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Incoporating Cultural Competence into the Risk Communication & Community Engagement Strategies of the Environment Agency

by Akinkugbe , Seinde , MS

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Student Number: 06146954 Candidate Number: 294033

The third chapter reviews the concepts “cultural competence” and “risk
communication” and examines those physical and or perpetual barriers that
affect the social performance of risk communication messages.
Chapter four picks up on those arguments surrounding the communication of

risk between scientific experts and lay people. It also examines the concept of
“risk perception” and those outrage factors that influence ones innate feelings.
The fifth chapter goes further in depth by examining the theoretical roots of risk

perception and explores its values to risk management issues.
While the last chapter summarises and offers useful suggestions in

incorporating culturally competency into risk communication and community
engagement programmes. It also offers useful suggestions for future work.

Summary / Conclusion
In this portion of the study, the researcher introduced the topic that is the subject of the
study, and provided a comprehensive overview of the major issues related to risk
communication and cultural competence. Specific challenges / shortcoming in the EA
risk communication strategies were identified and then discussed briefly. The aims and
objectives of the research were also discussed. In the next section, the researcher
explains how the research was planned and the rationale for the chosen methodology.


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Student Number: 06146954 Candidate Number: 294033

2.0 Search strategy

2.1 Methodology
From our research objectives identified previously, one can begin to design and
create a research programme. The programme should identify and implement
appropriate methodologies to enable one to extract the relevant information. The
design of the programme is a complex process which is crucial in achieving the
objectives. As Newman & Benz (1998) suggest that the methodology is imperative to
the successful completion of any piece of research. Therefore to succeed, one must
not only select the most relevant methodology but also create an internal mechanism
to facilitate the use of accurate and appropriate data Kallet (2004). In order to obtain a
strong understanding of the project requirements it is necessary to adopt a variety of
research methods. This chapter outlines the various methods of research which were
used, a rationale of why they were adopted and a description of how each method
was developed.

Before embarking on a study it is necessary to consider the intrinsic nature of the
subject area and available time and cost. The design of the research and the data
collection methods chosen depends on the research issues to be addressed and the
theoretical ideologies brought to the fore Gravetter & Forzano (2005). The intention of
this research is to critically examine the effect of culture on risk perception, hazard
mitigation, and warning response. The theme of this study, cultural competence and
risk communication, are essentially about people’s instinctive feelings, perception,
beliefs, judgements norms and values and therefore grounded theories from various
secondary data gathered are particularly appropriate in learning about group

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Student Number: 06146954 Candidate Number: 294033

This study consists mostly of secondary data gathered from data banks / established
researchers within this subject area. This may be data of any kind across the
quantitative – qualitative spectrum and when used imaginatively, can produce quite
fresh perspectives. The second is based on the analysis of available statistics either
from government or commercial sources. There are various reasons for making use
of secondary data, and they are as follows:

Secondary data may provide a context (geographic, temporal, and social) for
primary data hence this allows us to see where the primary data fits in to the
larger scheme of things.
The secondary data used will also provide validation for the primary data used

since it serves as a way of assessing the quality and consistency of the primary
Secondary data may also act as a substitute for primary data in some

situations where one might not be able to collect data, for the reasons of
access, cost, or time.
It can help clarify research questions.
As noted, secondary collection is often used to help set the stage for a primary

research. In the course of doing so researchers may find that the exact
information one is looking for is available via secondary sources hence
eliminating the need for primary research Davis (2007).

2.2 Data Collection Methodologies
This study was undertaken by using a wide range of search strategies. i.e. Desktop
information search tools such as Ask, Copernic, Google Desktop, Windows Live
Toolbar and Yahoo Desktop Search. It also made use of published material i.e.
books, peer reviewed journals, academic reports and relevant websites such as the

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United Nations, Environment Agency , ISI Web of Knowledge , Relief web , United
States Department of Health / Human Sciences , the United States Environmental
Protection Agency, Emergency Planning Society and the Health and Safety
Executive. In addition it also made use of explicit case studies of major emergencies
i.e. public enquiry reports from the UK, US and other parts of the world. Media
documents such as newspapers, magazines, television and radio were also used to
shed more light into the subject area .The study cuts across a various range of
disciplines within the social sciences, not just emergency management. Hence
journals from a wide range of disciplines were consulted.

