Concept review Framing challenges for sharing responsibility

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TitleConcept review Framing challenges for sharing responsibility
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsMcLennan, BJ, Handmer, J
Date Published09/2011
AbstractIntroduction This report presents key findings from the first stage of the Sharing Responsibility project, which aims to support stakeholders of the Australian fire and emergency management (FEM) sector to make decisions about how to address the ‘wicked’ problem of sharing responsibility for risk management and community safety. The goal of the first stage of the project—the ‘Stage 1 concept review’—was to develop a conceptual framework to guide the Sharing Responsibility project that incorporated multiple ways of understanding and framing the underlying challenges of responsibility-sharing. The idea of frames is an important one underpinning this report. Frames are the “underlying structures of belief, perception, and appreciation” (Schön & Rein, 1994, p. 23) that people use to interpret and understand complex issues. The way decision makers, researchers and other stakeholders frame a risk management problem shapes what solutions they see as most viable, which information they use to make decisions, and which arguments they deem legitimate (Vaughan & Seifert, 1992, p. 121). This report is based on the premise that reflecting on the impact of frames is important for developing a more nuanced understanding of the meaning of shared responsibility for Australian fire and emergency management. Background The Stage 1 concept review was carried out through a type of narrative literature review known as an interpretive, integrative review (Whittemore & Knafl, 2005). In order to capture the widest range of approaches used in research to frame responsibility-sharing challenges in risk management, the review included studies of risk management in a wide range of political systems, and across various sectors such as public health, transport, new technologies and policing. In order to determine the scope of the review, the concept of responsibility needed to be examined. The idea of responsibility itself can be framed in different ways. In the context of sharing responsibility, views about what is being shared inevitably shape positions on how to share it. Four different but interrelated facets of responsibility are discernible in discussions across different disciplines, as well as in common usage of the term: obligation, accountability, causality and trustworthiness. A common emphasis in discussions of responsibility is its fundamental relationship with freedom and constraint. Three aspects of this relationship are highlighted in research literature: freedom of choice, constraint in acting, and capacity to act. A third important aspect of responsibility as an idea is its intricate relationship with risk. These two concepts are connected through the common importance of agency – or free choice - to both. As with responsibility, concepts of risk are often linked with the exercise of human choice through decision-making. The Stage 1 concept review incorporated research studies that combined two broad but pivotal themes: risk management (Theme 1); and, responsibility-sharing issues (Theme 2). For theme 1, ‘risk management’ was interpreted broadly and included some scenarios that are not explicitly analysed through the lens of ‘risk’. Theme 2 involved scenarios of collective risk management in which issues of how to share or distribute responsibility amongst the different parties involved were raised or addressed in some way.