Policy review Mechanisms for sharing responsibility A report of the Sharing Responsibility project

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TitlePolicy review Mechanisms for sharing responsibility A report of the Sharing Responsibility project
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsMcLennan, BJ, Handmer, J
Date Published10/2011
AbstractIntroduction Challenges for sharing responsibility to manage risk and community safety are not only experienced in Australia, nor are they restricted to the field of fire and emergency management. Rather, finding ways to share responsibility amongst multiple parties is a challenge faced across a range of sectors that deal with risk and uncertainty. Risk research literature abounds with studies that expose responsibility-sharing issues in fields such as environmental management, public health, workplace safety, food safety, transportation, policing, new technologies and disaster management. This report presents findings from a review of different types of mechanisms that have been used to influence the way responsibility for risk management is shared amongst different parties across a range of contexts. The review represents the third stage of a five-staged project that aims to support stakeholders of the Australian fire and emergency management (FEM) sector to make decisions about how to address the ‘wicked’ problem of sharing responsibility for risk management (see Figure 1.1). The Sharing Responsibility project is a component of the ‘Understanding Risk’ research program of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (CRC). Background The rationale for the Stage 3 policy review stems from three central positions: 1. That sharing responsibility is an important dilemma faced by the Australian fire and emergency management (FEM) sector; 2. That reflecting on the impact of frames is necessary for taming the ‘wicked’ problem of sharing responsibility; 3. That stakeholders of Australian FEM can draw valuable lessons from reflecting on the way responsibility is shared in other places and in other sectors. The first of these positions is widely supported within and also beyond Australian FEM. Regarding the second position, an underlying goal of the Stage 3 policy review, and indeed the Sharing Responsibility project as a whole, is to stimulate what Schön and Rein (1996; 1994) call being ‘frame-reflective’. Being frame-reflective refers to the people, groups and organisations that are engaged in the policy-making process acknowledging and identifying different perspectives that exist, and purposefully querying the implications of the way they—and other stakeholders—frame problems. The third position recognises that drawing on experiences and ideas from other places and sectors is a powerful way to stimulate frame-reflection. It helps people to see beyond the usual boundaries and discourses in which they operate to ‘see’ problems in new ways and consider solutions that might otherwise remain hidden. Key concepts that underpin this report include those of risk, risk management, responsibility, collective action, institutions, governance and mechanisms. An inclusive concept of risk is adopted that incorporates multiple components, any one of which may be addressed through different risk management approaches. Like risk, the concept of responsibility is a complex, multi-faceted one. However, all facets of responsibility derive in some way from the existence of rules, norms and expectations in society that specify the rights and obligations associated with particular roles and relationships. Essentially, some form of responsibility-sharing occurs whenever there is collective action, and institutions have a central role in the way responsibility is shared. Importantly, most forms of risk management are multiparty undertakings, and hence involve some form of collective action. Institutions provide the shared rules, norms and expectations—or standards—through which responsibilities for risk management can be attributed, actioned and assessed. The term mechanism is used in this report to refer to any process used to establish or alter institutions for responsibility-sharing amongst parties engaged in collective action to manage risks.