Investigating flood resilience perceptions and supporting collective decision-making through fuzzy cognitive mapping

Improving flood resilience of communities requires a holistic understanding of risks and resilience options as well as the preferences and priorities of different stakeholders. Innovations in risk and resilience assessment have helped communities to identify gaps in their flood risk management strategy but selecting and implementing resilience solutions remains a big challenge for many decision-makers. In addition to traditional appraisals and cost-benefit assessments this also calls for a participatory process in which various stakeholders are encouraged to adopt a system-level approach in identifying interventions that can maximise a range of benefits and co-benefits. In this study, we investigate how a combination of modelling and measurement methods can help decision-makers with their flood resilience strategies. We apply a participatory system thinking approach combining Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping (FCM) with a flood resilience measurement framework called Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC). We first investigate stakeholders’ biases on flood resilience interventions, and then lead them through a system thinking exercise using FCM and FRMC to elicit mental models representing important aspects of flood resilience and their interrelation. These are then aggregated, representing the collective perceptions and knowledge of stakeholders, and used to identify the most beneficial resilience actions in terms of direct and indirect impacts on flood resilience. We apply this approach to the case of Lowestoft, a coastal town in England exposed to significant flood risk. Developed in close collaboration with the local authorities, the ambition is to support decision-making on flood resilience interventions. We find that this combination of methods enables system-level thinking and inclusive decision-making about flood resilience which can ultimately encourage transformative decisions on prioritization of actions and investments.

Sara Mehryar, Swenja Surminski, Investigating flood resilience perceptions and supporting collective decision-making through fuzzy cognitive mapping, Science of The Total Environment, 2022, 155854, ISSN 0048-9697,