Sensemaking as an approach for resilience assessment in an Essential Service Organization


Essential service organizations are interested in approaches to assess and build infrastructure resilience to ensure an uninterrupted supply of services, such as electricity or water. This study applied a sensemaking approach to assess the nature of social resilience in a national essential service organization in South Africa. It used the SenseMaker tool to collect and surface patterns from a set of micro-narratives collected in response to a national emergency simulation exercise.

Findings show that participants utilized specified resilience resources, such as procedures and protocols, while general social resilience resources, such as social network integration and agency, which would have contributed to the response, did not feature significantly. Participants’ sense of coherence—how they comprehend, manage, and find meaning amidst life’s challenges—had a positive bearing on preparedness, involvement, and expectation of outcome in the context of the emergency simulation exercise and appear to be the organization’s strongest social resilience resource.

This study suggests that a sense of coherence can inform resilience-building interventions, and be used as a measure of effective sensemaking towards more resilient outcomes.


Link to centre authors: Biggs, Oonsie
Full reference: van der Merwe, S.E., Biggs, R. and Preiser, R., 2020. Sensemaking as an approach for resilience assessment in an Essential Service Organization. Environment Systems and Decisions, 40(1), pp.84-106.