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Resilient perspective on complex security issues

On 4 November 2021, the Risk & Resilience festival 2021 was held at the UT. It was an ideal moment for the Secure Societies coalition to present itself and seek out connections with partners in the field. The coalition delivered a keynote on the importance of resilient societies and two in-depth theme sessions on security issues and polarisation.

The central question in the keynote was how to create an environment that stimulates and facilitates resilience on different levels. This was discussed on the basis of current topics such as fake news and the Covid 19 demonstrations. In the theme session on polarisation, the possibilities of preventing or mitigating polarisation were discussed by means of a 'Virtual Reality (VR) empathy intervention'. The other thematic session discussed the similarities and differences of security issues with different dynamics (dormant or acute crises) but a common complexity. The festival was opened by Executive Board Chairman Vinod Subramaniam. In his opening speech, he emphasised the importance of the Secure Societies coalition, the cooperation between VU Amsterdam and the UT, and the involvement of partners in practice.   

Keynote Resilient Societies  

The keynote was held the form of a table discussion between Jacquelien van Stekelenburg (VU), Peter de Vries (UT), Bas Böing (National Police) and Badia Bentayeb (municipality of Amsterdam). Using topical subjects such as the curfew riots, fake news, Covid 19  demonstrations and drill raps, they talked about the importance of resilient societies. As an outcome and as a process towards it. How do you create an environment that stimulates and facilitates resilience at the level of individuals, organisations and governments?

Crisis, polarisation and undermining

One of the topics discussed was how a crisis, polarisation and undermining (the focus areas of Secure Societies) are an extension of each other, and how knowledge about these is very important for practice. For example, if you are able to detect polarisation processes at an early stage, you may be able to prevent a crisis or otherwise anticipate it well. Research in order to get to new insights is essential in this respect. It is also important to gain insight into the groups in society that are susceptible to polarising elements, such as fake news or vulnerable groups that are approached for criminal activities.

Complex security issues

The keynote also dealt with resilience in relation to so-called ‘wicked problems’. Issues that are so complex that a successful approach requires sufficient time and multiple disciplines, and perspectives to achieve well thought-out interventions. It resulted in good and inspiring discussions about upper and lower currents, latent and acute security issues, tipping points and moments of choice and about the use of technology in processes of subversion, polarisation and crisis (management). 

Thematic session Security Issues

Security issues in our society are both complex and diverse. Some issues, such as subversive crime, are less visible, long-term and insidious. Others, such as a crisis, are more acute and intense. Both are characterised by complexity and are disruptive to society. The way in which they disrupt society and what societal stakeholders need to do to counter them may be the same but they may also differ.

Differences and similarities

In this session, Yarin Eski (VU), José Kerstholt (UT) and Kees Boersma (VU) discussed the similarities and differences of security issues with (seemingly) different dynamics but with a common complexity. Various issues and questions were raised. Do crisis and undermining related security issues justify a radically different approach, for example? Are there similarities between the two? Can subversion lead to crisis and vice versa? And which gaps in the research can the collaboration between VU Amsterdam and the UT fill? In the coming period, we will work intensively with the input from this session. We want to involve as many stakeholders as possible.

Polarisation Theme session

We want to better understand polarisation and develop action perspectives that mitigate and prevent destructive effects of polarisation in society, and enable constructive effects. Virtual reality (VR) technology offers the opportunity to investigate the extent to which digitally created simulations are effective in evoking experiences of empathy. What opportunities does a 'VR empathy intervention' offer professionals and researchers to reduce and prevent destructive polarisation?

Depolarisation tool

In this session, Mariken van den Velden (VU) and Timo Korstenbroek (VU) explored the application areas and opportunities of VR as a de-polarization tool. The VR application of the Dutch National Police was also presented and there was a demonstration on Ethnic Profiling. The ultimate goal is to develop an open science VR tool for scientists, professionals and practitioners.  

Feel free to contact us if you are interested in contributing to the development of Secure Societies.