At the end the course students are able to:
- Describe major theories with respect to risk communication in a technological and/or societal context
- Describe major theories with respect to leadership and leadership abuse in a technological and/or societal context
- Explain the possible roles of risk communication in examples of crises
- Explain the possible roles of leaders, followers and environment in examples of crises
- Apply different theories of risk communication to relevant cases on the individual and societal level
- Apply different theories of leadership to relevant cases on individual, group and societal level
- Apply the theories mentioned above in a new setting involving a situation that may become a crisis characterized by inappropriate leadership in a risk communication context
Connection to the work field
This course helps students to increase their effectiveness in communicating risk information to various groups within society, and helps them understand and shape relationships with superiors and subordinates in their future work.
Failing leadership and risk communication have recently gained much attention in popular media. An example of disputed risk communication was the low uptake of the HPV vaccine offered to 12-13 year old girls in 2009. An alleged important characteristic of the resulting controversy was not anticipated and not adequately dealt with, viz. the online interaction through social media undermining the trust in the RIVM experts. A lack of leadership has been blamed for the misbehaviour of guards at Abu Graib. This sparked world-wide protests, and purportedly led to the rise of Islamic extremism until today.|
An example of both failing leadership and risk communication is the crisis situation in Groningen with respect to the decades of gas drilling by the NAM and the subsequent earthquakes. An independent evaluation report recently concluded that the Dutch government has played a dubious role by disregarding the safety of region inhabitants in favour of economic considerations.
To be able to explain the psychological processes that might have taken place, this course will focus on the many facets of leadership, risk communication and crises against a societal and technological background.
Based on a number of recent crises, the student will become familiar with leadership and risk communication theories that might provide an explanation for the development of these crises.
There will be 8 lectures. One lecture introduces both risk communication and leadership; subsequently, three lectures will focus on the role of communication in generating a crisis in public trust, and another three lectures will focus on leadership in relation to followership and contextual factors, and how this interaction may be influenced by risk perception and help create crisis situations. One lecture specifically focuses on climate risk perceptions, and is linked to the assignment.
The student will apply the study material by writing of a group paper on leadership aspects in a particular (potential) crisis, respectively risk communication aspects in a particular (potential) crisis. In the seminar students can work on this paper.