery and renewal from the arrival of COVID-19 to its aftermath. This study aims to; (a) extract similarities and differences across organizations and develop a generalizable and theoretically underpinned recovery and renewal framework, using longitudinal panel data collected at four different time points from across a range of countries; and (b) trial our recovery and renewal framework with groups in local and national organizations in five countries to identify how the framework may help them to think about, and coordinate, their approach to recovery and renewal to COVID-19. This will include how the framework supports them to develop plans, strategies, and initiatives, and underpins their motivation for recovery and renewal after the tiring response to COVID-19. This research will employ a mixed-methods methodological approach and research design, using action research, interviews and ethnographic research.

As an ongoing project, this research project plans to collect data at 4 different points in time. The first phase that covers the “before” aspects of COVID has been completed to understand how experts anticipate recovery. Currently, phase 2 of data collection is underway and aims to collect information on how recovery is being designed and how renewal is being considered. Data collection of all 4 phases will be completed by January 2022. This project aims to contribute a novel paper that monitors local and national recovery planning over time; specifically, before, during, and after COVID-19. The majority of the current papers published on recovery only take a snapshot of the planning process so provide a limited view. Striving to uncover the reality of developing recovery and renewal pathways for these organizations, this work also aims to provide a generalizable framework for recovery and renewal that informs how organizations can better plan for the aftermath of unanticipated disasters similar to COVID-19.

Informing a transformative post-COVID recovery framework using practitioner knowledge 

Andrew McClelland, Duncan Shaw, and David Powell are drawing upon diverse practitioner perspectives collated by the project team in the early months of the pandemic to inform the development of a recovery framework that can enable a transactional recovery and transformative renewal from COVID-19. The unprecedented nature of the crisis means that renewal will be extremely complex and uncertain, casting a “long shadow” globally with prolonged and deeply uneven impacts upon different people and places. Rethinking the framework for recovery and renewal is important to addressing the immediate challenges of the crisis while developing societal resiliency and preparedness for analogous future shocks. This qualitative study will use interview data and a wide-ranging literature to explore: (a) gaps in our understanding of post-disaster recovery, particularly concerning the limited focus on pandemics; and (b) the profound lessons emerging for recovery-related theory and practice deriving from COVID-19.

A Strategic Recovery, Renewal, Resilience Framework: Insights from Theory and Practice

Duncan Shaw, Simos Chari and Andrew McClelland are developing a strategic recovery, renewal and resilience framework through empirical research. This project aims (a) to use a discovery-oriented approach and insights from theory and practice, to develop a generalizable and theoretically underpinned framework for strategic recovery, renewal, and resilience; and (b) to test the framework of strategic recovery, renewal, resilience with additional survey data to ensure its applicability. This research study will employ a mixed-methods methodological approach and research design through two phases. The first involves the application of a discovery-oriented approach to develop a conceptual framework identifying key variables and relationships that are important in understanding strategic recovery, renewal, and resilience. A discovery-oriented approach involves supplementing the literature findings with field-based findings (e.g. ethnography, focus groups and interviews with senior managers). The second phase will draw from scales that had undergone prior psychometric testing and develop a questionnaire for large scale data collection. The second phase aims to test the generalizability of the strategic recovery, renewal, resilience framework. This work will contribute to this field of research by providing a theoretically and practically anchored framework for strategic recovery, renewal, resilience that informs organizations how to build adaptive capacities for future unanticipated events.