Retrospective and anticipatory sense making: a case study of regional flood planning and management in British Columbia, Canada

Better understanding of social processes of anticipatory ‘sense making’ of potentially catastrophic change, effective sense-making during crises, and post-crisis retrospective ‘sense making’ are key to: 1) the development of organizational and system resilience; 2) the prevention of crisis pathologies; and 3) the enhancement of post-crisis recovery and learning.

This project investigates the dynamic patterns of interaction among individuals, groups and social systems at the regional level. The study specifically focuses on the interplay of retrospective sense-making in response to flood events and anticipatory sense-making with regards to climate change impacts in the Fraser River watershed, British Columbia, Canada.

The study draws on data collected in 2007 and 2013. It pays specific attention to the regulatory drivers that can both enhance and hinder sense-making capacity. In particular, the study investigates the role of sense-giving by political leadership (mayors) in developing the system’s ability to make sense, plan for and respond to high risk ambiguous situations.

Project Members:

Dr. Ilan Vertinsky
Vinod Sood Professor of International Business Studies
Sauder School of Business
University of British Columbia


Lily Yumagulova
PhD Candidate
School of Community and Regional Planning
University of British Columbia


Erica Crawford
Community & Regional Planner
Sustainability Solutions Group