Knowledge management: Imperative for building disaster resilience

Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience

“The volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us,” writes Atul Gawande in The Checklist Manifesto.

In today’s information age, information overload has become an inevitable obstacle to effective disaster preparedness, response and recovery for government, communities, and NGOs. Effective knowledge management is a war on entropy; we live in a time where information is easily produced, disseminated and accessed. The value of effective knowledge management is well-known amongst business and marketing executives. Fortune 500 executive Lisa Quast identifies three key benefits of knowledge management that drive success: enhanced decision-making capability; a culture of ongoing learning; and the stimulation of cultural change and innovation. 

A strong capability for decision making, based on an understanding of the risks, is of equal if not greater value in the disaster resilience space; Australia’s National Strategy for Disaster Resilience outlines priority outcomes based on knowledge and understanding of local disaster risks. Importantly, knowledge management in the resilience space must be guided by principles of social cohesion and inclusivity; Sydney’s Chief Resilience Officer Beck Dawson emphasises social cohesion as ‘the single biggest determinant for recovery of big cities.’ Disaster affects everyone in a community, and access to knowledge for shared understanding is essential for early planning and effective decision making.

Managed by the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR), the Australian Disaster Resilience Knowledge Hub is an important publicly accessible knowledge resource to combat information overload and support communities and the resilience sector to plan for success. The Knowledge Hub houses AIDR’s flagship publications: the Australian Journal of Emergency Management (AJEM) and the Australian Disaster Resilience Handbook Collection; as well as a collection of historical disaster records previously available through the former Australian Emergency Management Institute.

Beyond these core resources, the Knowledge Hub is home to a growing collection of research and innovation, as well as case studies and information relevant to professional development and education. The Knowledge Hub is living and growing, and user contributions are welcomed; this collaborative approach supports the enrichment of a culture of ongoing learning across the broader resilience sector. By producing and sharing knowledge about past disasters, national and international research and initiatives, we can help grow and embed a culture of learning and information-sharing, enabling stronger resilience to future emergencies. AIDR also looks forward to opportunities to stimulate innovation in disaster resilience education (DRE) through the launch of the Knowledge Hub’s sister site: Education for Young People. This resource will go live on October 31, 2017, and will facilitate sharing of DRE knowledge nationally and internationally.

Beck Dawson’s full comments will be published as ‘Connecting cities: Sydney embraces 100 Resilient Cities’ in the October edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management.

The Education for Young People website will be accessible via the Knowledge Hub on October 31, 2017.

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