“Communication and collaboration are the key ingredients for building resilience to climate and socio-economic change.”
Interview with Prof. Dr. T. Luthe in the Svalbard Posten on the research results in Longyearbyen, October 2013.
Brief summary of project results while ArcAlpNet 2.0 is still ongoing
In Longyearbyen, high population turnover and more compartmentalization of the community into sub-groups enables innovation through the influx and place-specific application of diverse new ideas. However, this form of resilience comes at a cost of less coordinated planning, and the potential for short-term visions is at odds with a long-term ecologically sustainable economy. The lack of a common vision and the diffuse leadership – originating principally from the high fluctuation and turnaround – lead to low collaboration for long-term action and structural changes.
In Surselva, a strong sense of place and cultural identity coupled with an efficient, centralized communication structure empowers collective action with long-term vision. However, this social structure comes at a cost of potential ‘groupthink’ with limited infusion of new ideas. By gaining a big picture view of the structure of these communities, we can more clearly see the advantages and disadvantages of each, and offer insights into how to leverage the former and overcome the latter.
Tourism businesses network structures
The social structures of the collaboration network of tourism businesses of the three Surselva-Gotthard communities in Switzerland show below (left) and in the community of Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen (right) could be identified. The size of the nodes (tourism businesses) equals their importance for the collaboration within the network (betweenness centrality). More information can be found in the final ArcAlpNet project report.
Comparison Svalbard – Surselva-Gotthard
In-depth personal discussions confirm the network metrics indicating higher innovative capacity, but also lower formal collaboration in the Arctic. Higher innovative capacity is supported by the higher internationalization and fluctuation in the Arctic; fresh ideas more often enter the network.
In the Surselva-Gotthard communities, the measured higher centralization and formal collaboration likely reflect higher trust, grown over time, due to the lower internationalization and fluctuation rate. The downside is the creation of a potential lock-in effect and the prevention of new ideas entering the network.
To develop resilience, Longyearbyen should increase strategic and long-term collaboration between its tourism businesses, e.g. through joint networking initiatives, workshops, or events, and develop common values and a vision that may help to increase individual and collective place attachment. This may then lead to more engagement in local sustainable development. The Destination Management Organization (DMO) (Reiseliv) needs to take that task and integrate central businesses as partners while including especially the few peripheral actors with long-term environmental memories. Surselva-Gotthard communities need to de-centralize their networks and increase innovative capacity by strengthening peripheral actors and core-periphery integration, e.g. through the development of a regional DMO, and start a public discussion on values of internationalization and negative effects of cultural lock-in.
Towards a resilience assessment methodology
For assessing and monitoring resilience of communities, a mixed methods approach is necessary to gain robust results. A combination of full census SNA, snowball sampling, interviews and workshop discussions is found to be most effective and efficient. Different understandings (mental models) of what collaboration means can be captured less accurately in a full census SNA based on written questionnaires. The network topology can be best understood by a full census SNA; important actors and the size of a community network can be most efficiently identified by snowball sampling SNA; personal interviews and workshop discussions are invaluable for contextualizing the functional interpretation of network metrics.
Please check out the ArcAlpNet Publications for more detailed results.