The research plan proceeded in four phases. During the first phase, an all-inclusive
search was carried out on the worldwide web to gain an insight into the subject area.
The second stage involved a comprehensive literature search of a number of
databases such as Science direct, ISI Web of Knowledge, Scopus, PsycINFO,
Emerald Insight, APA journals on cultural diversity and ethnic minority and the journal
of risk analysis. The University of Hertfordshire’s voyager was also used at the third
stage to make an integrated search by author, title and the keywords for printed and
on-line digital information sources held in the University of Hertfordshire library
collections.The Blackwell Synergy related journals facility was also utilized to identify
potential investigators and grounded theories within separate journals and to
maximise the search for all relevant published articles.

2.3 Grey literature
Grey literature refers to publications (both print and electronic format) which are not
peer reviewed, often as no author but very important for public policy. In today’s
electronic information environment, the Internet has become a major source for
dissemination and retrieval of grey literature and often serves as a user’s initial
introduction to a topic area. Well-designed Web sites give users access to a body of

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digitally produced grey literature that complements the existing body of print
materials. It is a major source of information retrieval and dissemination and there is
growing acceptance to include references to relevant Web sites in scholarly papers
and journal articles.

Obtaining Grey literature is often a daunting task. However since the author works for
the Environment Agency, it was reasonably easy to get access to various prints
relating to the project via the staff intranet. In order to gather more information,
various teams within the agency i.e. Flood incident management / diversity team
leaders, community engagement officers were contacted to point one in the right
direction of specific documents. In addition grey literature was obtained by searching
specialized risk communication databases such as those of the United Nations,
United States Department of Health and Human Services and the United States
Environmental Protection Agency. Search engines such as Yahoo and Google
Scholar were also used to search for a variety of materials on the internet.

2.4 Desk – top Information
The second stage of the academic search strategy entailed identifying and retrieving
significant published studies relating to “culture competence”. A wide range of
electronic databases (i.e. Emerald Insight, APA journals on cultural diversity and
ethnic minority groups , Ingenta connect, Blackwell Synergy, Journal of Cross-Cultural
Psychology Australian Journal of Emergency Management) were conferred in using
the phrase “cultural competence “to give insight into the concept. This produced an
extensive number of introductory search results which had to be reduced using
available limits i.e. (within the last ten years, subject area, contents). Nonetheless
there were still a number of preliminary search results after this cut down. In order to
obtain optimal search capacity within individual databases, synonyms of keywords
and related terms were also used to identify potential useful articles. A thesaurus

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controlled vocabulary was used in identifying the synonyms of the keyword “cultural
competence”. Phrases and words such as cultural sensitivity, cultural empathy,
ethnocentrism, tradition, customs, race, ethnicity and religion were identified through
this mode and then used as a search reference. This produced a lot of relevant
results and was quite useful in identifying journals indexed in a different term.

A similar search strategy was used to garner more insight into the term risk
communication. Databases i.e. (Journal of Risk Analysis, Qualitative Sociology, Risk
Psychology, Disaster Prevention, Management, Journal of Behavioural Decision
Making and the Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management were assessed
through Learning Resource Centre’s Voyager database. Being a popular and
contemporary subject area, the search results were quite overwhelming hence the
Boolean Logic was used to reduce and exclude irrelevant material. During the third
phase, a more detailed search was conducted on the reference list from the original
research papers. The bibliographies of the retrieved articles were reviewed and a
selection criterion was used to further narrow the search. All the articles were
assessed free electronically on Athens via the University of Hertfordshire log in
system. Studies were further selected based on the selection criteria below:

Was published in English Language.
Must have been published between the 1st of Jan 1980 – To date
Must have links to abstracts and full texts
Examined one aspect of risk perception / communication

Articles were also searched in addition to assessing the above databases to maximise
the amount of analysis involved in the current systematic literature review. Journals
were individually searched for articles that assessed either psychology of risk alone or


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the perception of risk plus risk communication heuristics and behavioural science. The
journals that were selectively searched as a part of the exploration process were:

Journal of Emergency Management
Australian Journal of Emergency Management
Journal of Homeland Security & Emergency Management
Science , Technology & Human Values
Communication Research
Risk Abstracts
Archives of the Centre for Risk Communication
Journal of Flood Risk Management
Science, Technology, and Human Values
Journal of Risk Analysis

2.5 Scope and limitations

2.51 Secondary data:
This research was hampered by quite a number of problems and among them was
the use of secondary data as a principal source of review. The main problem with
secondary research was obtaining relevant and valid information on the topic area.
Since the subject area has not been researched extensively, there were limited
articles which were specific to the study. Another issue was that the information
provided in some of the articles was very vague and that raised questions of the
validity of the research. Though an attempt was made to contact some of the authors,
they were reluctant in providing more information.

