Exploring a Disaster Management Network in the Caribbean: Structure, Member Relations, Member Roles, and Leadership Styles

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Virginia Tech

This study examined the dynamics of an inter-organizational national disaster management organization (NDO) in the Caribbean. It sought to provide a better understanding of network structure, functions, and member relations, which provided a foundation for understanding member roles and leadership styles. This dissertation's primary research question was: How do members participate in the national disaster management network in the Caribbean?

In personal interviews, network members identified the NDO as a semi-open network system, incorporating both hierarchical and collaborative characteristics. This analysis argued the network constitutes a dynamic system that shifts its governance structure to adapt to circumstances confronted during the disaster management cycle. This study also found network structure affects member positions and those views reciprocally affect how the NDO is organized. One participant clearly claimed a central network position and served as "network broker," while several other members formed two high density groups within the NDO.

Network members played a range of formal and informal roles in the collaboration, including coach and coordinator. The central NDO member played several primary roles: fundraiser, change agent, manager, and informer. This analysis also suggested leadership styles shaped the network's hybrid governance structure: some members employed a directive or delegative style, while others relied upon a participatory approach. This mix of styles underscored the importance of shared leadership in a disaster context.

The Saint Lucia government has endeavored to engage citizens in disaster management planning through an extensive NDO committee structure. This study yielded insights into that decentralized decision-making structure and process. The NDO, as a public policy network, has served as a "new governance" form of government action. At the national level, non-governmental organizations have used the structure to work to frame disaster management issues, while citizens active at the grassroots levels have participated in the nation's disaster preparedness and response planning processes. This new governance mechanism may be deemed participatory but not yet representative democracy. Overall, however, Saint Lucia's networked and engaged approach to disaster response and mitigation has encouraged deeper mutual awareness of shared challenges among government units, participating third sector organizations, for-profit entities, and the nation's citizens.

Collaborative Leadership, Inter-organizational Networks, Disaster Management