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Education University of Groningen Summer Schools

Cascading Disasters, Institutions and Organizations (CAINO)

Towards resilient organizations, institutions and societies
rescue mission

Combining advanced theoretical knowledge with practical methodological skills, this summer school will tackle the determinants of resilience to cascading disasters in an interdisciplinary manner by focusing on organizational settings and institutional arrangements. Participants will be equipped with knowledge and skills allowing them to analyze the political environment of cascading disasters, criticalities in existing organizations, build risk awareness in communities, strengthen disaster management institutions and build more resilient societies. The intensive one-week programme will combine lectures, panel discussions and groupwork with the aim to offer an inter- and trans-disciplinary perspective to risk awareness and preparedness.

An emerging challenge to societal resilience is represented by multiple disasters with cascading effects. These disasters uniquely trigger social cascades that deeply affect the social fabric and interconnectedness of communities, organizations and institutions. The impacts of disasters, and in many cases their likelihood, are amplified by ongoing global trends, like rapid urbanization, intensified development in hazardous areas, increased population movements, climate change and strong reliance on technologies, among others.

As climate change progresses, societies around the world will be forced to grapple with more frequent heat waves, the spread of infectious disease agents, land loss in coastal areas, and a host of other climate change-induced effects. What if the major earthquake that struck L’Aquila (IT) in 2009 would have happened in April 2020, during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, when the government issued a complete lockdown and the standard risk prevention measures (like gathering in safe areas) were neither applicable nor safe during the pandemic? How would emergency measures taken by the Italian government have impacted social cohesion, public trust and democratic legitimacy?

Cascading disasters can have severe and enduring repercussions on individuals, communities, and organizations, but also on national political institutions (by for example triggering illegitimate or ineffective modalities of emergency decision-making). The pressing question this summer school will pose to its participants is the following: How to build effective and reliable organizations and institutions aimed at improving the adaptability and preparedness of citizens and societies to cascading disasters?

The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear how difficult it is to manage a complex system of interconnected and dynamic components (transportation, healthcare, economy, education), and how different countries are, in terms of risk perception, culture, attitudes, institutional and social trust, and socio-economic contexts. Effectively tackling this challenge requires to move from a reactive approach to risk management, based on predefined responses resulting from past events, to a proactive one based on the concepts of “living with uncertainty” and “envisioning the future”.

Practical information

Dates & location 5 - 9 July 2021, online



€ 300 (University of Groningen students)

€ 400 (other students)

€ 500 (practitioners)

Academic coordinators

Dr. F. Giardini, Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, Sociology,

Dr. C. Egger, Faculty of Arts, International Relations, International Organization,




The summer school is designed for

  • Excellent MA students willing to either engage in a career as a disaster risk reduction experts or in a PhD
  • Postgraduate students: PhD – post doc students studying crisis/ disaster management/organizational networks
  • Other external stakeholders: national and local policy-makers (both in civil society organizations and government agencies)

It is expected that the participants have a sufficient command of the English language (at least C1) to actively participate in the discussions and to present their own work in English. Some background in social sciences (sociology, political science, international relations, economics) is preferable but not a prerequisite.

Learning outcomes

After this course you will be able to:

  1. Gain knowledge and understanding on the key dimensions of societal resilience to cascading disasters
  2. Critically reflect on strategies to strengthen resilience in organizations and institutions
  3. Apply analytical reasoning to complex disaster situations
  4. Propose workable solutions to meet the societal challenges associated with cascading disasters

This summer school is a combination of:

  • lectures on theoretical (interorganizational networks; political institutions and resilience; trust – context, enabling conditions, network structure and mechanisms – agency, structure, incentives) and methodological concepts and approaches (how do you analyze context with lack of data – network analysis key concepts)
  • interactive learning activities with lecturers and practitioners
  • problem-based learning in small groups (group projects on policy problems related to cascading disasters)
  • panel discussions with leading experts in the field

During the Summer School, participants are offered the opportunity to give a brief presentation on their own research related to creative work (optional). They will receive feedback on their presentation from speakers and peers. The presentation will be acknowledged on the Certificate of Attendance.

Upon successful completion of the programme, the summer school offers a Certificate of Attendance. After successfully completing the assignment, they will receive their Certificate of Attendance that mentions the workload in hours 6 hours (28 hours corresponds to 1 ECTS). Students can apply for recognition of these credits to the relevant authorities in their home institutions, therefore the final decision on awarding credits is at the discretion of their home institutions. We will be happy to provide any necessary information that might be requested in addition to the certificate of attendance.

  • David Alexander, UCL Institute for risk and disaster reducation
  • Sebastien Penzini, UNDRR Regional Office for Europe
  • Raul Magni Berton, Sciences Po Grenoble
  • Mihir Bhatt, All India Disaster Mitigation Institute
  • Kees Aarts, University of Groningen
  • Michiel Schaeffer, Global Center on Adaptation
  • Rafael Wittek, University of Groningen
  • Angelo J. Imperiale, University of Groningen
Application procedure

Summer schools are an opportunity for scholars with overlapping interests to meet their peers and engage in an active exchange of ideas and experience. In the online format, we strive to offer our participants an engaging learning environment by taking advantage of the new digital tools available to us. Active participation in the sessions will therefore be facilitated and encouraged.

To apply, please fill out the online application form. Please note that you will be asked to upload the following documents:

* Curriculum Vitae (max. 2 pages)

* Motivation letter (max. 1 page), incl. a clear explanation of the articulation between this summer school and the participant’s career plan

Applications will be reviewed after the deadline closes on 15 June.

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Last modified:01 June 2021 10.47 a.m.