One exhibition, many goals. A case study on how to combine scientific questions with stakeholder views on effective communication of risks.
Abstract:How effective is visual communication to increase awareness of natural hazards and risks? To answer this research question, we developed a research design that was at the same time an experimental setting and an actual communication effort. This contribution will address the scientists-stakeholders interaction that was involved, the resulting exhibition, the lessons learned and the value it had for the researchers and for the other stakeholders.
Throughout the full length of the 2-years project held in the Ubaye valley (southeastern France) we collaborated with local and regional stakeholders (politicians and technicians). Informal meetings with local stakeholders were organized to determine what they perceived as the needs in term of risk communication and to investigate the potential to develop activities that would benefit both them and us.
We were offered the opportunity to design an exhibition for the local public library. We proposed the content and this was adjusted in interaction with the stakeholders. Later local technicians and inhabitants contributed to the content of the exhibition and regional stakeholders helped with the funding of the exhibition. Finally, employees of the public library took the lead in advertising the activity, gathering participants and they helped designing the scientific survey.
This survey was the key activity from a scientific point of view as it allowed us to measure the impact of this communication activity on risk awareness. Moreover, the principal scientist was present during all opening hours of the exhibition. This allowed direct and indirect contact with the visitors.
The benefits of this exhibition for the community included triggering memories, encouraging exchanges, especially inter-generational, reinforcing stakeholders-to-stakeholders relationships and promote further communication on the topic. The scientific benefits are that we have an experiment that allows us to measure the impact of a communication effort, not in a laboratory situation but in real life.