What do women, resilience and social movements have in common? Three Northeastern researchers are exploring networks of women strengthening community resilience as they respond to social crises.
This interdisciplinary cross-scalar collaboration brings together Jennie Stephens, a resilience expert in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, communications expert Brooke Foucault Welles, who studies how social networks shape and constrain human behavior, and feminist scholar Suzanna Walters. The trio received a seed grant from the Global Resilience Institute in 2017 to kick off this pilot project which aims to broaden the scope and impact of resilience research by understanding how women’s networks respond to disruptions.
“We’re looking at how networks of women contribute to community resilience,” said Stephens, Dean’s Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy. “We’re interested in exploring the ways and dynamics of how women communicate and network among themselves to reduce vulnerabilities in response to disruptions.”
Women and resilience in moments of social crisis: A feminist perspective is a first-of-its-kind project that explores the history and impact of women’s resilience, the range of issues that women’s networks tend to respond to, and how their organizing strengthens resilience among women, their families, their communities, and beyond.
The trio and network science research assistant, Ryan Gallagher, are designing several case studies to understand the interplay between gender, networks, and resilience, and to address how digital technologies bridge individual and community resilience as women mobilize to address the social crises of gender-based harassment and violence. Case studies, for example, include the #YesAllWomen, #MeToo and Women’s March movements—all of which have been a networked response from women to incidents of gender-based harassment and violence.
“After reviewing literature on individual, community, and social resilience, we have come to strongly believe that social networks play a major role in shaping resilience among communities and individuals, and that they are the primary tool that we can leverage to gain a strong quantitative and qualitative understanding of resilience at multiple scales,” they said. “We believe the network allows us to see who structures well-being through a networked community and how they do it.”
Next March, researchers will convene a Women in Resilience Symposium, in partnership with Northeastern’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, where scholars and practitioners will share experiences, best-practices and insights of the strengths and mechanisms of women-based networks.
“By enhancing understanding of the role of women’s networks in resilience, a more nuanced gendered perspective in resilience research will be strengthened,” the researchers said, adding that they’re committed to having both academic and broad societal impact.
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