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Case Studies

ISRM online conference: day three

The third and final day of the ISRM (Institute of Strategic Risk Management) virtual conference began with ISRM founder Dr David Rubens asking: how do we recover, forward? Resilience, he added, seems to be something post-event; that you survive. But, he said, you can’t suddenly become a resilient organisation, when a crisis happens, if you are not resilient already. “You can’t create resiliency in a crisis. Therefore if we are to have true resilience, one of the things we have to bring to the table is learning. We have to learn.”

The first speaker was Prof David Alexander, a long-time researcher into disaster management, who began with a definition of Covid-19 as a ‘wave disaster’. Not only is it particular as it’s globalised, but it ebbs and flows, and spreads and dilates. He asked what sort of society weathers a pandemic best (one with cohesion, discipline? Trust in leaders, that’s justified? A strong sense of personal responsibility? Individualism not exalted?).

He offered an ‘egg model’ of thinking of a disaster; that besides the yolk of the causes, themselves caused by vulnerabilities, you also have the context, the general vulnerabilities of a society. Those most vulnerable to disasters are those most vulnerable generally. He closed with the need to avoid ‘rearranging the chairs on the Titanic’: “We need a new approach to disaster risk reduction, where we look at the underlying causes and remedies on a very broad basis.”

The next speaker, Peter Willis, who has a background in sustainability and Africa, described leadership; and in particular his work to bring together and have discussions with leaders, for example those who handled the Cape Town drought from 2015; an ‘open, reflective’ peer to peer conversation which most found therapeutic. How to help leaders become good at dealing with crises? “I would say that we cannot get where we want to go in a hurry, however urgent our global situation may be.”

Speaking from Canberra next was Dr Gavriel Schneider, chair of the Australian chapter of the ISRM. He offered the term, ‘presilience’ and the website Last but not least was the consultant Marcus Oxley, of Resilient Solutions. Then the ISRM president and day one speaker Lord Toby Harris joined a discussion.

For a digest of day one visit For day two, visit


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