2.52 Time management / Finance:


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Time and finance also affected the standard of the research. Although substantial
research was carried out within the time provided, there were two limiting factors: the
overall time of the study and the time of the year the study were conducted. If
additional time and funds had been available, the study could have been
strengthened, a survey could have been conducted to provide a true representation of
the community’s stance on the subject matter.

2.53 Access to staff:
There was a major difficulty in having access to the staff member. The time of the
year meant that many contact were on holiday, which adversely added difficulty in
contacting senior figures who could have provided valuable insights on the topic of

In conclusion, this chapter has given an elaborate description and rationale of the
research methodology. This includes the methodology, research design, data
collection method, operational measures in identifying and retrieving grey literature
and the outlined plan for the proposed review. The next chapter critically aims to
evaluate literature relating to the subject area and reviews the concepts “cultural
competence” and “risk communication “ It also examines those physical and or
perpetual barriers that affect the social performance of risk communication messages.


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3.0 Critical discussion

3.1 concept of culture: definition, meaning and significance

A monkey and a fish were caught in a terrible flood and were being swept
downstream amidst torrents of water and debris. The monkey spied a
branch from an overhanging tree and pulled himself to safety from the
swirling water. Then, wanting to help his friend the fish, he reached into
the water and pulled the fish from the water to the branch. The moral of
the story is clear: Good intentions are not enough. If you wish to help the
fish you must understand its nature. Ancient Chinese Fable (Marsella,
Johnson, Watson, & Gryczynski, 2008, p. 3).

The same adage applies to any disastrous occurrences. Good intentions are not always
good enough. To help victims of disasters or people at risk, one must know who they are
and what they require from their own perspective. In doing so, it is imperative that one
understands the inherent nature of people’s culture and the complexities of cross-cultural
encounters in disaster planning/management Marsella & Christopher (2004).

3.2 So what is culture?
The concept culture is a word frequently used by many but often understood by few. This
is particularly common amongst emergency responders working in multi-cultural
situations. According to Vanhorenbeeck (2003) culture is defined as an acquired pattern
of behaviour and ways which people live their life. In the explicit sense of the term,

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culture comprises the food, dress, arts and literature of a society. However, these are
only the by-products of culture followed by the society and cannot be defined as culture.
According to Giddens (2009) the term culture is the totality of a community’s distinctive
ideas, beliefs values and knowledge. These exhibit the ways humans interpret and adapt
to their environment. In view of both definitions, Marsella & Christopher (2004) suggests
that culture has an internal and external depiction. The internal representation of culture
can be depicted by people’s norms, values, attitudes, beliefs, epistemology, perception
and consciousness while the external representations can be portrayed by food, family,
clothing, music, religion, social structures and institution.

Lebaron (2003) believes that cultural groups are entities that cut across a wide variety
shared identities including (race , age , ethnic origins , nationality , sexual orientation ,
language , nationality , geographical location , profession , gender , able-bodiedness) or
(disability and social economic class). This determines the practices and beliefs that are
associated within a group and provides its distinctive identity. One does not belong into a
single culture but identifies with a variety of cultures. Identity is acquired through ones
social life or situations, personal traits and ethnic group Markus (2008). For the sake of
brevity, this chapter will only focus on identity derived from ethnic origins while others will
be evaluated in following chapters. Ethnic identity refers to an individual’s sense of
belonging to an ethnic group. This identity is usually drawn from a realisation that an
individual’s belief, judgement, behaviours, innate feelings and perceptions are consistent
with those of the other members of the same ethnic groups. It recognises the fact that a
person belongs to a particular group that shares not only ethnicity but common cultural
norms (Giddens, 2009).

According to Cannon (2008) the concept of culture involves the psycho-social
construction of reality. This implies that humans are embedded within a culturally
structured world, which provides them with a way of gaining understanding of communal

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