BuildERS is a newly funded H2020 project aiming to strengthen societal resilience, including the most vulnerable groups, against natural and man-made hazards. Technology, trust networks, institutional and community capabilities are in the focus of the research.
Globally, the amount and the frequency of geophysical and climate disasters are raising rapidly and posing challenges on communities and individuals. Beyond these, other factors such as population growth, urbanization processes, inadequate land use, lack of prevention measures and inappropriate governance systems for post-disaster emergency, and new types of threats such as terrorism and cyber security, seriously increase the risk of human exposure to hazards.
Supporting local communities to prevent, withstand and heal from any disaster is fundamental in minimizing potential crises and losses. Indeed, the resilience of societies heavily depends on how their citizens behave individually and collectively, and how governments and civil society organisations design and implement policies for mitigating risks, preparing for, reacting to, overcoming, and learning from disasters.
The pursuit of resilience shall not just seek technical and administrative solutions, but it should begin by empowering local communities and the people. Understanding new risks and vulnerability, preventing and reducing the likelihood of hazards, prioritizing capacity buildings and awareness raising are the cornerstones of societal resilience. Above all, there is urgency to focus more on the most vulnerable segments of the society such as the elderly, the impaired or the poorest.
To respond to this need, the European Union has recently funded a new Horizon 2020 research and innovation project entitled "Building European Communities' Resilience and Social Capital (BuildERS)". Coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, a consortium of 17 institutions from Europe, United States and Indonesia will implement BuildERS with the ambition to improve the overall resilience of people, communities and the entire society to natural and man-made disasters starting from the most vulnerable groups. A network of organisations is involved in a co-creation and co-innovation process facilitated by the researchers. These organisations include e.g. cities, civil society groups, rescue and crisis management organisations, safety professionals, and administrations at different levels of the society.
BuildERS project will look into institutional, community and individual resilience, and through strong engagement of citizens, first-responder organisations and tool developers, it will co-design new ways to increase resilience against known and unknown hazards. The project will incorporate an inclusive and interactive research and analysis process, where the results will not be derived 'top-down', but through a 'bottom-up' dynamic interaction.
BuildERS will also develop and identify tools and processes through which local communities can improve trustworthy information sharing between citizens and authorities. New information technology and social media play an important role, and the project team will probe, evaluate and demonstrate technologies that have the potential to serve resilience building. BuildERS will also address policies that enhance communities' resilience and build up social capital.