Sense-Making Ability as a Factor for Systems Resilience to Crisis

This project develops an integrated theoretical framework to explore the dynamics of social sense-making in crises. We conduct retrospective and real time case studies (China’s Tiananmen Square Protest (1989) (prepared by Ted Chen), Taiwan’s H1N1 pandemics (2009) (prepared Allen Lai), Toronto riots (2010)(prepared by Carley Centen), and Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruptions (2010) (prepared by Karen Tindall) to extend and refine the initial theoretical framework with a focus on alternative crisis governance structures and policies.

This project focuses on the dynamic patterns of interaction among individual, group and social systems levels during crisis situations and how different institutional arrangements affect them. The initial findings suggest that better understanding of social processes of sense-making in crises, and post-crisis retrospective ‘sense making’, is key to preventing crisis pathologies and enhancing post crisis recovery, learning, and developing resilience to social systems. Implications for institutional designs and sense-making theory are discussed.

Project Members:

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


Dr. Allen Yu-Hung Lai
PhD Candidate
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
National University of Singapore


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