From individual behavior to collective action

Our present efforts are centered on the role of individuals in community-level crisis response. Our research aims to develop a theory of spontaneous leadership in crisis. Our learning focus is on practice of the basic skills of spontaneous leaders. We are directing our engagement at community organizations, leadership researchers, and learning experts.

Future efforts will include formal response organizations, and integration between improvised and planned responses.

Projects we’re pursuing

Neighborhood Disaster Popup

In a neighborhood disaster popup, we ask a group of neighbors to enact their unstudied responses to a simulated disaster. After reflection, they have the chance to practice other possible responses. Experiences are designed to help individuals discover and practice their spontaneous leadership skills. Challenges focus on the immediate response as well as the days and weeks following. Households also work through a basic home preparedness checklist. Participants have fun together and strengthen community bonds in their actual neighborhood.

Our two pilot events—in May and November—were astonishingly successful (even to us). We have several events in the works for 2018, and are talking to community partners about possible event series.

Spontaneous leadership in the wild

There is no substitute for the real thing. We are conducting a case study of a live example of spontaneous leadership that occurred in Rockport TX during Hurricane Harvey. Thanks to 40 generous individuals, this research was crowdfunded. We are releasing results gradually on the project website.

We hope to be able to do more case studies in the future. This is contingent on the vagaries of disaster, funding, and prior commitments. In the meantime, we are working on ways to identify and connect with spontaneous leaders while an event is unfolding.

Projects we’re thinking about

Our publications

It Doesn’t Work that Way! Larping for Disaster Preparedness
Susanne Jul, Aaron Vanek. Presentation to the International Academic Conference “Consolidation of Society: Larp as a social tool.” 2017.

Heroism in Times of Crisis: Understanding Leadership during Extreme Events
Zeno E. Franco. Handbook of Heroism and Heroic Leadership. 2016.

Community Views of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ‘Whole Community’ Strategy in a Complex US City: Re-envisioning Societal Resilience
Heather Koch, Zeno E. Franco, Tracey O’Sullivan, Mia C. DeFino, Syed Ahmed. Technology Forecasting and Social Change. 2016.

Live Action Role-Playing (Larp): Insight Into an Underutilized Educational Tool
Aaron Vanek, Andrew Peterson. Learning, Education and Games. 2016.

Using Social Network Analysis to Explore Issues of Latency, Connectivity, Interoperability & Sustainability in Community Disaster Response
Zeno Franco, Syed Ahmed, Craig Kuziemsky, Paul Biedrzycki, Anne Kissack. 10th International ISCRAM Conference. 2013.

Heroism: A Conceptual Analysis and Differentiation between Heroic Action and Altruism
Zeno E. Franco, Kathy Blau, Philip G. Zimbardo. Review of General Psychology. 2011.

You Get What You Plan For! (.key)
Susanne Jul. 7th International ISCRAM Conference. 2010.

Structuring the Problem Space of User Interface Design for Disaster Response Technologies
Susanne Jul. Information Systems For Emergency Management. 2009.

Prepare to be Unprepared: Human Resources
Susanne Jul. WCDM presentation. 2007.