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The social resilience of Croatian society in the midst and aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic - SOCRES

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Disaster research has a long-standing history in the social sciences. However, much of this research has focussed on natural, often localized disasters such as floods, earthquakes and hurricanes or localized terrorist attacks including 9/11. The global scope of the COVID-19 pandemic and its detrimental multi-faceted effects present a new challenge to disaster research, including its conceptual tools and approaches to fieldwork. Insights from research on the epidemiological measures and strategies of disease containment for the 2003 epidemic of severe acute-respiratory syndrome (SARS), suggest that although these were fairly effective in controlling the spread of the disease they also had negative political, ethical and socioeconomic effects (Tognotti, 2013). Against this background, the COVID-19 pandemic and its strategies of containment raise the question of what enhances the capacities of individuals, groups and organizations, or society in general, to deal with threats and negative effects more competently? The main research goal of this project is to explore the features of social resilience in Croatian society in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and its immediate aftermath. Social resilience is understood as concept which encapsulates individuals, organizations and communities (or society per se) and their abilities and capacities to absorb, cope with and adjust to threats which can be social and/or environmental in nature. Social resilience is the ability of a society to withstand external shocks to its social infrastructure. In this project we will have three research streams (RS) which will explore three determinants of social resilience: (RS1) social relationships and network structures; (RS2) knowledge, narratives and media frames; (RS3) social metabolism and institutional capacities. Since social resilience is a multidimensional concept it requires an interdisciplinary approach and analyses of various scales and empirical sources. In this project we will be drawing on sociological concepts, but also bringing them together with insights from political economy and ecological economics. We will also be drawing on existing data and research instruments whilst building on them and enriching them. Different methods will be combined: interviews, observations, questionnaires and analysis of secondary data. Our respondents will be the general public, but also experts, politicians and activists. An overarching outcome of our analyses will be to have a better understanding of the coping, adaptive and transformative capacities of Croatian society during a crisis situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Empirical insights into different facets of social resilience in Croatia would be coherently represented in visual (i.e. Sustainability Doughnut visualisation of overall social resilience), analytical and narrative frames. This project will result in a better understanding of the social governance of epidemiological resilience and the socio-cultural and institutional adaptation to 21st century-specific development constraints. Therefore, the project will be of interest to policy-makers and civil society organizations in terms of its specific recommendations on measures which can be taken, particularly in relation to strengthening social capital, crisis communication and broader environmental and economic concerns, with the purpose of strengthening Croatia’s social resilience.