In this blog Dr Candice Howarth reflects on what we are learning about nexus shocks.
About the Nexus Shocks Network
The Nexus Shocks Network brings together interdisciplinary and cross-sectorial expertise to engage in constructive dialogue, identify opportunities to address challenges, and explore opportunities to better inform decision making in response to nexus shocks.
The Nexus Shocks Network now has over 300 stakeholders from academic, business, government and not-for-profit organisations.
Purpose & Approach
We set up the Nexus Shocks Network to facilitate intelligent and constructive conversations on how to build meaningful inter-disciplinary research and establish connections with relevant stakeholders to co-design ideas on nexus topics.
As part of this, in June 2015 we convened an initial advisory group drawn from the Network to help frame our definition and the focus for the network’s activities. We adopted a co-design process as a critical component to ensure impactful and useful outputs.
Throughout the pilot phase no assumptions were made on the definition of nexus shocks, the process of decision making or how best to construct a research programme to address issues associated with nexus shocks.
Following our advisory group meeting, we co-produced the aims of the Nexus Shocks Network:
- To overcome obstacles and build on opportunities in responses to nexus challenges.
- To innovatively assess the complexity of societal responses to nexus shocks.
- To better inform business and policy responses.
What are nexus shocks?
As part of this we assessed how to define nexus shocks and rather than a clear definition, we agreed on a broad narrative on how these shocks are low probability, high impact events that span energy, water and food systems.
They impact multiple actors and scales making them complex to understand and difficult to address, and importantly they represent systemic and cascading risks in both physical and social systems.
These types of events are likely to become more frequent given physical trends such as climate change and economic trends including increased globalisation which in itself builds both robustness and fragility.
In autumn 2015, we facilitated five workshops to critically assess how stakeholders across sectors can contribute to the creation of better decision making processes around shocks to the nexus:
- Predicting shocks and hazards, hosted by the Met Office.
- Transmission and mitigation of nexus risks though infrastructure, hosted by Atkins.
- Insurance and finance for resilience, hosted by Lloyds of London & Willis RE.
- Local business responses to shocks, hosted by Climate UK, Cambridge Cleantech and LDA Design.
- Governance, governments and shocks, hosted by Chatham House.
Each workshop built from a case study of decision making around a nexus shock provided by the hosts and delegates then explored barriers and opportunities associated with wider nexus shocks.
The workshops identified a number of critical issues and themes that require further exploration. Many of those issues and themes are outlined in this booklet. In November 2015 a symposium was held in London, UK which drew together the lessons from each of these workshops and explored common themes, barriers and approaches to decision making around nexus shocks.
Findings and challenges
The transdisciplinary nature of nexus shock decision making is central to the work of the Nexus Shocks Network as a group of committed stakeholders. We believe that developing physical science models to better predict endogenous nexus shocks, while vital, will not contribute to a more resilient society without the equivalent effort in capturing lessons from social sciences as well as engaging those actually involved in decision making from business, government and not-for-profit organisations right at the start.
A number of challenges from communication to ownership of impacts were identified during the discussions but so were a host of potential solutions. The challenges associated for example with different languages and lexicons used to communicate impacts and responses to nexus shocks across different stakeholders and sectors required flexibility, time and sustained engagement in the design of our work, the facilitation of workshops and reporting back to our funders and with members of the Network.
The Nexus Shocks Network continues
The Nexus Shocks Network will continue to act as a bridge between academics and experts in the public and private sectors. It will explore ways to assess methods for capturing relevant data, taking into account the priorities of the stakeholder groups and aims to help construct what ‘good’ decision making in response to nexus shocks looks like.
Who owns the impacts from nexus shocks?
Who pays for resilience?
How can judgment based decision-making be better informed by evidence from both physical and social sciences?
How to we judge a good decision?
All these are questions we continue to explore whilst allowing space and time for reflection and flexibility in our approach and in the context within which nexus shocks occur.
More details on the activities of the Network are available in the report Nexus Shocks Network What We Are Learning_CandiceH
For more information on the Nexus Shocks Network contact Dr Candice Howarth at Anglia Ruskin University.
Image credit, with thanks to Richard Scott on flickr, showing floods in York, UK, 2015.