Constructive Resilience


Transformative Emergency Preparedness Education: Utilizing Community Media Strategies in Rural India

– Ph.D. dissertation by Dr. Jean Parker


Dissertation Summary

The theme of this Research-to-Innovation was transformative emergency preparedness education utilizing community media strategies in rural North India. The central question was how community radio stations in India can be developed as a resource for creating “safer communities” and utilized to educate their communities about emergency preparedness. Using the Eastern Path of Renewal of the Integral Research approach and the transformational topography, both developed by Ronnie Lessem and Alexander Schieffer and based on their Integral Worlds model, the context of the Research-to-Innovation location of the North Indian state of Uttarakhand was described as mountainous, environmentally fragile, and populated by small farming villages whose residents subscribe to ancestral and mythological beliefs about the causes of disasters. Integral Worlds, through the Eastern Path of Renewal, provides access to the cultural and spiritual roots of these communities enabling their ancestral wisdom to become an important resource for mitigating the impacts of disasters and aligning educational efforts with cultural priorities. The social landscape, including rural/urban, gender, class, caste, and economic stratifications were explored through trans-disciplinary, trans-cultural, trans-personal, and transformative analysis.

A survey of overall disaster management, particularly in India, and emergency preparedness as it relates to creating “safer communities” highlights the reasons for the increase in the number and severity of disasters to be a consequence of human interaction with the environment. The economic and political forces in Uttarakhand in particular, leave little room for a reversal of the trend toward environmental degradation. It is therefore understandable that protection of the environment became the entry point for exploring emergency preparedness by the residents of the region. The disproportionately high amount of research funding for post-disaster research and the need for more funding of pre-disaster emergency preparedness research was also examined.

Close mountainside with homes

A unique aspect of this research was an examination of the ways in which scientific technology and ancient traditions combine to promote social innovation. TIPSTM (Technology, Innovation, People, Systems) is a framework for understanding how social innovation took place through both social and scientific technology, training of program makers to produce radio programs on emergency preparedness, the protocols they developed for future efforts, and the innovations they made. A cooperative inquiry process brought forth the voices of the people in the Uttarakhand communities to describe the many discoveries of the research.

Getting water at the local water pump

Literature in the field was examined through a hermeneutic lens and Critical Theory was used to present emancipatory new literature and ideas demonstrating that an examination of power relationships and imbalances together with the global contribution of Integral Worlds opens up new possibilities for re-imagining emergency preparedness using community radio. This has led to the development of the foundation of a new conceptual framework called Intecritical Action Research-to-Innovation, which combines Critical Theory with Integral Worlds to provide a lens through which to analyze local power positions together with global influences.

The outcomes of the research include documentation of how community radio stations in rural India can become an integral part of an overall strategy of emergency preparedness education. A great deal of consciousness-raising, both collective and individual, was experienced by listeners to the radio programs as well as among the station staff members who produced them. This increase in awareness about the causes of disasters in the state and the significance of human influences on the severity of disasters has resulted in concrete action by both village leadership and individual households to mitigate the impacts of future emergencies. By using modern-day technology in the form of radio, residents of the villages that participated in the research are enabling their ancestral wisdom and spiritual connection to the environment to come forth as an integral part of an overall “safer community” strategy.

Finally, the contribution of the Uttarakhand communities is becoming activated through the evolving of relationships with relevant government officials and globalized through the publication of training materials for community radio practitioners on emergency preparedness. These materials have the potential to benefit community radio stations throughout the world by providing valuable field-tested information on utilizing community radio as a tool for education about emergency preparedness. The relevance of this research, particularly the Intecritical Action Research-to-Innovation Conceptual Framework, on the wider field of community and popular education is an area for additional future study.

Distant mountains in India with homes